As the echoes of insightful discussions and the energy of networking gradually settle, it’s time to revisit the highlights of the German Rectors’ MODUS Conference which took place an April 10th and 11th 2024 in Karlsruhe. The conference titled “Recognition Culture in Higher Education. International Perspectives on Lifelong Learning and Student Mobility” brought together around 200 experts and interested parties from universities and research institutions, including Hendrik Drachsler and other representatives from the Goethe University.

The conference produced a wealth of insights into the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) at universities. Discussions highlighted both opportunities and challenges, especially in the context of the digitalization of administration and teaching organizations. Instruments for various areas of application were presented, including information and communication tools such as chatbots and recommendation systems, as well as tools for identifying anomalies and forecasting.

Data protection, ethics and discrimination were at the center of the debate, as were the legal aspects in the context of the European AI Act. Another key topic was the question of the limits of AI, particularly in connection with decision-making processes. Ethical issues were emphasized as well, in particular the preservation of human autonomy and responsibility in decision-making. To avoid a diffusion of responsibility, AI-supported digital technologies should be used to support decision-making, not to replace it.

The conference also provided an insight into current AI applications at universities, such as:

  • Predicting study progression and dropouts as a management tool
  • Teaching/learning formats for teaching AI skills
  • Integration of intelligent tools in student guidance and organization
  • Monitoring and promoting students’ learning progress through AI-based feedback and assessment
  • Support with recognition and credit transfer processes at universities, for example as part of the Platform for Inter*national Student Mobility (PIM)
  • Reflection on individual skills development, for example through an e-portfolio
  • Prospection of individual learning paths

It was emphasized that while AI applications can make work easier, they must always be accompanied by experts. The promotion of AI skills among all those involved was emphasized as a key step.

The studies that were presented provided interesting approaches for the Goethe University, particularly with regard to the adaptation of AI algorithms for specific use cases such as the review of regulations or support with recognition decisions. The digitalization of internal processes and close cooperation with external IT providers were identified as basic prerequisites for the efficient use of AI.

All in all, the conference provided numerous ideas for the sensible use of AI at universities, which now need to be pursued and tested further.