October 27, 2023

When AI in Higher Education Means More

By: SEC Staff
SECU (Twitter: @TheSECU)

The Southeastern Conference and its member universities are spearheading initiatives that bring artificial intelligence to the classroom and support workforce development training.


The Southeastern Conference is known for its athletic prowess – numerous national championships and heated rivalries that go along with storied traditions.

But outside of athletic competition, the SEC and its member universities are leaders in transforming higher education. As collective leaders in post-secondary education and research, the Conference’s provosts created the SEC Artificial Intelligence Consortium, a collaboration to focus on AI for workforce development.

“This consortium acknowledges the rapid advances and increased applications of AI and data technology in all sectors of society, and it ensures our students are prepared to prosper in a workforce in which AI is expected to play an increasingly important role,” said Jere W. Morehead, former president of the Southeastern Conference and current president at the University of Georgia, when the initiative was announced.

“With this effort, SEC institutions are also answering the call from local, state and federal leaders who recognize the importance of enhanced training and workforce development to retain U.S. global competitiveness.”

The consortium encourages SEC universities to share resources and ideas across a broad array of disciplines for AI advancement. Institutions have hosted conferences, including one focused on agriculture. They continue to partner together to advance data science research, evidenced by Texas A&M University researchers using the University of Florida’s HiPerGator AI Supercomputer to distinguish computing benchmarks.

As ChatGPT and other AI sources found popularity in academics, many embraced it as a learning tool while acknowledging the ethical concerns and hesitations that come with it. SEC experts came together to openly explore these topics at the virtual SEC Generative AI Forum.

Discussions ranged from how generative AI works, effective uses of the software, to academic integrity, and it has gathered more than 1,100 views collectively from the initial live broadcast and YouTube viewings.


Teaching with AI in the SEC

The interest in the generative AI panel underscored the interest that faculty members and professional staff have in learning more about artificial intelligence.

As a result of that interest, the Conference initiated a partnership with Auburn University to establish Teaching with AI in the SEC. The online course is open to all SEC institutions and adopted from an established Auburn University online course. Teaching with AI in the SEC provides tangible resources for integrating artificial intelligence into teaching instruction.

“Utilizing AI as an educational tool and resource is imperative,” said Dr. LeNá Powe McDonald, associate commissioner for academic relations at the SEC. “This partnership with Auburn University is a transformative step that will help to empower faculty throughout our conference footprint with innovative knowledge and ideas on ways to strengthen student engagement and learning.”

The eight-module course provides a comprehensive understanding of AI and its implications for teaching and learning in higher education. Topics covered include, academic integrity, ethical and legal issues, using AI to enhance student learning, and more.

“We wanted to make the course designed for the technology is changing but your students aren’t,” said Dr. Lindsey Doukopoulos, associate director of educational development at Auburn’s Biggio Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning. “…Really asking faculty to think about this the way they think about a new breakthrough in their discipline. It may be something that changes what you have thought about things in the past.

“It’s part of our obligation as professionals to at least be aware of what that means and to be transparent about how we are approaching and dealing with it.”

As participants work their way through the course, they are encouraged to experiment with AI tools and incorporate them into assignments. The platform helps foster discussion and collaborations that can support work throughout the SEC.

The opportunity to engage in Teaching with AI in the SEC has seen a tremendous response, as more than 700 registrants are taking advantage of this new community.

“Our campuses across the Southeastern Conference are full of one-of-a-kind, talented people across all different types of fields,” said Dr. Asim Ali, executive director at the Biggio Center. “As people are going through and developing their expertise or further refining their expertise, knowing that there is a conference-wide commitment to elevating their work, to building that community, to building that collaboration across campuses – that is the future of higher education.

“How do we leverage our partnerships across campuses and create those, not only efficiencies, but also deepening the research that we are doing, deepening those discoveries we are making, and becoming more innovative and responsive to the communities we are serving and society as a whole.

“From that perspective this is a first-of-its-kind partnership and certainly not the last.”


Since 2011, the Southeastern Conference has supported the teaching, research and service mission of its member universities through a variety of programs and activities. Learn more at TheSECU.com.