August 11, 2023
5 min read
Authored by Jared Kubicka-Miller
I have been teaching college level communication courses for 20 years, but I just began using AI in the classroom over the last academic year. In addition to Public Speaking, I teach Argumentation and Debate, Group Dynamics, Interpersonal Communications, and competitive speech and debate. As an educator, I have always tried to make these subjects relevant to the lives of my students. One way I do that is by incorporating technology into the assignments. Because I embraced exciting new tools like ChatGPT and Yoodli, this last academic year turned out to be both the most revolutionary and most positively received that I can remember.
It was the last week of the semester, and I had tasked my public speaking students with composing a farewell speech to the class. As I gave them some last minute pointers on this particular speech, I reminded them to use their artificial intelligence (AI) speech coach, Yoodli. It was then that a student asked if they could continue to use Yoodli after the semester was over.
One year ago, a colleague introduced me to Yoodli. When he described it as an AI speech coach that offers automatic feedback on a variety of linguistic aspects, I was curious, but I had no reference point for what AI was capable of. I pictured the automatic transcriptions that YouTube generated. I already had plenty of experience with using it for certain projects, and while those are helpful, the idea of a more reliable transcript did not strike me as anything that would upend my approach to teaching. Little did I know that Yoodli would serve as the gateway into my unanticipated journey of blending AI with teaching, and would set the tone for a profound shift in my approach to pedagogy over the coming twelve months.
Yoodli’s impressive capabilities took me by storm, leaving me inspired and eager to explore its potential. It promised to analyze verbal fillers, monitor noninclusive language choices, count words, assess conciseness, and more. The thought of such a tool’s potential to enhance the quality of speech and communication was staggering. So, I jumped in with both feet. As someone devoted to education for nearly two decades, I could not resist the allure of incorporating this tool into my online course content. I was already writing a textbook for public speaking, so I wrote in exercises and instructions for Yoodli during the final revisions; I even put images of Yoodli analytics on the cover.
My passion did not go unnoticed. Yoodli invited me to join them at the National Communication Association Conference in November last year. I was thrilled about the opportunity, hoping to see my peers share my excitement. I also felt a responsibility to share the broad potential of this AI tool with my fellow educators. However, to my surprise, my enthusiasm was not mirrored by the average college professor. On one hand, this lack of shared excitement was disappointing. I wanted my peers to see the potential I saw in Yoodli. I hoped they would embrace the power of AI in improving communication. On the other hand, their skepticism cemented my role in academia as a vocal advocate for the responsible integration of technological tools into communication classes.
Change in academia is slow, which puts it at odds with the capabilities of AI. In a remarkably short span of time, I saw the transformative effects of Yoodli on my students’ speech. For hundreds of my students, it decreased verbal fillers at a rate I hadn’t seen in 20 years of teaching. There were minor hiccups, as is inevitable when integrating new technologies, but the payoff was worth it. The students were impressed, and the confidence in their speaking abilities was notable.
I already committed to introducing as many students and colleagues to this tool. But just when I thought I had wrapped my head around Yoodli’s transformative power, another game-changing AI was released—ChatGPT. I was once again amazed and intrigued. The heavy lifting of speech preparation was now automated, streamlining the process of crafting human presentations. Essentially, in one year, AI had revolutionized the landscape of speech delivery from start to finish.
As someone working on the front lines of academia, I find it increasingly crucial to react responsibly to these technological advancements. Developing guidelines for responsible AI use, especially for my students, has become an essential part of my role. After all, AI is a double-edged sword. While it has the potential to significantly improve learning, it poses ethical and practical challenges that we need to address. In the face of these rapid advancements, the overwhelming influx of AI tools addressing a myriad of niche problems can be daunting. However, I am learning to confront these challenges and identify the most relevant and reliable technologies for my courses. My commitment is to streamline their integration and make the transition as seamless as possible for my students.
As the academic year comes to a close and summer sets in, I find myself in a familiar pattern—taking a breather and planning for the year ahead. This time, my focus is on weaving AI tools into my course content, aiming to bolster my teaching efficacy and enhance my students’ learning experiences. The landscape of teaching and learning is changing rapidly, and riding this wave of progress is as exhilarating as it is daunting.
As I reflect on this year of teaching with AI, I am filled with a sense of accomplishment and anticipation. The world is moving fast, and technology is shaping every sphere, including education. I have made a commitment to keeping up with this progress. This means responsibly adopting tools like Yoodli and GPT to prepare my students for the future. It’s been a year of transformation, discovery, and growth—one that I will cherish as a pivotal chapter in my academic journey.
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