April 18, 2023

We can shift some tasks to AI, but not responsibility for our actions: Q-and-A with Sarah Eaton

UCalgary Conference on Postsecondary Learning and Teaching speaker shares her thoughts ahead of pre-conference keynote
Sarah Eaton on white background with coloured hexagons
Sarah Eaton will bring preconference remarks on AI and academic integrity.

UCalgary’s fully virtual Conference on Postsecondary Learning and Teaching will offer more than 120 conference sessions over its two days in April 2023, as well as four keynote speakers who will discuss why robots won’t inherit the Earth, ungrading and alternative assessment, a Métissage on digital environments and Indigenous education, and the role of equity and care in our transformation. 

Leading up to the conference, we are hearing from the keynote speakers about their presentations, their research, and their views on our collective transformation. Today, we’re hearing from Dr. Sarah Eaton, PhD, associate professor in the Werklund School of Education and inaugural educational leader in residence, academic integrity at the University of Calgary.

Q: Tell us a bit about who you are and your area of research. 

A: In my research I focus on ethics and integrity in higher education. My research spans everything from the ethical use of artificial intelligence for teaching, learning and assessment, to plagiarism and academic cheating, to fake degrees and credential fraud.

Q: What does collective transformation mean in the context of academic integrity?

A: Collective transformation in the context of academic integrity includes having important conversations about how our notions of what is — and is not — misconduct is going to shift in the age of artificial intelligence. These days I am talking a lot now about at life in a post-plagiarism era. What I mean by that is an era in which human-AI hybrid writing is the norm.

Q: What has been the biggest transformation you’ve seen since March 2020? 

A: Academic integrity is on everyone’s radar now! We have been having important conversations about ethical teaching, learning, and assessment since the onset of COVID-19. There have also been important conversations about how we use technology ethically in learning institutions, too.

Q: Do you think we need to rethink our use of the term “academic integrity?”

A: I think integrity and ethics are always going to matter in education. It is time to think beyond student conduct, though. In today’s world where students are engaged more in experiential learning more than ever before, we need to think about academic integrity as a foundation for ethical decision-making beyond the classroom.

Children who are five years old or younger will never know school without artificial intelligence. We need to prepare ourselves — and our young people — for this reality.

Q: What can people expect from your pre-conference workshop?

A: We are going to rethink what academic integrity means in the age of artificial intelligence. We’ll have interactive conversations and think about life in the post-plagiarism era.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: Just because technology evolves, that doesn’t mean we lose our ability to be ethical. We can shift some of our tasks to artificial intelligence, but we can’t shift the responsibility for our actions to AI. Humans remain responsible for the work they produce.

The University of Calgary Postsecondary Conference on Learning and Teaching runs from April 26-28, 2023 in a fully virtual format. Register for the conference before April 21.

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