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Two faculty members stand in front of a screen in a yellow room to give their presentation about AI.

Pioneering AI in Education: Unity Environmental University’s Team Shines at Teach with AI Conference

As technology rapidly evolves, Unity Environmental University remains at the forefront, pioneering the future of AI in higher education. Recently, a Unity team comprised of Dr. Kelly Boyer Ontl, Dean of Graduate Studies; Chris Malmberg, Director of Learning Experience Design; and Donovan Montoya, XR Simulation Developer, participated in and presented at the inaugural Teaching & Learning with AI conference at the University of Central Florida. The conference brought together more than 500 experts and enthusiasts across the higher education landscape, eager to explore the potential of artificial intelligence in education.

Director Malmberg and Montoya Present: TXR NPCs as AI-Driven Learning Opportunities

One of the standout moments at the conference was Chris Malmberg and Donovan Montoya’s presentation on the use of AI to create non-player characters (NPCs) in a dog park simulation. These AI avatars are designed to engage in conversations with users, providing a dynamic and immersive learning experience.

Two faculty members stand in front of a screen in a yellow room to give their presentation about AI.

During their presentation, the Unity team spoke about their goals to create a space for students to observe dog behavior in a simulation of a common, real-world scenario, to help teach animal behavior. The NPC they are currently working on will be a dog behavioral expert able to interact with both the virtual dogs and the student players, answering questions and intervening in the scenario at appropriate times to teach Animal Behavior skills and concepts. Director Malmberg spoke candidly about the pros and cons of the technology, as well as the unknowns moving forward.

“This kind of AI conference is vital,” said Chris Malmberg. “Having 500 people from across some of the largest universities in the country who are all sincerely and optimistically looking for answers is critical. The tenor of this conference was really hopeful. Many of the people I spoke to are thinking about the problems in ways that we think about them. We are thinking about them as an institution and not only distinct faculty tackling the challenges separately. “

Dean Boyer Ontl’s Poster Presentation: Distance Education Embraces Local Learning With AI Technologies

A condensed version of Dr. Boyer-Ontl's presentation on AI.

Dean Kelly Boyer Ontl’s poster presentation stole the spotlight during the poster presentation session, drawing a crowd eager to learn about Unity’s groundbreaking AI initiatives. Collaborating with Assistant Director of Learning Design, Daniel Chin, she unveiled the university’s pioneering use of AI to help students identify bird species.

Dean Boyer Ontl explained, “It’s important that we talk with faculty and students about AI. We need to make sure they understand this is the future, it’s not going to go away, and we don’t want it to go away. We need to teach people how to use it, when to use it, why to use it, where to use it. Most importantly, we need to teach people about their responsibility when using AI.”

Dr. Kelly Boyer Ontl explains her presentation in front of a colorful poster that outlines her stance on AI.

Unity’s use of AI-powered bird identification program has transcended geographical boundaries, enabling students from all 50 states to discuss the birds in their respective regions with fellow students and faculty, enriching their learning experiences. This use of AI helps serve our students wherever they are across the country, fostering a more inclusive and engaging educational environment.

President’s Vision: Unity Environmental University Leading the AI Frontier

President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury expressed the institution’s commitment to embedding AI into the very fabric of education and the institution.

Dr. Melik Peter Khoury smiles at the camera in front of a white background in a dark blue suit coat and white collared shirt.

“Unity is dedicated to embracing AI as a powerful tool in our educational arsenal. We believe that AI is not just a part of our future – we are also working to embed it in our present. We are committed to harnessing its potential to enhance learning, promote innovation, and prepare our students for a rapidly evolving world,” said President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury. “By harnessing AI as an institution, we’re poised to streamline processes and allocate resources more effectively, ensuring that the quality of education remains high while maintaining affordability for our students.”

Unity’s participation at the Teach with AI Conference highlights our leadership in AI integration within education. With a dedicated team propelling us forward, we will remain at the forefront of a transformative journey, shaping the future of education through the capabilities of artificial intelligence.