WCET Surveys Institutions to Determine AI Policies & Practices

WCET may be known to more colleges and universities for its support of the State Authorization Network that ultimately became NC-SARA, the framework to allow colleges and universities offering distance education courses across state lines to avoid the complexity of going through licensing in many states. However, WCET has been the source and impetus for many technology-related research projects over the years.

The WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) recently published the results of its April 2023 national survey. The report is titled Supporting Instruction & Learning Through Artificial Intelligence: A Survey of Institutional Practices and Policies and was authored by Judith Sebesta and Van Davis.

The 20-question survey was sent to 13,215 recipients with 648 respondents. Six in-depth interviews were conducted post survey. Respondents were given a selection of options for all questions except the last question which was open-ended. A majority of survey respondents are at public institutions with greater than 3,000 enrollments in fall 2022. The co-authors noted that the research presented is merely a snapshot in a “rapidly expanding, ever-changing set of technologies and should be utilized as such.”

The report’s key findings and insights were organized in three categories: Utilization; Support, Incentives, and Training; and Strategy, Planning, and Policy.

There are four key findings and insights organized under Utilization. These are:

  • Using AI to support instruction and learning is nascent on many campuses although some have been using it for years.
  • Concerns about AI and academic integrity – preventing cheating – are a focus for many institutions and the top reason given for not using AI.
  • At the majority of institutions, use of AI to support instruction and learning is on the radar or scattered but there is no systemic action yet.
  • In terms of discipline-specific use, AI is being most utilized in Computer and Information Science.

There are two key findings and insights organized under Support, Incentives, and Training. These are:

  • Online and Distance Education Administrators and Staff, including Instructional Designers, are the primary roles leading this work on their campuses, with faculty and Chief Academic Officers and Provosts close behind.
  • The overwhelming majority of institutions do not offer incentives to encourage faculty to use AI, and a majority no faculty development or training around AI.

There are three key findings and insights organized under Strategy, Planning, and Policy. These are:

  • The majority of institutions lack official strategy around the use of AI but have or will be developing policies, primarily around academic integrity and instructional use.
  • Some institutions are adapting existing policies to include the use of AI.
  • Respondents identified empowering educators with new technologies as the top reason for adopting or considering AI.

For respondents who indicated that their institutions had any level of AI use, the survey asked when their institution first deployed AI to support instruction and learning. The majority (53%) did less than one year ago; 19% one to two years ago, 20% three to five years ago, and only 8% five or more years ago. Of that 8% (17 respondents), the majority (9) were at institutions with greater than 10,000 enrollments.

The top challenges towards implementing AI were lack of AI expertise among faculty (68%) and administrators (62%), lack of policies and guidelines (56%), and concerns about protecting academic integrity (50%). There were 18 other reasons listed by respondents and curiously, 6% reported no challenges at all.

The top benefits of AI as listed by respondents were teaching critical digital skills (65%), learner engagement (63%), improved student outcomes (55%), improved e-learning (52%), and increased efficiency and scale (48%). There were 12 other benefits listed by respondents.

The co-authors and researchers produced eight recommendations. These are:

  • Create clear, consistent, well-developed policies around the use of AI for faculty, students, and others not only to address academic integrity but to anticipate the range of potential instructional uses, intellectual property issues, and others relevant to your context, being sure to include students in policy development.
  • Provide a secure environment around the use of AI, addressing growing concerns regarding data privacy and AI, through policy, training, and practice.
  • Leverage AI as a powerful tool to support increased equity for learners, ensuring learner accessibility as well as adequate campus resources, and mitigate impediments to equity in the use of AI.
  • Develop and teach digital literacy centered on the use of AI to better prepare learners for its utilization in a wide range of workforce sectors.
  • Review and update course and program curricula regularly to assure alignment with current, relevant AI skills students will need to succeed in the workforce.
  • Allocate resources, where possible, to offer ongoing, diverse training, both formal and informal, on using AI to support instruction and learning in order to address the gap in knowledge of AI for faculty, staff, administrators, and students.
  • Engage as many disciplines, departments, and offices internally across the institution and organization – and externally in industry – to develop policy, train, and build a community of practice around AI.
  • Offer low-risk, collaborative and exploratory opportunities for faculty, students, staff, and administrators to explore and discuss AI.

In their conclusion, the co-authors note two primary insights from a Tyton Partners survey of higher ed students, instructors, and administrators conducted in February and March of 2023.

  • The use of AI in higher education is beyond the point of no return.
  • First-hand use changes beliefs about potential value of generative AI and the need for regulation.

They also report that an April 2023 EDUCAUSE poll of its members about Generative AI indicated that “attitudes toward generative AI have improved over just the past few months, and these technologies are becoming more widely used in day-to-day institutional work.”

Lastly, the co-authors state that WCET is committed to assisting its member institutions and all in higher education with navigating the drawbacks of AI while taking full advantage of the advances. They provide a link to a WCET resource page with posts, papers, and webinars on using AI to support instruction and learning.

I applaud WCET for conducting the national higher ed survey. AI will be ubiquitous, and higher ed will suffer if it is one of the last sectors to embrace its usage. For institutions seeking more details about responses from similar institutions, the survey instrument and links to the detailed results and tables are included in the report.

Subjects of Interest


Higher Education

Independent Schools


Student Persistence