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Embracing AI in Education: Lessons from Coleg y Cymoedd's Evaluation Journey

Updated: 5 days ago


College students

As the educational landscape rapidly evolves with the advent of generative AI, institutions face a crucial decision; when and how to integrate AI into their teaching and learning processes.


Our recent webinar, “Fast-Tracking AI for teaching and learning with SMART AI Learning Copilot”, highlighted the urgency of adopting generative AI to remain at the forefront of educational innovation.


SMART: AI Learning Copilot: Revolutionising Education


The SMART AI Learning Copilot represents more than just an advancement, it’s a revolution in educational practices. As a virtual teaching assistant, it offers students a personalised and interactive learning journey. The webinar emphasised the critical need for immediate AI evaluation to maintain competitive advantage and relevance in today’s evolving educational landscape.


Coleg y Cymoedd’s AI Journey: A Case Study in Innovation


We were privileged to have Coleg y Cymoedd, a leader in AI adoption, share their journey to date in evaluating AI for education. Supporting over 10,000 learners, the college’s proactive approach to AI integration offers valuable insights and practical guidance for other institutions.


Picture of Rory Meredith
Rory Meredith

Rory Meredith, Director of Digital Strategy and Innovation at the College outlined the strategic steps to secure funding and overcome challenges and detailed their ongoing plans for evaluating and implementing AI. Their experience offers a comprehensive blueprint for institutions ready to embrace AI, laying the groundwork for successful integration in the upcoming academic year.



The Initial Steps


Coleg y Cymoedd’s AI journey began with a collaboration with ICS.AI and Microsoft. The college’s proactive approach led them to utilise the Welsh Governments digital 2030 FE capital fund for their first AI project; recently launching their SMART: AI student recruitment assistant, 'Arny', designed to enhance the learner experience and aid recruitment. This marked the completion of their first phase in AI adoption - find out more about ARNY.


Overcoming Challenges


Phase 2 was further supported by the Welsh Government, who encouraged colleges in Wales to submit applications for dedicated AI pilot projects. With only 3 projects in scope for approval, the funding approval process was tough and despite initial setbacks, the team at Coleg y Cymoedd demonstrated resilience and adaptability and they refined their approach to target specific teaching and learning applications.


Building Support and Awareness


Rory highlighted the importance of people in digital transformation. Gaining the trust and buy-in from colleagues was crucial, as was the need to have the right team to communicate and collaborate effectively. The college worked on raising AI awareness among staff and created a new position for Digital Learning and Innovation Manager to spearhead the growing AI agenda.


Strategic Curriculum Focus


Their decision to pilot AI in health and social care, and childcare courses was strategic, aiming to improve completion rates and align with specific Welsh government focus on this particular curriculum area. This focus on practical and high-impact applications paves the way for scalability and wider adoption.


Defining Success and Future Plans


Coleg y Cymoedd Campus

For Coleg y Cymoedd, success will be measured in tangible outcomes like improved exam results, positive learner and staff feedback, and data-driven insights to inform enhancements in teaching and learning. They hope that this project could lead to a national rollout and further exploration in other curriculum areas.



Rory's Recommendations for AI Evaluation


Rory’s advice for institutions looking to adopt AI is clear: develop a deep understanding of generative AI, commit to building necessary capabilities, identify high-impact use cases, secure financial resources, and prioritise safety, security and responsible AI practices.


Building on Rory’s interview, our suggested considerations towards a roadmap for AI evaluation are as follows:


1. Deep Awareness and Understanding of AI:

  • Educate leaders about the capabilities and potential of generative AI.

  • Foster a vision of how AI can amplify and accelerate strategic goals.

  • Stay informed about emerging AI trends and their implications for education.

2. Commitment to Building AI Capabilities:

  • Develop roles and teams focused on AI innovation and literacy.

  • Invest in training and resources to build AI expertise within the institution.

  • Encourage experimentation and pilot projects to explore AI’s potential.

3. Identifying High-Impact Use Cases:

  • Focus on two to three significant applications where AI can make a noticeable difference.

  • Prioritise areas that align with the institution's strategic goals and have the potential for immediate impact.

  • Consider both the enhancement of existing processes and the development of new, innovative approaches with AI.

4. Securing Necessary Resources:

  • Allocate budget and infrastructure for AI implementation and maintenance.

  • Explore external funding opportunities, such as government grants or partnerships.

  • Plan for both short-term wins and long-term initiatives that may require more extensive collaboration.

5. Prioritising Safety, Security, and Responsible AI:

  • Ensure AI implementations adhere to ethical standards and respect user privacy.

  • Implement robust security measures to safeguard data and AI systems.

  • Maintain transparency in AI applications and keep stakeholders informed about AI-related practices and policies.

6. Engagement and Buy-In:

  • Communicate the vision and benefits of AI to staff, faculty, and students.

  • Address concerns and potential resistance by demonstrating the value and impact of AI.

  • Foster a culture that is open to change and innovation.

7. Measuring Success and Continuous Improvement:

  • Establish clear metrics to evaluate the success of AI implementations.

  • Regularly review and adjust strategies based on feedback and performance data.

  • Stay agile and adaptable to continuously refine and improve AI applications.

Conclusion

Coleg y Cymoedd’s journey to date is an inspiring example of how institutions can strategically adopt AI to enhance teaching and learning. As Rory demonstrates, with the right vision, strategy, and team, AI can become a transformative tool in education, preparing institutions for the future.

For institutions considering their own AI journey, learning from the experiences of pioneers like Coleg y Cymoedd is invaluable. Embracing AI in education is not just about technology; it's about transforming the learning experience and preparing for a future where AI is an integral part of education.

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