Embracing generative AI as a co-design partner for designing and developing courses

Generative AI is here to stay, so what opportunities are there for educational developers and learning designers to leverage it as a partner when designing courses?

Richard McInnes's avatar
11 Sep 2023
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ChatGPT for course design

Created in partnership with

Created in partnership with

The University of Adelaide

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Generative artificial intelligence (gen-AI) is undeniably here to stay. As educational developers and learning designers who collaboratively create courses with academic staff, we have an exciting opportunity to harness its potential as a co-design partner in course development. By embracing gen-AI, we can unlock its potential to enhance the learning experience for our students and create efficiencies in our own work.

As educational developers and learning designers, there are two main areas where we are currently utilising gen-AI as a partner. First, to support the development of learning artefacts, such as graphics, and interactive content, enabling us to enhance overall course quality. Second, to streamline administrative tasks, freeing up time for us to focus on more strategic and creative aspects of course creation.

So what advice would we give to those looking to dive into the gen-AI-enabled world of educational development and learning design?

Seek efficiencies

One of the easiest ways to use gen-AI involves finding ways to complete tasks with less time or fewer resources while still maintaining the quality of the final product. AI-powered tools can be used to automate repetitive tasks, which can greatly improve productivity. To create efficiencies in your work, look for areas where gen-AI tools would be capable of undertaking the work much faster or on a larger scale than you can. In your work, you could try using gen-AI to create efficiencies in:

  • rewriting information for different audiences. For example, translating programme documentation into language suitable for a student-facing course outline
  • copy-editing written content, including changing the tone of written course content and adapting the reading level of content to make it more suitable to the audience
  • writing course emails and announcements
  • drafting and rewording course learning objectives
  • refining video scripts to make them more easily readable from a teleprompter
  • developing first drafts of course content for artefacts such as rubrics
  • writing narrative to link together weekly/topic content through introduction or summary text
  • generating summaries of readings and articles to introduce them on a page
  • troubleshooting technical problems such as using coding autosuggestion/completion.

Enhance the learning experience

Another way to use gen-AI is to incorporate features, technologies or strategies that improve the learning experience for students and educators, beyond those that you as an individual have the capability to do. To generate enhancements in your course design work, look for areas where gen-AI tools augment your own capabilities and increase the quality of your output. In your work, you could try using gen-AI to enhance the content by:

  • suggesting ideas for graphical content. For example, creating graphics such as flow charts in .xml
  • creating ways to make content more engaging through the use of interactives and simulations
  • creating analogies to turn abstract concepts into concrete ones
  • generating reflective questions based on course readings or video scripts
  • generating student learning tasks and feedback based on existing course content
  • generating engaging video scripts based on existing written content, including suggesting on-screen graphics
  • generating scenarios or case studies based on existing content.

Maintain the partnership

It is important to acknowledge that while gen-AI can support efficiencies and enhancements in the design and development process, it should not replace human input. Human oversight is necessary in areas where creativity, originality and intuition are crucial. Educational developers and learning designers have a unique skill set that allows them to gain a deep understanding of students and their context, which gen-AI systems cannot yet replicate.

When integrating gen-AI into education, responsible use considerations must always be at the forefront. Human involvement is essential in addressing concerns regarding data privacy, social dynamics, ethics and integrity. Trust is paramount in the education system, and educational developers and learning designers have a crucial role in ensuring that the use of gen-AI aligns with responsible usage principles. The key to unlocking the full potential of gen-AI is to strike a balance – rather than replacing educational developers and learning designers, gen-AI should be viewed as a valuable tool to complement and empower us in providing exceptional learning experiences.

Honour human ingenuity

The integration of gen-AI into course design and development offers transformative potential for educational developers and learning designers. By harnessing the power of gen-AI alongside human expertise, we can achieve efficiencies and enhance the learning experience for students. Human oversight remains crucial, however, as it adds creativity and originality that exceeds the capabilities of gen-AI, and there are domains where human involvement is essential. By striking a balance between the strengths of gen-AI and human ingenuity, educational developers and learning designers can integrate gen-AI in an innovative yet responsible manner.

Richard McInnes is learning designer and product lead at the University of Adelaide, Australia.

This article has benefited from the contributions of the Learning Enhancement and Innovation gen-AI working group at the University of Adelaide. We thank them for their contributions and expertise.

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