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Exclusive: This online learning platform just released free generative AI training for university leaders. Here’s what you need to know

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College administrators have many things that might keep them up at night. Artificial intelligence (AI) is without a doubt one of them.

In fact, just 23% of administrators and faculty at 4-year institutions say their school is prepared for AI-related changes.

Coursera hopes to change these numbers—by educating university leaders the fundamentals of generative AI is already being used by, and is affecting students and the workforce, plus how curriculum and university operations can be adapted to meet the times. In a Fortune exclusive, the education platform is announcing a new, free learning opportunity, “Generative AI for University Leaders,” to do just that.

The course is being taught by Jules White, professor of computer science at Vanderbilt University and features content from Coursera’s CEO, Jeff Maggioncalda.

Maggioncalda says schools must adapt quicker than they are now to avoid being left behind for good.

“AI might not replace faculty, but faculty using AI might replace faculty who do not,” Maggioncalda tells Fortune. “AI might not replace schools, but schools using AI may replace schools who do not.”

Why should university leaders pay more attention to AI?

The new course is structured into three modules and consists of a variety of videos, readings, and assignments. It also includes a lab walking administrator through exactly how ChatGPT and other generative AI tools can be used as a thought partner in updating curriculum or setting university policy and priorities. The course is designed for university leaders who are in a policy-setting position—whether that be a chancellor, president, dean, provost, or department head.

Maggioncalda explains that in two large themes why any school leader should be paying more attention to generative AI:

  • Students are already way ahead of administrators
  • Business are expecting graduates to have the skills that you are not teaching today

He pointed to the fact that 93% of students in India are actively engaging with generative AI technology, and during last summer, ChatGPT saw slight declines in use—which may indicate that students are indeed relying on it during school time.

Moreover, 66% of business leaders say they wouldn’t hire someone with AI skills and 71% would prefer to hire someone with AI skills versus a more experienced candidate without them, according to a study by Microsoft and LinkedIn.

Maggioncalda similarly released a course earlier this year focused on teaching CEOs the ins-and-outs of generative AI.

Shifting ChatGPT anxieties

When ChatGPT first exploded, one of the biggest concerns was that education was going to be changed forever because of the ability for students to cheat easier, but White says that missed the point and undersold the value of the technology. However, Maggioncalda notes a lot of the anxiety has shifted from around cheating to exactly how big the AI transformations will be.

“We’re gonna have to change what our students are being taught so that they have these new skills, but at the same time, it’s going to affect faculty, and how in this creates all these new amazing opportunities for how we go and create content,” White explains.

Embracing and understanding how to use AI is largely important, he adds. Hence his other major rodeo when it comes to teaching on Coursera: White’s Prompt Engineering for ChatGPT course was the second-most popular on all of Coursera in 2023. 

White, who also serves as senior advisor to Vanderbilt’s chancellor on generative AI in education, says that most universities are still struggling when it comes to striking a balance of acceptable AI use in the classroom, admissions process, and even research.

This can be seen as a red flag for higher education based on the fact that a study conducted by professors at Princeton, UPenn, and NYU found that 14 of the 20 occupations most exposed to AI language modeling are all postsecondary teachers. 

“No other job category has seen the incremental increase in impact than educators. And they’re gonna have to educate everybody else on how to do all their jobs differently,” Maggioncalda says—adding that the world will be looking at educators to lead the rest of the world in tackling the AI transformation.

“Educators have to lead the way,” he concludes.


Check out all of Fortune’rankings of degree programs, and learn more about specific career paths.



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