The University of AI

July 4, 2024 • by Marc Airhart

Art Markman and K.P. Procko consider how artificial intelligence is already changing the college experience, its promise and pitfalls, and future directions.

College students wearing spirit gear that reads "University of AI"

Image generated with Midjourney, a generative AI tool.


Artificial intelligence tools might transform education, for example, by giving every student 24/7 access to an affordable tutor that’s an expert in any subject and infinitely patient and supportive. But what if these AI tools give bad information or relieve students of the kind of critical thinking that leads to actual learning? And what’s the point of paying the big bucks to go to college if you can learn everything from AI chatbots?

Today on the show we have Art Markman—Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and a professor of psychology and marketing at the University of Texas at Austin. He’s also co-host of the public radio program and podcast “Two Guys on Your Head.” And we also have K.P. Procko—an associate professor of instruction in biochemistry who uses AI in the classroom and who also manages a grant program in UT Austin’s College of Natural Sciences to help faculty integrate AI tools into the classroom.

Dig Deeper

A Technologist Spent Years Building an AI Chatbot Tutor. He Decided It Can’t Be Done. Ed Surge (One researcher gave up on expert AI tutors for students, saying the tech is still decades away, and instead is focusing on AI tools to help human teachers do a better job)

Opinion: An ‘education legend’ has created an AI that will change your mind about AI, Washington Post (AI columnist Josh Tyrangiel says a popular AI-based math tutor “is the best model we have for how to develop and implement AI for the public good. It’s also the first AI software I’m excited for my kids to use.”)

Will Chatbots Teach Your Children?, New York Times (An overview of the potential benefits and risks of AI-based tutors, as well telling hype from reality)

Will Artificial Intelligence Help Teachers—or Replace Them?, Ed Week (features UT Austin’s Peter Stone, who argues the calculator didn’t replace math teachers, it just required them to change the way they teach; the same will be true with AI tools.) 

Opinion: College students are dropping out in droves. Two sisters could fix that., Washington Post (One company is using AI to help universities regularly check in with and support students to boost retention.) 

Episode Credits

Our co-hosts are Marc Airhart, science writer and podcaster in the College of Natural Sciences and Casey Boyle, associate professor of rhetoric and director of UT’s Digital Writing & Research Lab.

Executive producers are Christine Sinatra and Dan Oppenheimer. 

Sound design and audio editing by Robert Scaramuccia. Theme music is by Aiolos Rue. Interviews are recorded at the Liberal Arts ITS recording studio.

Cover image for this episode generated with Midjourney, a generative AI tool.

About AI for the Rest of Us

AI for the Rest of Us is a joint production of The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Natural Sciences and College of Liberal Arts. This podcast is part of the University’s Year of AI initiative. The opinions expressed in this podcast represent the views of the hosts and guests, and not of The University of Texas at Austin. Listen via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Podcasts, RSS, or anywhere you get your podcasts. You can also listen on the web at aifortherest.net. Have questions or comments? Contact: mairhart[AT]austin.utexas.edu 

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