artificial intelligence


By Dr. William Oliver Hedgepeth
Faculty Member, Transportation and Logistics Management

and Dr. Wanda Curlee
Program Director, Business Administration

Artificial intelligence (AI) technology, processes and systems have become a continuous part of our daily living and working activities. In fact, AI is being used to make decisions for humans.  

We conducted a research survey with college students on the ethics of AI in the curriculum design of online college courses. The study examined the application of AI systems — teacher bots — to replace, supplement or assist human teachers in online classroom activities.

This AI research project was conducted in 2020, where a nationwide and global health crisis has affected employment staffing. As a result, many organizations are exploring ways to harness AI and robotic technology to sustain their business, whether in retail or manufacturing.

This research provided further insight from the end users’ point of view as to the perceived advantages and disadvantages of AI in the learning environment. We believe the results can also help with needed training by identifying areas where faculty will need to help students prepare for the AI platform and activities.

All persons taking this survey agreed to its conditions. No one from the database population objected. A total of 98 people participated in this study. Of that number, 48 were undergraduates, 37 were graduate students and 13 were classified as other.

Of these participants, 29 were part-time students, 56 were full-time students, 8 were listed as other and 5 were not enrolled as students.

Participants’ Definitions of AI

Participants of this research were asked to provide their own definitions of AI. “There is no widely agreed-upon and precise definition of what AI is and what it isn’t. This is in part because AI is a broad church, home to a range of otherwise unrelated technologies,” according to Evans-Greenwood, et al. in a Deloitte study, “A moral license for AI.”

This wide range of definitions is one aspect of why AI is such an exciting and growing field of study with applications in business, research, and the military. The potential applications of AI technology, however, appear to be unknown or confusing to many. The question of what is AI has provided a wide variety of answers that tend to support various viewpoints held by public opinion.

Robots Could Be Used to Perform Hospital Tasks to Prevent Staff from Becoming Infected with COVID-19

This pandemic is a driving force in healthcare today and is expected to continue to grow in 2021 and beyond. Doctors and nurses are seeing robots perform tasks that could cause human hospital staffs to become infected with COVID-19.

A Harvard Business Review article, “Are Robots Overrated?” says that “In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, robots have been having a moment. Media outlets across the world have reported on robots successfully delivering on critical tasks in healthcare facilities and their effectiveness as contagion-proof workers in many other settings.” 

The different definitions of AI seems to track with how “More and more of us will get used to the idea of working alongside AI-powered tools and bots in our day-to-day working lives,” Bernard Marr writes in Forbes. He says there are predictions that “by 2025, 75% of organizations will be investing in employee retraining in order to fill skill gaps caused by the need to adopt AI.”

These articles and others helped to define the categories used in our research project. These descriptions for the participants can be classified into four categories:

  • Category One: Technical Operations Capabilities
  • Category Two: Disbelief in the Technology Benefiting Society
  • Category Three: Belief in the Technology Benefiting Society
  • Category Four: Providing Human Knowledge
Category of Survey ResponsesNumber of Responses
Category One: Technical Operations Capabilities 66
Category Two: Disbelief in the Technology Benefiting Society 7
Category Three: Belief in the Technology Benefiting Society 3
Category Four: Providing Human Knowledge13

A total of 66 respondents provided basic descriptions of AI and robotic technology operational services. Seven participants questioned whether the technology benefited society. Three participants provided definitions that supported a belief that AI technology is a benefit to society. And 13 participants provided a basic sense that AI provides support to human knowledge.

The respondents apparently put more effort into defining or describing the technical operations capabilities, with 66 comments. The amount of effort supporting the belief that AI or robotic technology benefits society, however, was minimal, with only three respondents providing an answer.

There was a similar low response to the disbelief that AI or robotic technology benefits society with only seven participants. Together, the personal viewpoint of the benefit of or problem with AI and robots for society was only 10 participants. But it could be that most students took that statement as one of belief and felt it unnecessary to respond.

With the majority of respondents spending more time and energy on definitions of such AI and robotic operations, there was almost a similar low volume of responses reflecting that AI and robots could provide humans knowledge and thus be a help to society.

Overall Results of the AI Survey

The results from this quantitative and qualitative assessment indicates that of this population of participants, 10 out of 98 respondents provided negative feedback regarding the value of AI and robots, or roughly 10% of the survey cohort.

From this analysis, one can draw a conclusion that about 90% of people support the use of AI and robots for work and everyday living processes.  

While this survey asked the participants to decide or consider whether AI or robots could replace teachers, the results appear to be other than that goal. This could suggest that an additional research questionnaire or survey is needed with questions that could more clearly focus on subject title concept.

The results suggest that a follow-on research set of questions should be analyzed to determine if students would see the intent more clearly. The research result is not necessarily an error, but part of ongoing research question creation.

About the Authors

Dr. Oliver Hedgepeth is a full-time professor at the university. He was program director of three academic programs: Reverse Logistics Management, Transportation and Logistics Management and Government Contracting. He was Chair of the Logistics Department at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Dr. Hedgepeth was the founding Director of the Army’s Artificial Intelligence Center for Logistics from 1985 to 1990, Fort Lee, Virginia. 

Dr. Wanda Curlee is the Program Director for Business Administration. She has a Master in Technology Management and a Doctor of Management in organizational leadership. She has been teaching online for over 20 years. She currently researches Artificial Intelligence topics. Dr. Curlee is active with the Project Management Institute (PMI). She currently serves on PMI’s Ethics Review Committee. She has several certifications with the Project Management Institute.