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AI and Teaching: Course Design Principles


One of the best ways to minimize the negative impact of AI on student learning is to engage in intentional design principles as you create your course.  Assignments that are designed intentionally won't lend themselves to easy use of AI and will include authentic assessment that encourages deeper student learning.

Course Objectives

Create course objectives that make student learning personal and relevant, and students won't feel so inclined to run to AI.

  • Emphasize clear, measurable, and relevant course objectives
    Learners are motivated to engage with material that is applicable to their experience outside the classroom.  Regularly remind your students not only what they're learning, but why they are learning it.  This will help them feel motivated to engage more deeply with subject matter they feel personally connected to.  Engaged students are less likely to take the shortcuts offered by AI.
  • Incorporate student choice into course objectives & design
    Giving students agency over their own education promotes deep learning.  Providing learners with a choice about what they study or how they present their learning limits the opportunity for using impersonal AI tools to complete course work.
  • Build social learning into the course objectives
    Group projects and discussions afford students the opportunity to brainstorm and problem solve in social settings.  These interpersonal interactions really can't be had successfully with AI.  Additionally, students who use AI when they are stuck can learn new strategies for working with colleagues to succeed.

Active Learning

Engage students in active learning opportunities in the classroom so that you can see the skill formation and knowledge acquisition happening in real time.

  • Less lecture, more in-class assessing
    If students are completing assessments or assignments outside of the classroom as they do in a traditional lecture class, it is going to be a lot easier for them to use AI tools from the comfort of their dorm rooms.  Consider moving some of your "homework" activities into the classroom and shifting the content to outside of class time.  In other words, try flipping your class!
  • Incorporate AI into those active learning opportunities
    Using AI in your classroom with students can de-mystify the tool for students and also potentially enhance some of what you already do in the classroom.  Check out the Assignments tab of this guide for more thoughts on how to actively engage with AI.


Scaffold major assignments and encourage lots of revision.  This type of work reduces students' sense of overwhelming and the usefulness of AI.

  • Start small and embrace mistakes to build confidence
    Scaffolding is a strategy wherein instructors break a lesson up into chunks and provide support in each of those segments that will help students practice and develop necessary skills until they are able to succeed independently.  This means that early stages of an assignment or lesson should have a lot of support, be low-stakes, and leave lots of room for students to mess up (for example: picking a research topic or identifying two scholarly sources).  Guiding students through those mistakes and celebrating early successes will build student confidence so that when the more complex components come along, students are confident in their acquired skills and don't use AI as a crutch.
  • Build in lots of revision (and don't forget feedback!)
    Asking for multiple drafts of an assignment lowers the stakes for students to be perfect on the first try.  Additionally, it's often more work to try to revise AI generated content that students didn't write, so students are better off writing their own first (and subsequent) draft.  Make sure to provide feedback to the student or have them engage in peer editing so that the students' learning is supported.

Authentic Assessment

Design assessments that genuinely measure skill acquisition and knowledge application so that students are motivated to really learn material.

  • Align assessments with your course objectives and materials
    Assessments that don't actually measure learning objectives can cause frustration for students and lead to disengagement with course material.  Additionally, if students haven't received enough instruction before the assessment, they may turn to AI to fill in the gaps.  Check your syllabus to make sure that you have sufficient assessments, activities, and materials for each of your course objectives.
  • Try new summative assessments
    The 15-page research paper is the main-stay of the college experience, but are there other ways you can get students to show evidence of learning?  Would a podcast, creative piece, digital deliverable, oral assessment, or reflective paper produce the same evidence while engaging students on a new level?
  • Use more formative assessments
    Similar to scaffolding, formative assessment can help you identify if students are struggling earlier in the semester and help them avoid the panic-run to an AI tool.  These formative "assessments" can be low-stakes and might include activities like close-reading with Hypothesis, small group discussions, or leading a class session.

Sources Referenced

7 scaffolding learning strategies for the classroom. University of San Diego - Professional & Continuing Education. (2023, June 9).

Hattie, J., & Zierer, K. (2017). 10 mindframes for visible learning: Teaching for success. Routledge.

Keith, T. (2023, February 7). Combating academic dishonesty, part 7: Authentic assessments and the challenge of ai. Academic Technology Solutions.

Miller, A. (n.d.). Designing Courses in the Age of AI. Teaching @ Tufts.