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    Lingnan’s big plan to advance data literacy

    In his role as the new President of Lingnan University in Hong Kong, Professor Joe Qin intends to advance digital learning and integrate the use of data science tools in the curriculum and around the campus.

    He believes that higher education must embrace the latest technology since artificial intelligence (AI) and applications like ChatGPT are inevitably going to shake up academia, the workplace and everyday life.

    Therefore, Lingnan faculty and students must be AI literate, pioneering new dimensions in liberal arts education, so that graduates are multifaceted and future-ready.

    “There has been a huge acceleration in generative AI and what large language models can do,” says Qin, adding that recent tech breakthroughs are driving an intellectual revolution. “It is a hot topic for everyone in higher education.”

    He notes how quickly OpenAI’s ChatGPT signed up over a hundred million users after its release last November and how universities, which initially expressed strong reservations, have now decided to embrace it.

    “Lingnan has already purchased the licence for version 3.5 of ChatGPT, and we will be training faculty and students to use it,” Qin says. “One challenge is to redesign exams and testing instruments to assess each student’s real progress.”

    In the coming semester, the Faculty of Business will offer AI generated content (AIGC) in a general education course, so new users can familiarise themselves with the possibilities and hone their skills.

    Other faculties will follow suit, with professors specifying when GPT can be used for written assignments. Students would be expected to submit a list of the “prompts” given to get content used in coursework and essays, and to summarise their own thinking and conclusions.

    “I’ve been using ChatGPT for almost six months now,” Qin says. “I find it makes me think more critically and I’ve become more vigilant in seeing it gives the content I want.”

    Before redesigning courses, faculty staff will receive guidelines and training via a series of in-house workshops similar to those organised to facilitate the switch to online classes during Covid-19. However, they must also commit to teaching themselves.

    “It’s a really good example for everyone at Lingnan to show that innovation and research are part of our lives, and that the dissemination of knowledge is no longer a static thing,” Qin says.
    Significantly, he adds, more academic journals are now willing to accept submissions prepared with the help of AIGC. Authors may rephrase sections or improve the style, but their ownership of the article is recognised if it accurately reflects their viewpoints.

    Looking ahead, Qin wants to see data literacy incorporated in all Lingnan programmes, which goes hand in hand with the plan for a new School of Data Science. The Hong Kong government’s University Grants Committee (UGC) has already earmarked support for such developments through its Fund for Innovative Technology in Education, a key area of focus.

    “We will invest our own resources as well,” Qin says. “I think of AI as a tool, an assistant, and that’s the way it should be.”