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Managing the risks of AI use in business education

WANGXINA-FREEPIK

In the Philippines, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) has adopted an outcomes-based education approach with the primary goal of developing key competencies among college students. Because of its mandate to “promote relevant and quality higher education,” CHED calls on higher education institutions to produce not just graduates, but highly competent professionals ready to contribute effectively to national development.

In business education, this outcomes-based approach takes on a particularly crucial role. Business schools, under the guidance of CHED, have outlined specific learning outcomes in their curricula. These are not mere academic targets but are crucial skills intended to prepare students for the real-world challenges they will face as entrepreneurs and business professionals.

LEARNING OUTCOMES FOR BUSINESS PROGRAMSThe Revised Policies, Standards, and Guidelines for BS Business Administration (CMO 17, series of 2017) stipulate that business graduates will be able to, among others (explanations mine):

Select Proper Decision-Making Tools: This objective is vital in today’s fast-paced business environment. Business graduates are expected to critically, analytically, and creatively solve problems and drive tangible results. The emphasis here is not just on efficient outcomes but on sound decision-making processes with the use of the right tools.
Exercise High Personal Moral and Ethical Standards: Perhaps now more than ever, the business world needs leaders who are not just effective but ethically grounded. This learning outcome goes beyond technical competence, instilling in students the value of ethics and morality in their professional conduct. This objective aligns closely with the global shift towards more sustainable and ethical business practices.

These two learning outcomes reflect a commitment to nurturing graduates who are not just proficient in their field but are also dedicated to the critical pursuit of truth and ethical problem-solving.

The Philippine Qualifications Framework further specifies expected learning outcomes for the baccalaureate degree:

Demonstrated Knowledge and Skills: Graduates are expected to have a broad and coherent understanding of their field of study, equipping them for professional work and lifelong learning. This implies a depth of knowledge that goes beyond rote learning, emphasizing comprehension and application.
Professional/Creative Work or Research: The application of knowledge in a specialized field of discipline is key. Whether in professional environments or further studies, the ability to apply what has been learned in practical, real-world situations is crucial.
Independence and Team Collaboration: The expectation is for graduates to demonstrate a substantial degree of independence and the ability to work in teams, often with minimal supervision. This outcome speaks to the development of leadership skills and the ability to collaborate effectively, which are essential in any professional setting.

INTEGRATING AI INTO BUSINESS EDUCATION: OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGESWith these well-defined outcomes, the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots in the educational landscape presents particular challenges. General-purpose AI tools, like ChatGPT, Microsoft Bing, and Google Bard, offer unprecedented access to information and analytical capabilities. However, their integration into the educational process must be handled with care to ensure that they facilitate, rather than undermine the learning outcomes CHED and business educational institutions strive for.

Since the public release of AI chatbots like OpenAI’s ChatGPT in November 2022, followed by Microsoft Bing, Google Bard, and others, the landscape of academic research and learning has been significantly altered. The advanced AI software, based on generative pretrained transformer architecture, gives students easy access to plausible and impressive text responses for complex queries. However, their unguided use by students has opened a Pandora’s box of risks.

Students in higher education have quickly adopted these AI chatbots for academic assignments, viewing them as helpful tools for enhancing their knowledge work. However, this widespread use of AI chatbots raises several critical questions. Are these chatbots appropriate academic tools? Do they fulfill any educational purpose? Have they been rigorously tested for academic use and risks?

These AI chatbots are often perceived merely as “tools,” rather than replacements for the critical judgment and analytical skills that students are expected to develop. However, it is critical to note that an effective academic tool must be fit for purpose and safe for use, with clear guidance provided on its proper application and potential risks.

THE MISMATCH BETWEEN AI CHATBOTS AND ACADEMIC STANDARDSA fundamental issue with the current generation of AI chatbots is their poor alignment with the principles of sound academic research and critical thinking. Academic claims should be subject to rigorous evaluation and traceable to verifiable sources. However, AI chatbots, trained on vast, often opaque datasets, sometimes lack this traceability and verifiability. Their “black box” nature means that the information they provide may not always be grounded on accurate or verifiable source text. This can lead to the dissemination of misinformation or “hallucinations,” where the chatbot confidently presents false statements.

The reliance on AI chatbots poses several risks to students:

Misinformation: The lack of sufficiently verifiable research sources means students may base their academic work on incorrect information.

Dependency: The efficiency and fluency of AI chatbots might lead to an over-reliance on these tools, thereby diminishing students’ independent research skills.

Erosion of Critical Thinking: There is a risk that students will lose their ability to critically evaluate digital information.

Moral and Ethical Degradation: Relying too heavily on AI for academic work can lead to a degradation in commitment to truth, honesty, integrity, and accountability.

These risks threaten the intended competencies and learning outcomes for business students, such as critical problem-solving and adherence to high ethical standards. If unchecked, this could compromise the country’s broader goals of national development and competitiveness.

ADDRESSING AI RISKS IN ACADEMIC ENVIRONMENTSIn response to these challenges, standards like the NIST AI Risk Management Framework, ISO/IEC 23894:2023, and IEEE Ethically Aligned Design emphasize the need for transparency and governance in AI development and deployment. Applying these standards to AI chatbots is crucial to mitigate risks and ensure that they contribute positively to human well-being.

Given the challenges and risks associated with the use of AI chatbots in higher education, it is imperative to approach their integration with caution, yet decisively. Here are some recommendations for schools, CHED, and AI developing companies to effectively integrate AI into the educational framework.

For Schools:

Introduce AI Literacy Programs. Schools should implement courses that focus on the capabilities and limitations of AI chatbots. Such programs would provide students with a critical understanding of how these tools can be used effectively as knowledge tools in academic work.
Establish AI Usage Guidelines. Clear guidelines are needed to define when, how, and which AI chatbots should be used in academics. These guidelines should consider ethical issues and involve stakeholders in their development and implementation.
Encourage Critical Thinking. Schools must promote skills that help students verify AI-provided information with credible sources. This can help maintain academic rigor and integrity.
Monitor AI Use. The implementation of tools and policies to ensure the ethical and appropriate use of AI chatbots is crucial. Schools must vigilantly monitor the use of these tools to prevent misuse.
Uphold Academic Integrity. Reinforcing the importance of ethics in academic work is essential. Students should be reminded of the value of original thought and the dangers of over-reliance on AI-generated content.

For CHED:

Develop Standards for AI Tool Usage. CHED should develop norms and standards for the use of AI tools in higher education, ensuring that these align with intended educational outcomes and ethical standards.
Assess AI Impact. A regular evaluation of the impact of AI on educational processes and outcomes is necessary. CHED can play a pivotal role in updating policies based on these assessments.
Collaborate with AI Developers. Facilitating partnerships between Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and AI developers can lead to the creation of more educationally suitable AI tools.
Train Educators. Providing training for educators on the effective and ethical use of AI in teaching and learning processes is essential.

For AI Development Companies:

Promote Transparency. Companies should be transparent about the sources of information, algorithms, training methods, and limitations of their AI chatbots. This transparency is crucial for trust and reliability.
Create Educational AI Versions. Developing AI tools specifically tailored for academic use can help mitigate many of the risks associated with generic AI chatbots.
Offer Detailed Guidelines. Providing comprehensive instructions for the use of AI tools in education, developed in consultation with educational institutions and CHED, is essential.
Engage with Educational Institutions. Understanding the specific needs of the educational sector and modifying AI tools accordingly can greatly enhance their utility and safety in academic settings.
Enforce Safety and Ethics. Regular updates of AI models for accuracy and ethical compliance are necessary to ensure they remain beneficial and safe for educational use.

By following these recommendations, the integration of AI into business higher education can be done in a manner that maximizes its benefits while minimizing its risks. It requires a collaborative effort from educational institutions, CHED, and AI developers to ensure that AI chatbots serve as effective and ethical tools in the realm of higher education. The ultimate goal is to enhance the learning experience without compromising the integrity and quality of education.

CONCLUSIONAs AI continues to permeate the educational sector, it is crucial for stakeholders in higher education to recognize and address the potential harms associated with AI chatbots. While they offer promising avenues for enhancing learning and research, their use must be carefully managed to ensure that the core competencies and ethical standards expected of business graduates are not compromised.

This balance is urgently needed to maintain the integrity and quality of business higher education in the face of rapidly advancing technology in order to achieve our national development goals.

Dr. Benito “Ben” L. Teehankee is chair of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) Shared Prosperity Committee and a member of CHED’s Technical Committee on Business Administration, Entrepreneurship and Office Administration. He is a full professor of Management and Organization at De La Salle University.

map@map.org.ph

benito.teehanke@dlsu.edu.ph

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