(Looking Back and Looking Forward takes a look at the articles and posts I found interesting from the previous week, along with reflections about how the trends they point to might shape my thinking about education and technology.)

I would be remiss in kicking off the new year if I didn’t post a recap of this year’s CES show. As usual, there were lots of new gadgets, wearables, cool screens, and teasers for the future of transportation.

The predominant news item in technology for the past month has been ChatGPT and its potential to disrupt different markets. Naturally, the edtech folks out there have had plenty to say about this. Posts have ranged from skeptical and philosophical to practical (such as this set of slides on the uses of ChatGPT in education). I think this article from Singapore captures some of the long-term impacts we should expect to see in education.

”Teachers in Singapore say they will likely have to move from assignments requiring regurgitation to those that require greater critical thinking, to stay ahead in the fight against plagiarism.”

The most important thing, I think, is to realize that the emergence of generative AI will certainly change the way faculty and students approach education, particularly in the last years of high school and the first two years of college. It will change the way we create and share content, how we think about assessments and evaluating learner competencies, and, perhaps more important, what we think we should be teaching students with regard to writing.

This is evitable for a couple of reasons. First, ChatGPT and other generative AI are already finding its way aggressively into mainstream technology and culture. 

Apple is rolling out AI-narrated audiobooks, which will likely catch on with small publishers and independent authors as a low-cost way to provide additional options for readers. Speaking of writers and books, it seems that independent Kindle authors are already ahead of the curve on how to use ChatGPT to remain competitive. For its part, Google has declared a Code-Red related to the threat independent chatbots like GPT could pose to its search services. And, we’re also seeing a hot investment market for generative AI

Some are seeing a profound impact of Ai on the very nature of Computer Science and programming.

I believe the conventional idea of “writing a program” is headed for extinction, and indeed, for all but very specialized applications, most software, as we know it, will be replaced by AI systems that are trained rather than programmed. In situations where one needs a “simple” program (after all, not everything should require a model of hundreds of billions of parameters running on a cluster of GPUs), those programs will, themselves, be generated by an AI rather than coded by hand.

 Unfortunately, there’s also a darker side to AI and programming. Power and ease of use can also make it easy for script kiddies to write functional malware.

Back to education, a new survey shows that higher ed leaders remain concerned about enrollments. Here are some of the top concerns/risks listed.

1. Enrollment: 67%
2. Data security: 65%
3. Recruitment and hiring: 50%
4. Operational pressures: 42%
5. Student mental health: 24%
6. External pressures: 22%

Regional universities represent one group of institutions that have been affected adversely by COVID and other evolving trends in higher education. This is significant because these universities educate almost 5 million students! This is forcing many institutions to rethink and reshape (shrink) the programs they offer. In an interview with NPR, Hechinger Report author John Marcus speaks to the financial concerns and other challenges rural universities face.

Nationwide, the proportion of high school graduates going on to college is declining. The principal reason for this is a growing public skepticism about the value for money, whether it’s worth the cost of tuition to go to college. And that sentiment is more extreme if you look at survey data in rural areas, especially among men in rural areas. So these universities in rural areas have legitimately seen declines in enrollment. And when you have declines in enrollment, you have fewer resources to provide these programs. But it’s also true that in 16 of the 20 most rural states in this country, legislatures have cut funding for higher education. And that also is affecting what universities and colleges are able to provide.

Finally, where one window closes… We should also note that some institutions are addressing skepticism about the value of a degree by increasing the number of non-credit certificate programs they offer.

Further Reading

Higher Education

Here are the top risks college leaders are worried about this year 

Regional public universities educate nearly 5M students, according to new list

Why some rural universities are dropping dozens of programs

What’s Next for Higher Ed in 2023

Higher Education Inquirer: Manhattanville College’s Administration Tries to Save School…By Removing Its Heart

Non-Credit Is A Non-Issue: How Short-Cycle Learning Can Change a Community and Institution

Online Learning and Education Technology

EdTech’s Funding Problems Are Going to Get Worse

Fall 2021 Largest Institutions by Total Enrollment and DE Type

Handbook of Open, Distance, and Digital Education

Chat GPT and Education

25+ Years of Ed Tech: 2022 – AI Generated Content

All AI, All the Time

Stephen’s Web ~ Teachers v ChatGPT: Schools face new challenge in fight against plagiarism

Technology and Culture

The Best of CES 2023: Cars, PCs, Hearing Aids, and Wireless TVs

Apple rolls out AI-narrated audiobooks, and it’s probably the start of a trend

How Kindle novelists are using OpenAI’s ChatGPT

ChatGPT Is Fueling an Already Hot Generative AI Startup Market

ChatGPT and Other Chat Bots Are a ‘Code Red’ for Google Search

The End of Programming | January 2023 | Communications of the ACM

ChatGPT is enabling script kiddies to write functional malware

ChatGPT Volunteering Diagram Descriptions, Unprompted, in a Response to a Maths-Related Question

Student Builds ChatGPT Detection App to Fight AI Plagiarism

AAP: US Book Publishing Revenues Down 9.3 Percent in October

Staged ChatGPT Prompts

ChatGPT: The Ultimate Tool for Digital Marketing Success

Playing with ChatGPT: now I’m scared (a little)

All That’s ‘Human’ Is Not Gold: Evaluating Human Evaluation of Generated Text

Why applied artificial intelligence needs a major mind-shift

Stephen’s Web ~ ChatGPT taught me something powerful about human collaboration