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In My AI Era

Josie and the Podcast: In My AI Era

Diving into the world of Artificial intelligence (AI) can be intimidating. Or maybe you’re unsure about using it at all. No one is an expert in these tools right now (unless, maybe, you happen to be one of the tool creators), meaning there is so much room for playfulness and exploration open to those willing to try.

In this episode, I’ll cover the importance of staying updated with changing AI trends, discuss possible concerns and benefits of integrating AI in higher ed, provide practical and effective steps for experimenting with AI, and recommend several (several) resources for learning more.

I am also in the early stages of exploring, so I wanted to seek some advice from my colleagues and hear all about how they’re using different tools. Throughout the episode, you’ll hear from me; Carrie Phillips, Chief Communications Officer at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock; Claire Brady, President of Glass Half Full Consulting (and a former Vice President for Student Affairs); and Joel Villarani, Director of Social Media at Florida International University.

AI doesn’t have to be scary, and it can be incredibly helpful! The potential benefits are limitless if we can maintain a humanized approach to AI implementation in higher education. 

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Josie and The Podcast is proudly sponsored by:

Josie and the Podcast is produced in partnership with University FM, a podcast agency dedicated to higher education. University FM works with leading colleges and universities to tell stories on campus that build branding, drive engagement, and connect communities. Reach out to team@university.fm to connect on podcast strategy, production, and growth. We look forward to talking with you!

Element451 is a proud sponsor of Josie and the Podcast. Element451 is an AI-powered, all-in-one student engagement platform, helping institutions create meaningful, personalized, and engaging interactions with students. Our platform harnesses the power of Artificial Intelligence to seamlessly tailor content for each individual, bridging the gap between broad outreach and personal touchpoints. Fueled by intelligent automation and deep data insights, teams are free to focus on what matters most — building real connections with students. Learn more at Element451.com. 

Notes from this Episode:

Prompts to try on your own:

  • I am a higher education marketing professional and only have twenty minutes in my day to learn new skills that I need. What resources do you recommend for learning about AI and Higher Education right now?
  • I am a student affairs professional who is unsure if AI will benefit my role. What resources do you recommend that are easy to understand and will only take an hour of my time?

And, of course, to add a little fun you can ask AI to give you feedback in the voice of Moira Rose from Schitt’s Creek!

[00:00:00] Josie: Josie and the Podcast is produced by University FM. They are the higher ed podcast agency, helping communicators build community, share research, and inspire thoughtful discussions with stories that resonate. Do you have a podcast idea? Or maybe you’re stuck on how to get it out into the world, or looking to help with growing your audience, they can help you move in the right direction.

Elevate your stories and start podcasting with ease today. You can schedule a complimentary consulting call with them at university.fm. Learn more about them in the show notes.

Hello, and welcome to Josie and the podcast. I’m Josie and I’m so happy to have you here with me today. What does it mean to lead in the digital space with heart and humanity intact? On this podcast, I spend time answering this question with heart, soul, and lots of substance.

My goal is to share conversations that encourage you, empower you, and sometimes we even entertain you to rethink digital strategy for yourself and the organizations you support.

Welcome! Today, we are going to be talking about artificial intelligence, AI. But before we get into that, I want to share some updates. Over these last few episodes, you have been hearing all kinds of goodness about the Digital Community Cohort. And we have officially kicked off, and it is the largest class yet.

I am in love with this group. We’ve got folks from community colleges, student affairs, academic colleges. I just love it. So, I won’t be promoting it for a while, but save the date for February 2025. Isn’t that nuts to even say that number? And we will open up for registration in the fall. And I’m putting this out into the world. I do think that we are going to fill up to capacity the earliest that we probably have.

The second update, the Social Media Student Academy, is a resource for you year-round to be able to your students who are helping you with social media, especially this spring, it could be a great tool to integrate into your training, into your conversations, and/or to put on your wish list to have them do over the summer.

They get it for a full year, so you can register them at any point and they’re going to have that access. And we are chipping away at a supervisor version of the academy for those pros that are listening, that you want to sharpen your skills about how to better manage and empower students who are helping behind the scenes.

On the personal side, I’m recording this on Valentine’s Day. Also, yesterday was Galentine’s. And that was just such a fun day. There were so many memes being sent out in all of the places. And I’m hosting my second annual Galentine’s party at my house. I think I talked about this last year, not like I’m expecting you to have memorized this. But it was such a cool woo-woo event where we had tarot cards and crystals. And this year, we’re going to have astrology. We’re going to make friendship bracelets. I’m just so excited. It’s really my own strategy for meeting new people and getting to see women that are already in my life that I just want to see more of.

Back to the work stuff, it is spring. And so, that also means it is conference season. And I am headed to NASPA and ACPA, which are both student affairs conferences. NASPA is in Seattle, ACPA is in Chicago. I would love to know if you’re going to be heading there, too. I would love to see you. I’m hosting a couple of fun gatherings that I would also love to invite you to. And at NASPA, I’m doing a session on influencer marketing with someone that you should be familiar with if you listen to Building Community versus Facilitating Community episode, Tim from Chapman, we are presenting together.

This is also a season of a lot of behind-the-scenes support and strategy development for our amazing clients. From roadmaps to audits and more, we’ve got a lot of goodness we are getting out into our clients.

Today’s shorty episode is about robots. Well, not fully robots. I’m talking about AI. Or is it IA? No, I’m talking about AI.

[00:05:40] I’m giggling because I am not, and no one, I guess, unless you created these platforms, you’re not an expert. We are all explorers. And so, spoiler alert, the biggest takeaway is it is a season of exploring. While the title of this episode is My AI Era, the season and all of our eras, or whatever other non-Swifty terminology you want to use, is about being in a sandbox and trying things out.

The types of tools that I’m experimenting and, goodness, this episode is going to have a lot of show notes. So, know you can clickety clack over there. At first, I experimented with free everything, especially ChatGPT. And then, I upgraded to 4.0. I have the app on my phone. I also got in on an early edition of Bard, which is now Gemini, within the Google Suite. And I am, OMG, in love. Grammarly has been with me. Gosh, I wish Grammarly was around when I went through my doctorate. My mom was my Grammarly, no joke, Mrs. Hutchinson, the teacher.

Grammarly now has artificial intelligence elements to it, where it will do more than just correcting grammar. It’s going to suggest prompts, rewrites. It can help you synthesize or even expand content. And heck, right before I press record, I saw a colleague talk about how he uses another tool called Perplexity, which is, again, a very similar artificial intelligence platform that’s prompt-based.

Now, I promise this podcast was only slightly aided by AI. We’ve got some prompts in the show notes that I’ll share, too, that are, again, a really great way to experiment. But also, because I realize I am doing my own exploration, I wanted to seek out colleagues who are going to be contributors to this episode in how they’re using different tools. You’re going to hear from Carrie Phillips, the Chief Communications Officer at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock; Claire Brady, she is a previous Vice President for Student Affairs and now, President of Glass Half Full Consulting; and Joel Villarini, he’s the Director of Social Media at Florida International University.

AI is rapidly evolving. I’m even trying to hold off to do this episode as close to the release date as I can, because within every hour, something is changing. And this is just quite the example of needing to come to terms with that we don’t have full control, but what we can control is our willingness to explore, to seek guidance and mentorship, which might come in surprising places throughout the organizational chart, and willingness to try.

AI, or any other technology, is a tool in your tool kit. Now, when I was preparing this, I wanted to make sure we gave a definition that was applicable, in case you have not yet gotten even into the explorer stage. And so, I asked ChatGPT to tell me how it would define itself like I was explaining AI to my mom or my dad. I love you, mom and dad, but I don’t think you’re using any of these tools, yet.

And so, this was the response. Imagine AI or artificial intelligence as a super smart computer buddy. It’s like when you tell your phone to set a reminder or ask a virtual assistant a question. AI is a technology that allows computers to do tasks that usually need human-like thinking, such as learning from experiences, understanding language, or recognizing pictures.

I also wanted to try Gemini, Google’s AI, with the same prompt. And it said, AI is used in many things that your parents might already use, like their phone’s camera for taking better pictures or GPS, like suggesting faster routes. AI doesn’t replace humans. It helps them do things better and faster. For example, AI can help doctors analyze medical scans, but it’s the doctor that makes the final decision. And finally, there are different types of AI, and some are more advanced than others. The kind of AI you see in the movies, like robots taking over the world, is still science fiction, not reality.

And then I got a little meta, because I asked ChatGPT4 about this very podcast, Josie and the Podcast. This is where we start to get into, even when you talk about exploring, it doesn’t have to be all about work, even though the podcast is about work. I asked it something very meta. I said, “What is Josie and the Podcast?” Knowing that, especially the paid versions of this platform are pulling from more recent sources of, basically, the internet. And it said, Josie and the Podcast is a podcast series produced by Josie Ahlquist—check, check—produced on exploring the intersection of leadership, digital communication, and social media within higher education. Josie Ahlquist is a speaker, author, and consultant with a background in student affairs and higher education, interviews leaders, professionals, educators, and students about how they use social media to foster community engagement and identity in the educational landscape. Pretty good!

It goes on to say a few more things, but it does check out. After that, I said, “Thank you. What do listeners think of Josie and the Podcast?” And then, it replied, listeners of Josie and the Podcast rate it highly. Oh, thank you. With a perfect 5.0 out of 5 stars based on 17 ratings on Apple Podcasts. And again, it goes on and on. And then, I asked it even further, “Should I listen to Josie and the Podcast?” You can replace this with a restaurant, another podcast, a hotel, or a country you’re looking at visiting, because what it’s doing is scouring the internet, like it said in the last prompt, it pulled reviews from Apple Podcasts.

And so, when I said, “should I listen to it,” it said, “Well, if you’re interested in digital leadership, higher education, and how to effectively use social media for community building and engagement, it could be a valuable resource. It’s got lots of positive reviews, insightful content, hosts is able…” Oh, ChatGPT, you make me feel so good. I have also heard such fun prompts, like Moira from Schitt’s Creek, when you ask it to write a letter to, I don’t know, whoever, in the voice and tone of Moira about anything, there’s so many transcripts about Schitt’s Creek on the internet. You could do any character out there and just see what it gives you. So, have some fun, be playful. And now, I really want to go do that one.

So, that’s a couple examples. But as we go back to this tool versus solution, it is a tool. It’s not magic. It’s an asset, but it still requires humans and humanity and, one would even say, values. According to HubSpot AI Trends for Marketers, their 2023 report, the four top uses within marketing right now is for creating content, analyzing and reporting on data, learning how to do things, and conducting research. What I would say the theme of all those things are is the very beginnings of what would come and be needed in more advanced skill sets. You’re going to hear from folks later the ways they use AI, but think of it as like the outline, the way that, if you ever get stumped, having to start writing on a blank page, AI is going to be your new best friend.

And we’re finding AI adoption is quite widespread. In this same HubSpot report, they are finding 62% of business leaders say their company has already invested in AI and automation tools for their employees to leverage. Of those, 71% report a positive ROI and 72% say AI and automation make their employees more productive. Win, win, win.

Let’s dig in a little bit more onto that. As we’ve seen productivity and ROI go up, this also means we’re saving some time. So, for marketers who might spend four hours a day on manual administrative and operational tasks, we might be able to save a little bit of time in drafting content. But we still need to put in the time up front to learn some of these AI skills, especially as new platforms and technicalities are coming about.

Okay, so, let’s hear about higher ed professionals and how they’re using it. I asked my network for a variety of use cases and seeing how they’re integrating it in work and daily life. So, we’re going to hear from Carrie.

[00:16:09] Carrie: For me, AI has really been helpful in terms of tools in about three key ways. One is idea generation and brainstorming. It’s a really great tool to use to brainstorm ideas, to get thoughts started, to just kick some ideas around. It’s a great collaborative tool in that place.

I also love using it for administrative things—so, helping me craft emails, helping me check in on topics, and making my life easier in that sense. And I also really love doing research with it. And one of the great things that I’ve been able to do is, kind of, get ideas and see how our students are thinking about it. And so, that’s been really helpful for me to do that, as we’re talking about marketing the institution.

[00:16:53] Josie: As you heard from Carrie, she uses AI in three key ways—idea generation and brainstorming (how she gets thoughts started); administrative, like crafting emails, check in on topics; and research, getting ideas on how students are thinking about it.

Claire says she uses AI to save time, like that HubSpot research. Administrative efficiency, productivity. It also is helping her improve her writing and research. And even her professional headshots she uses across social and her websites are AI-generated.

[00:17:34] Claire: The first is to save time for administrative efficiency and productivity. The second is to improve my writing and research. And the third is for creative purposes. I’ve implemented them slowly over time, as my needs have changed. As I approach tasks, I often think, is there an AI tool that can help me accomplish this task or project faster or better? I use ChatGPT in similar tools like Claude, Perplexity, and Consensus to help me improve my writing and research. Although ChatGPT is currently my go-to, I often run the same query through another tool since the outputs do vary. I use other AI tools to transcribe meeting minutes, to create powerful slide decks, to create social media content, improve my photos, for blog topic ideas, and to do fun creative projects. Even my professional headshots that I use across all my social platforms and my website are AI-generated.

[00:18:35] Josie: Joel uses AI tools to help with writing since English isn’t his first language. Let’s listen.

[00:18:43] Joel: Well, I’ve implemented AI tools in both professional and personal aspects of my life. First off, one of the tasks that take the biggest chunks of my time is the social sharing of the FIU news articles. Now, using AI tools paired with automations, I’ve cut down that time by 75%.

Second, and this is both personal and professional, since English is not my first language, I rely on AI tools to tighten up my writing. And when necessary, it helps me with my existential crisis with “in” and “on.” I know it sounds simple, but oftentimes, I’ll use one, and yeah, it’s a whole thing.

When working on presentations I use AI-generated images to help drive or supplement a point. I also use AI to analyze paid media performance spreadsheets to help me find those hidden nuggets or look at the data through different lenses.

[00:19:36] Josie: Thank you so much to those three for sharing insights. You’ll hear from them more later. For you, wherever you are in the spectrum, we all have skills and exploration we need to do in AI. I think that is just a matter of fact.

So, as we evolve our skill sets, without pressure of feeling like you need to be an expert, there’s a lot of free resources and free platforms that are out there. And I’ve mentioned this idea of being an explorer because it’s a framework that I started to use back in 2015 when NASPA and ACPA rolled out student affairs technology competencies. And rumor has it, they are updating their joint competencies for student affairs professionals very soon. Nowhere in the tech competency does it talk about AI. It might refer to social networking. I can’t remember. Honestly, if I was to give notes to NASPA and ACPA, it should not be platform-based. They might list some examples, but if we are only updating our competencies every 10 years, if we’re lucky, it’s not going to adapt if we are actually including platform titles.

But as I took the technology competency, I applied it to a model of being a digital explorer, digital educator, or a digital influencer. And those competencies, it, kind of, pairs nicely as the knowledge, skill, and disposition gradient of the competencies was, kind of, like, introductory, moderate, and advanced.

But within technology, there are some positions and even team sets, it’s okay to be at different places. That doesn’t actually mean you’re behind. It’s almost like an adaptation model. So, digital explorers, for example, in AI, you are in a constant state of exploring. This most likely means this might be your first experience with it, and/or you’re just always going to be exploring AI because you may not be the one to actually apply it. And so, if we were to apply this to social media, I would say within a department, not everyone needs to be the digital influencer of social, because they don’t need to necessarily apply it. They don’t need to be advanced, but we do need them to, at least, know some core language, for example, of TikTok and Reddit, because that’s where our students are.

What we know with AI is there’s adoption across a variety of demographics, including our college students from a variety of ages. Okay, explorer. We all should be explorers.

Digital educators. Now, this is something that I always aim for me, personally, to be at. I would also say educators may also find their own personal interests and/or just naturally they’re, kind of, tech coaches. I found this early days within MySpace, like, friends would ask me, like, “Hey, how did you code this thing?” I was like, “I don’t know. I just figured it out!” So, again, sometimes disposition has a little bit to do with it and enjoyment.

But educators in AI, you’re actively implementing AI in your own life. You’re doing that exploring, but you’re implementing it over in workflows, tools, and you are seeing the payoff in time-saving techniques. And you are naturally educating, cheerleading, potentially, and sharing what you’ve learned. So, not just, you have to be on this tool, this is how to do it now, but you are showing the impact.

Now, the final level of this digital influencers, and I definitely sought out people to include in this episode who are very much early influencers, but they’re at least willing to, kind of, stick their necks out there to, like, show their own wins and, maybe, stumbles through AI. And you are sharing, for example, in AI writing prompts, you might be using advanced cases, sharing case studies, you’re integrating and establishing workflows. You’re probably advocating for resources. I think I saw, we’ll have to find out and remember what institution or it may have been a whole system invested in an AI tool. So, now, the entire campus has access to the advanced platform that they were using.

I would also say digital influencers and AI, they’re not being sponsored by any of these tools in that influence sense, but they’re probably blogging about it, maybe talking about it on a podcast. They might be doing workshops or chatting on LinkedIn about it. So, they’re just. willing and very much interested in leading in this area.

So, whether you identify as an explorer, an influencer, I want us to start to be more open about AI and how it’s going to change and evolve, because it’s going to change and evolve a lot. What higher ed does, often, and sometimes in all industries, this can be helpful, because there have been times in the past where we’ve gone through a technology adoption curve, maybe, too quickly. And then, now, looking back, it was like, how a lot of people smoked in the past, and now we see the negative benefits of that. We’re also seeing that with, maybe, children or early teens having too much technology or social media influence.

However, in AI, it was very much doom and gloom immediately. We jumped too far into that side. I love my faculty. I am, or I was, a previous faculty. We got scared really quick. And I don’t know if anyone remembers this, but there was actually a time that in middle school, high school, and college classrooms, when grammar check was first applied into Word on desktops, that it was, in some places, not allowed. You could not use a spelling check. Can you imagine that now? Like, I almost feel like that’s so mean. Like, why, why wouldn’t you want me to try to spell the best that I can?

So, I also want you to think about this as an accessibility and equity discussion, thinking about these evolving tools and the ability for access to information, where, for example, in the past, in order to get your papers edited by someone maybe that has that advanced skill set, you had to pay. And now, you don’t. We can have Grammarly.

That said, there is a dark side to AI and anything that’s moving very quickly where, you know, we’re all trying to honestly get our feet under us. Inside higher ed, just in 2023, they shared a report about the benefits and challenges of AI. And of course, concerns are arising about the reliability and ethical implications of AI. I would not be surprised when you’re throwing in some prompts that AI, literally, can have a mind of its own and fills in the gaps, that there have been numerous cases where made-up citations have been added.

One may also worry about taking the human out of higher ed, that, well, we add in more bots and automations is going to depersonalize student interactions. There might be biased decision-making, inhibiting intellectual growth. You know, we want to advance intellectual thinking. And so, it’s taking those layers out of it. And so, I, I acknowledge that as well.

And just overall, the ethics of AI—who’s creating it, where is it coming from, how do we review privacy, accountability, equity, access, fairness, all those things. Academic freedom, plagiarism, how does that all fold in?

And then, of course, there is equity of just accessing AI. Some of these platforms you already have to pay for to get a higher quality. And so, who’s being left out of the most timely and innovative tools? The Chronicle came out with an article about the higher ed arms race around technology. I’d encourage you to check out.

[00:28:46] There is a podcast episode that I would definitely recommend that you check out, called Beyond Bricks and Clicks. It was on Higher Ed Pulse Podcast. They talk about the future of higher ed marketing. And it was my good friends, Mallory, Wilsey, and Seth Odell, A, just subscribe to this podcast. But B, this one is especially timely, as we think about the AI evolution in marketing and enrollment.

And Seth comments that this space and this idea of beyond bricks and clicks, it’s beyond growing, it’s beyond the clicks of getting people into our website. As we think about technology integration into the learning experience and not just adding more to your tech stack, it’s going to be more and more our focus.

And then, the two of them also talk about going beyond the sizzle, and those that are residence life, student affairs, that technology, and even AI can turn into the lazy river of student life. Is a lazy river cool? I love a lazy river. Do we need one to be part of the collegial student development journey? I don’t know. But there is going to be some lazy rivers of AI. And we have to stay grounded in outcomes-based, as we adopt technology and AI. We want to focus on leveraging technology for the meaty stuff in what Mallory and Seth talked about. Are you focused more on the sizzle rather than the steak? And now I’m hungry.

[00:30:46] Josie and the Podcast is sponsored by Element 451. And I cannot wait to tell you about a game-changing event called the Engage Summit. It’s happening in Raleigh, June 25th and 26th.

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At the Summit, you’ll be joined by industry leaders and innovators for two days of workshops, discussions on AI-driven transformations, and lots of networking. Tickets are $149, but with the code, JOSIE50, you get a discount that brings the price down to only $99. Hurry! This offer ends April 12th. Visit engage.element451.com to learn more and get registered.

[00:32:16] So, how do we move forward with AI with some, and honestly, many things that are unknown, but how we can make sure we have the lens of it being equitable, informed, and centered in humanity? And you could actually replace AI with technology, with social media, with any kind of tech enterprise. Within AI and higher education, how could AI impact the student and campus relationship, moving forward? Let’s hear from Carrie, CMO at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock.

[00:32:54] Carrie: I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how AI impacts that student institution relationship, you know, as I think about it, I think students are drawn to things that are easy. And so, it’s really easy to plug into some sort of AI tool and say, “What’s the right college for me? You know, I’m in this area, this is what I’m looking for.”

And so, I think for us as institutions, it’s making sure that we’re thinking about how that plays out and how that works. I think it’s still a lot in progress, but I can’t help but think that editing content on our website, making sure that our website’s up to date, I think those are key pieces in terms of how students are searching AI that we can be doing to make that process easier. I also think that this gives us the tool to really bring that hyper-personalization into our website through chat features that are truly AI, through, you know, recall and plugging things in, in a way that we’ve never been able to do before.

And so, I hope that institutions really find ways to use this to provide good customer service to our students. You know, we know up-and-coming students, especially, are really looking for that experience. And so, I feel like this is, maybe, that missing tool that we’ve been needing to get our websites really personalized and make it easy for students, much like the corporate world has already figured out and has already been doing.

[00:34:21] Josie: Joel from FIU agrees.

[00:34:25] Joel: How can AI impact the relationship between students and institutions? AI is poised to revolutionize completely how universities interact with students, mostly through services to students. For example, a student needing specific information for financial aid, enrollment applications, maybe high-level advising when a prospective student is researching the university, as in, “Do you have this major? Or, I want to study something that is between this and this field. What do you have? Or what possibilities are there for me? What careers can I pursue?” AI can be that primary source of information that delivers the right data customized to the student. So, instead of having to search different web pages, find information here, go there, or heaven forbid, have a student call, because we know how, how Gen-Zers don’t like grabbing the phone and calling someone, at least from my experience. I think AI is poised to really deliver that information and eventually become the primary source of information, replacing search altogether.

[00:35:32] Josie: So, administrative staff, AI can help scale support services and more efficiently evaluate applications from prospective students. Faculty, their use of AI could assist in simple research tasks, curriculum development, improvement of your materials, and even student assessments. Data has shown that students are already using generative AI to help draft essays and complete assignments.

So, how can you be not just preventative but proactive in how you can add in layers to your materials and assignments that account for that? They’re students on their use of AI. We could also help use this as a learning outcome, knowing that by the time they graduate and/or are already getting internships, they’re probably going to be tasked with AI tools for integration.

So, how are we integrating it from the student leader experience to the student employee experience and in the classroom? Let’s hear from Claire about the benefits of AI for student development.

[00:36:51] Claire: From a student development standpoint, AI is going to significantly impact the student experience in some really important ways. AI is going to help us as a field to drive personalized learning. So, much of the experience right now for many students is one-size-fits-all. AI will help us to more fully tailor to the student’s individual abilities and needs. AI will help us to differentiate learning experiences, tailor individual support services, and meet the student where they’re at, but in a really scalable way.

The possibilities to impact students with disabilities is astounding. Assistive technologies have been dramatically improved through AI in cost, in access, and in quality. I believe that career services, tutoring, learning centers, and writing centers are areas where I see AI revolutionizing how these professionals do their work and how they impact the student experience.

And finally, I’ll mention chatbots. Chatbots are improving by leaps and bounds through AI and are impacting student outcomes in really powerful ways. Ocelot reports that over 40% of chatbot interactions happen after traditional business hours. AI can help us to scale up our student services and offer them 24/7 at times when our traditional staff are not available, but students are seeking information and they want to engage with us.

[00:38:21] Josie: And of course, we couldn’t leave out executives and higher ed professionals at large, who might be slow to adopt, but we can be cautiously optimistic. Claire shares a good place to start.

[00:38:38] Claire: Honestly, I think that higher ed needs to wrangle with the cheating and academic integrity concerns and then get on board with AI. My corporate clients are embracing AI at a rapid pace. My higher ed clients seem a little more reticent. They often get mired in the debate of how to adjudicate plagiarism, which doesn’t leave as much space or energy for innovation and exploration to AI.

[00:39:02] Josie: Now, according to a study by AI Adoption and Higher Ed Leadership, only 16% of higher ed leaders think AI will revolutionize teaching and learning. More than one-third of university leaders worry AI will create new challenges in identifying plagiarism. In addition, almost one in five are concerned AI Will exacerbate inequity and perpetuate bias in education.

So, there’s that. But let me bring it back to this need to experiment, because I am joining you in this AI experiment era. With any new software solution, any new social media platform, it’s critical to experiment, question, and be curious. So, how do professionals who are already very busy take time to learn? Carrie puts an LMAC hold on her calendar each week. I know I wondered it, too. What does LMAC stand for? And it, and I love it, and it should be t-shirt, Leave Me Alone committee. This gives her dedicated time each week to dig into new trends. Right now, she’s been leaning into understanding AI more during these times.

[00:40:24] Carrie: I think the other thing that’s really important is collaboration, you know, our academic counterparts are also struggling with this. They’re struggling with, what does this look like in classrooms? How does this apply in research and in papers and those kinds of things? So, I think it’s a really great opportunity to engage our faculty counterparts and find out how they’re thinking about it as well.

[00:40:49] Josie: Claire also has some recommendations for experimenting with AI.

[00:40:54] Claire: My best advice is just to begin by playing and start from a place of curiosity. I discovered some of my best AI tools and tactics just by playing in the open AI platform and trying out various tools. I would say, start with a generative AI tool like ChatGPT to understand what’s out there. Practice writing prompts and just to become comfortable with analyzing the output to ensure accuracy. Think about your most mundane administrative tasks in your work week and see if there’s an AI tool that could automate that task or make it easier for you or less time-consuming, something like meeting minutes or reading a large volume of industry research or articles, digesting assessment data, or even writing LinkedIn posts. There’s an AI tool to help you do all of that.

[00:41:41] Josie: Now you can go zero to AI. I love this quote by Roy Matthew, who leads higher ed consulting at Deloitte. “You can’t go from zero to AI. There’s a lot of groundwork that has to be there. I would also encourage you to think about adopting a growth mindset, overall. As with any technology that can shape our campuses, we’ve got to encourage a culture of experimentation with AI tech. Next is to follow the funding. And this is a rule of thumb in all things, but higher ed funding, and a lot of it is flowing into AI as institutions take some bets. And keep your eye on these institutions and how they are able to integrate them.”

Inside Higher Ed had a very interesting article about this. We are seeing dozens of faculty being hired and large-scale AI-focused centers popping up at different campuses. For example, University of Albany has plans for 200 million to go into AI. A 600 million donation to boost artificial intelligence work at Indiana University Bloomington. Miami Dade College spending 5 million each for AI centers on two campuses. And ASU, always an innovator, has a partnership with OpenAI, rolling out personal AI tutors for their students and a ChatGPT partnership.

So, I want to get even more specific and experimenting, not just holding calendar time. And this is where you’re going to get lots of resources in the show notes. Practical steps. There are free accessible tools, like ChatGPT and a tool called DALL·E, which can be a good space for learning. We’ve got online courses and tutorials from our friends at Element451, including a prompt engineering course specifically designed for higher ed pros.

I would also, for those that don’t want to experiment right away, you want to consume and read. There are lots of guides, also from our friends at Element451, from AI Readiness Assessment Guide, the Definite Guide to AI and Higher Ed, ChatGPT Cheat Sheet for Higher Ed Marketers. And of course, for the podcasters listening, we’ll link to a few, probably more than a few episodes that talk about generative AI, ChatGPT, and more. 

I also think it’s so exciting to be able to connect as we all explore in a networking sense. So, we obviously have the Engage Summit, but any conference that you’re going to in the next year, I would not be surprised if at least one keynote or workshop or maybe even a breakout is about it. And just come to explore. Don’t feel like you’ve got it all figured out.

And then, next is you’ve got to actually put in some time. I’m not saying 10,000 hours, but you do need some hands-on experimentation. And as I said earlier, you can make it fun. What would Dora the Explorer answer to answer the question of, what is the University of Albany? Or, who is Josie Ahlquist? Wrong answers only. I don’t know. Just have fun with it. Professional development opportunities, while there is a lot of free ones, I think the most informative. And honestly, practical and tactical ones might have a little bit of funds that you’ll want to prepare for, even though a lot of this stuff is changing often.

I would also say, like Carrie schedules time, could you schedule time into your or your team, department divisions, to come together in a computer lab or all bringing out our phones and we’re just, kind of, playing around or we’re sharing what we’re learning?

And finally would be to collaborate with experts. There are individuals… I use experts with a little bit of a smirk, but there are influencers, both in our industry and others, that have a willingness and excitement about AI, from the beginning or will continue to be jumping in now. I would say Claire and Carrie are just a couple of those examples where they’re blogging about it, they’re writing about it a lot on LinkedIn. And so, I’m just getting a lot out of following them. And of course, Mallory at Element451.

I’ve got a few more recommendations for you, as we get even more specific. Now, another person to keep your eye on is Bart Caylor. He’s an education marketing strategist, brand communicator of Caylor Solutions, and he’s a Forbes contributor. He gave us an epic list of steps to take to optimize AI from, and this is going to be more advanced, you can create personas. You can share previous materials you’ve already created to get to know your voice and tone. You could even treat AI like your smart intern.

And so, some of these recommendations include, well, one, use paid versions, like ChatGPT4. But keep in mind, I did not upgrade to 4 until I was using the free version for months and months. They also recommended a tool that’s nearly as good called Claude, Claude AI. We’ll link it. C-L-A-U-D-E.AI. again, number three, always give it a persona. For example, act as a higher ed marketer for (insert your institution). So, my example of, “Write like you’re Moira from Schitt’s Creek answering this question.”

Number four, upload previous materials you want it to mimic. So, are there existing documents, blog posts, emails, et cetera? You could frigging upload your mission statement, so it already knows the salient language.

Five, ask it to create questions to give it the information that it needs for the best response. He says, “This is critical. Otherwise, your responses will be disappointing.” Two more, have a conversation like it’s a really smart intern. Don’t throw it out when it’s not the answer you’re expecting. So, for example, I, many times, will say, like it’s a real intern, “Thank you.” And then, almost like giving it soft feedback. And then practice, repetition, over and over.

Next recommendation, give AI a frame of reference for your expertise and tone. This was shared, also a bit by Bart, Claire gives us a little bit more here, that we should always give a context for tone, writing style, and expertise. If you look at your emails or anything you’ve written or said, you have a personality. You have a voice, and so does your institution, your department or division. AI is not the space for filler words or jargon but clarity in improving that output.

So, she recommends, and what she says, “I tell ChatGPT that I’m an excellent writer with 20-plus years of experience. I don’t use filler words or jargon. And what field I work in—higher ed, nonprofit. this small change has dramatically improved my output, like the results that you get.”

And so, when. asked how higher ed leaders and marketers could build their AI skills, this is what Claire had to say.

[00:49:49] Claire: My best advice is just to begin by playing and start from a place of curiosity. I discovered some of my best AI tools and tactics just by playing in the OpenAI platform and trying out various tools. I would say, start with a generative AI tool like ChatGPT to understand what’s out there. Practice writing prompts and just to become comfortable with analyzing the output to ensure accuracy.

Think about your most mundane administrative tasks in your work week and see if there’s an AI tool that could automate that task or make it easier for you or less time-consuming, something like meeting minutes or reading a large volume of industry research or articles, digesting assessment data, or even writing LinkedIn posts. There’s an AI tool to help you do all of that.

[00:50:39] Josie: And as I shared earlier, it might feel weird, but say “thank you.” Carrie agrees with me about sharing gratitude in AI. We could insert some commentary about end-of-world robots taking over, but it’s just, kind of… it’s humanizing the process, too. Carrie’s recommendation, she shares, “I say thank you and share the final version.” And I think that is actually the biggest key. I’m hoping it continues to learn my style and what I actually ended up using. And thank you because I need to do better at just saying thank you.

Now, if you’re getting stuck on prompts, Joel says it’s all about prompt engineering. So, listen to what he has to say.

[00:51:24] Joel: Just search for this term and you will find so many resources. AI tools are nothing without the right prompt. A well-crafted prompt can make the difference from a generic response to a really hone-in and well-crafted piece.

I’m going to quote my friend, Ben Olarios. It’s not about knowing everything, it’s about having the phone number of those who do. While prompt engineering will give you all the phone numbers you need and then some more, don’t worry about knowing and trying out every AI tool out there. Focus on the skills needed to work with these tools and how to connect them to other services; thus, expanding their functionality.

[00:52:00] Josie: And then, finally, Carrie gives some resources.

[00:52:04] Carrie: I think there are so many great resources out there. I would start by reading the article that was in The Chronicle about marketing and AI. I also think it’s really important to look at the work that Bart Caylor with Caylor Solutions is doing. He’s got some great thoughts and great things that are happening there. He’s also been really generous and willing to, kind of, sit down one-on-one and talk to folks about that.

If you’re in the advancement space, which I think is a space that sometimes gets a little forgotten about as we think about AI, Evertrue is doing some really great work around how our advancement colleagues can be using this to personalize their work and to build out some of the things that they’re doing as it relates to proposals and follow-up conversations, thank you notes, things like that. And then, I think Mallory will see in the entire team at Element451 are doing a really good job talking about it in terms of search and chat and all of those spaces. So, lots of really great resources out there.

[00:53:01] Josie: Before I start to wrap up this episode, I asked AI for some fun prompts for higher ed professionals, and it came back with some pretty lengthy responses related to AI in the classroom, student engagement, research implications leadership, and of course, future-proofing skills. They might be worth exploring. We’re going to list them all in the show notes

But I’m always for the fun. Make your work, especially in experimentation phases, fun and entertaining. That’s also the third goal of this podcast. So, here’s one to throw in there. “I’m a higher ed marketing professional and only have 20 minutes in my day to learn new skills that I need. What resources do you recommend for learning AI and higher ed right now?”

Or, maybe this one, “I am a student affairs professional who’s unsure if AI is going to benefit my role. What resources do you recommend that are easy to understand and will only take an hour of my time?” And then you could add on, “Give these in the voice of Moira from Schitt’s Creek.” It’ll be fun.

I would love to hear how you are implementing AI in your work, in your personal life. Maybe, who have been your early educators and influencers of AI? I am learning right along with you. As we continue to build frameworks, and even more importantly, research about how we intentionally and with the goal of making these tools have an impact on student engagement, learning retention, and the list goes on.

And of course, I’m so excited to share about the Engage Summit. Remember until April 14th, you’ve got a discount, JOSIE50. This whole thing isn’t a sponsored episode, I swear, but there are not a ton of conferences out there specifically for higher ed and AI. And this is just going to be a mind meld of, if you’re excited about something like this, that is going to be your place. I think that’s going to be the biggest bang for your buck.

I mean, it’s only $99! That’s nuts! I bet your flight will cost more than that. Go, visitengage.element451.com. Learn more. Get registered. Let them know I sent you.

I can’t wait in a year when I do an updated AI episode, what is going to change, what lessons we’ve learned. And no matter what, though, what I know won’t change is how important we keep the humanity into our work in higher ed, whether if it’s AI or on Instagram or how we write emails. Let me just boil it down to that.

[00:56:06] Thank you for joining me in this shorty episode of Josie and the Podcast. Find me online. I’m @JosieAhlquist, and the podcast is on X, Threads, and Instagram. Remember, those show notes, and there are a lot of them today, can be found at josieahlquist.com/podcast.

I would love it if you were to make sure you’re subscribed, give me a little review, and share this episode. If you’re interested in learning more about my speaking, consulting work, or my book on digital leadership and higher education, you could find that at josieahlquist.com.

Thank you, again, to our podcast sponsors, University FM and Element451. I’m sending digital hugs, loves, and waves to whatever corner of the world you’re listening in from. This has been Josie and the Podcast.

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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