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Learning Technology Team

NILE & Other Technology Guides

Information for Staff

University position on Artificial Intelligence (AI)

UON recognises that Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools are increasingly embedded within commonly used applications such as Microsoft Office and web browsers. There is also a wide range of free and paid for external AI tools available. In response to this, UON commits to supporting staff and students to become AI literate. Where appropriate, teaching and assessment may reference or use AI tools. You can find out more about the University's official position on AI using the link below.

About AI Design Assistant

AI Design Assistant is a feature of Ultra courses, and may be used by academic staff to generate ideas regarding course structure, images, tests/quizzes, discussion/journal prompts, and rubrics. The AI Design Assistant only generates suggestions when it is asked to by members of academic staff, and cannot automatically add anything to NILE courses. Academic staff are always in control of the AI Design Assistant, and can quickly and easily reject any AI generated ideas before they are added to a NILE course. Anything generated by the AI Design Assistant can only be added to a NILE course once it has been approved by academic staff teaching on the module, and all AI generated suggestions can be edited by staff before being made available to students.

AI Design Assistant has been created by Anthology in partnership with Microsoft, and you can find out more about their commitment to responsible AI via the links below:  

Benefits and limitations of AI Design Assistant

When using AI Design Assistant it is extremely important to bear in mind that it is a widely known and inherent feature of AI that it cannot get things right all of the time. Therefore, any suggestions made by the AI Design Assistant must be checked for sense and accuracy by staff who are subject matter experts and who understand in detail the teaching, learning, and assessment strategy in use on the module.

What the AI Design Assistant can do:

  • Provide ideas about how you might like to structure your Ultra course by auto-generating learning modules;
  • Offer AI generated, royalty free images to use for the course banner, learning module thumbnails, etc., in your Ultra course;
  • Generate ideas for Ultra rubrics;
  • Propose Ultra test questions (e.g., multiple choice/multiple option questions) based on a specific Ultra document;
  • Create suggestions for an Ultra test based on the module name and description.

What the AI Design Assistant cannot do:

  • Create teaching and learning content;
  • Be relied upon to create 100% fault-free, factually accurate suggestions;
  • Be used safely by staff who are not subject matter experts and who do not know the module in detail;
  • Understand the details of the teaching, learning, and assessment strategy;
  • Appreciate the wider context in which your module operates, including its relationship to the overall programme(s) in which it exists.

The most important thing to bear in mind if and when using AI Design Assistant is that it has no understanding of what it is doing, and that it is merely generating ideas/suggestions that you may or may not like to use. No suggestions can be generated by AI in a NILE course without being asked for by a member of academic staff, and no AI generated suggestions can appear in an Ultra course unless they are first checked, refined if necessary, and approved by the member of staff who generated them.

AI Design Assistant tools

Before using any of the AI Design Assistant tools, please ensure that you are familiar with the limitations of the tool (see 'Benefits and limitations of AI Design Assistant' above), in particular, the fact that all auto-generated content must be checked for accuracy and bias before being used in a NILE course.

This is auto-generated content and needs to be checked for accuracy and bias.

Course structure suggestions / Auto-generate modules

AI Design Assistant can offer suggestions about the structure of NILE courses by auto-generating learning modules. The auto-generate module feature will create a number of learning modules at the top level of your NILE course, adding titles, images, and descriptions the learning modules it generates. You can choose how many learning modules you want the design assistant to generate, the complexity (i.e., difficulty) of the course, the prefix (e.g., week, topic, unit, etc), and whether to auto-generate images for the learning modules.

By default, the design assistant will only use the NILE course title when generating course structure suggestions, but if you add in more information about the course into the description field - e.g., information from the module specification such as the module description, indicative content, module learning outcomes - the auto-generated modules will be more relevant.

You can re-generate the learning modules multiple times, so do not have to go with the first set of suggestions. You can also edit the auto-generated modules, so if you just want a number of learning modules with images in your course, you might find that auto-generating them is a quick option, and after they are generated you can add in your own titles and descriptions.

To auto-generate learning modules:

  • Select the + (plus) button at the top-level of your NILE course, and choose 'Auto-generate modules;
  • Update the information under 'Define Learning Modules' and generate a new selection of learning modules, if you want a new selection of modules to be created;
  • Select which learning modules you want to import into your course, and choose 'Add to course';
  • Once imported into your NILE course, you can then edit the titles, descriptions, and images in the learning modules.

AI image generator & Unsplash image library

Wherever you can add an image in an Ultra course, as well as being able to upload an image from your computer, you can also add Unsplash images. And, in many places in Ultra courses, you will be able to add AI-generated images too. Unsplash is a library of photographs, whereas AI-generated images are unique images created from a description. Both Unsplash and AI-generated images are freely available to use in NILE Ultra courses.

To add an Unsplash or AI image to your Ultra course:

  • Choose the 'Add image' icon, and change 'Upload from Device' to 'Stock Images from Unsplash' or 'Generate images';
  • Search for or describe your image, refining your search/description as necessary.
  • Once you have found an image that you want to use, select it and choose 'Next'.
  • From the following screens you can choose the aspect ratio, zoom level, and can set the display name, alternative text (this will be automatically provided if you are using Unsplash images), and whether you want your students to be able to view and/or download the image.

When describing an AI-generated image, you a providing an instruction to an AI image generator to create you a unique set of images based on your description. Every time you generate the images, they will be different, even if you use precisely the same description. The more information that you provide in the description about what you want your image to look like, the more likely you are to get an image that is close to one that you want. As well as describing the content of the image, you can also add information about the style of the image too. The following screenshots show how varied AI-generated images can be. Each used the same content description, 'deep in thought', but in the second and third screenshots additional information about the style was added.

Test question generation

Ideas for Blackboard Ultra test questions can generated from within an Ultra test. The auto-generated test questions will use the name of your NILE course as a prompt, but adding additional information to the description field and re-generating the questions will make them more specific. Once generated and added to the test, the auto-generated questions can then be manually edited.

To auto-generate test questions:

  • Create a new Ultra test in your NILE course, or go into a test that you have already created and want to add more questions to;
  • Add a new question to your test, and from the question types menu, select 'Auto-generate question';
  • In the 'Define questions' fields, add more information into the description field to make the auto-generated questions more specific. Choose your question type (or leave as 'Inspire me' to get a random selection of question types), and number and complexity of questions. Then, re-generate your test questions;
  • Choose the questions that you want to import into your test, and select 'Add to Assessment';
  • You can now manually edit and save the questions that they are exactly as you want them.

Question bank generation from Ultra documents

Ideas for Blackboard Ultra test questions can generated from inside Ultra documents, and test questions generated via this method will be based solely upon the text in the Ultra document. These questions will be added to the Ultra question bank for use in tests. Once generated and added to the question bank, the auto-generated questions from Ultra documents can then be manually edited.

To auto-generate test questions from an Ultra document:

  • Create a new Ultra document, or access an existing one, and scroll to the bottom of the document;
  • Select 'Auto-generate question bank';
  • In the 'Define questions' fields, choose your question type (or leave as 'Inspire me' to get a random selection of question types), and number and complexity of questions. Then, re-generate your test questions;
  • Choose the questions that you want to add to the question bank, and select 'Add to Question Bank'';
  • A pop-up will appear with the message 'Question bank created. Go To Bank'. From here you can go directly to the question bank where you can manually edit and save the questions in the question bank so that they are exactly as you want them. If you do not want to go to the question bank right away, you can access it at any time from the 'Details & Actions' menu in your NILE course.

Questions auto-generated from Ultra documents can accessed and edited at any time by selecting 'Manage banks' in Question Banks, under the Details & Actions menu. 

Questions in an Ultra question bank can be added to a test using the 'Reuse Questions' option when building a test.

Authentic assignment, discussion and journal prompts

Ideas for assignments, discussions, and journals can be auto-generated when setting these up in an Ultra course. The assignment, discussion, and journal prompts are designed to encourage students to engage in higher-order thinking, to apply their knowledge, to justify or challenge their beliefs and ideas, and emulate real-world situations.

To auto-generate ideas for an Ultra assignment, discussion or journal:

  • Create a new Ultra assignment, discussion or journal;
  • If you know roughly what you want your assignment/discussion/journal to be about, give it a title, as this will refine the auto-generated prompts to the subject indicated in your assignment/discussion/journal title. If you want to see the widest range of prompts, leave the assignment/discussion/journal title blank. With the assignment/discussion/journal title blank, the context for the prompts will come from the course title.
  • Select 'Auto-generate assignment/discussion/journal. Choose your cognitive level (based on Bloom, et al's, taxonomy) and complexity, and whether or not you want the assignment/discussion/journal title to be auto-generated too. Add any further information to the description, if you want to further refine the prompts, and re-generate the prompts.
  • Once you have generated an assignment/discussion/journal prompt that you are reasonably happy with, choose it and select 'Add' to add the auto-generated text to your assignment/discussion/journal prompt. Once you have added it to the assignment/discussion/journal you can edit it so that it is exactly how you want it to be. 

Rubric generation

Ideas for Blackboard Ultra rubrics can generated from the gradebook settings panel. By default, the AI generated rubrics will be fairly generic, but adding detail about your assessment to the description field and re-generating the rubric will make it more specific to your assignment. Once generated, the AI-generated rubric can then be manually edited.

To auto-generate a rubric:

  • Access the gradebook in your NILE course and select the gradebook settings cog;
  • Scroll down to the bottom of the gradebook settings panel, and under 'Course Rubrics', select 'Generate';
  • Choose which type of rubric you want (percentage, points, etc.), how many rows and columns you want, how complex you want it to be, and add more information into the description field. Then generate your rubric again to make it more specific to your assignment;
  • Update the 'Define rubric' fields and generate your rubric again if you want to refine it further, then choose 'Continue';
  • You can now manually edit the rubric, change the rubric title, and update the points or percentages, so that it is exactly as you want it.
If you add the headings and learning outcomes that you are assessing into the description field and set the number of rows and columns to match the number of learning outcomes and regenerate the rubric, the auto-generated rubric will be aligned to your leaning outcomes.
For example, if you added the following to the description field, the auto-generated rubric would use the supplied headings and learning outcomes when creating the rubric:
Headings: Distinction, Merit, Commended, Pass, Fail.
Learning Outcomes:
[A] Clearly state the conclusion of an argument;
[B] Support a conclusion with a simple set of reasons;
[C] Develop a complex argument by using multiple reasons and intermediate conclusions.

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