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East Carolina University Studies How Best to Use AI

The university is leading research efforts with 19 of its counterparts on the use of artificial intelligence in education. ECU researchers are also working to develop new AI tools for students and researchers.

Image of a woman's hand activating an AI button
Researchers at East Carolina University (ECU) are heading up an effort to study how higher education institutions should incorporate artificial intelligence tools into instruction, research and administrative tasks.

Jan Lewis, ECU’s director of academic library services, is leading a team in the two-year Making Artificial Intelligence Generative for Higher Education (MAIGHE) research project, according to a news release. During the initiative, members will interview faculty and students about how they are using AI tools in their research and academic work.

The university will be joined by 19 of its counterparts, including Princeton University, Yale University, Temple University, Carnegie Mellon University and Duke University, in the creation of the nation’s “largest qualitative dataset to date on AI issues and opportunities related to teaching, learning and research in higher education.”

Research collected by the consortium of universities will be compiled by Ithaka and shared nationwide, the announcement said. The nonprofit helps schools integrate digital solutions in sustainable ways.

“As Ithaka’s work is published, we’ll see that ECU will be featured prominently in terms of the work that is being done here, the intervention that is used and the way we are part of this collaboration to help move the needle on the integration of generative AI tools in higher education,” Lewis said.

According to the news release, ECU Chief Information Officer Zach Loch sent an internal email with guidelines for using artificial intelligence at ECU and offered the following advice: use public information, not proprietary institutional data; and if using institutional data, the university’s information security experts must analyze the tools used to process the information.

Loch said AI’s growing popularity is unique in that students and teachers alike are simultaneously learning how to make use of the technology. Research is an important part of the university’s mission, the CIO said, adding that ECU researchers have also recently set out to create AI tools that are able to crunch numbers on large data sets and answer research questions.

“We owe it to our students to help them navigate this world and understand what these tools can do … and how to best use these tools when they get to the real world, because the truth is they’re going to be using them,” Loch said in a statement.