How Generative AI is Being Used Within the Maricopa Community Colleges


From March 26, 2024, through April 10, 2024, The AI Task Force administered a survey that was primarily focused on whether Maricopa Faculty and Staff were using Generative AI to support their work and how. We also wanted to gain insight into their knowledge level of Generative AI to better assist us in focusing our professional development opportunities. Additionally, we asked faculty who self-identified as using Generative AI for teaching and learning for more information as to how they are using the tool for that purpose.

Use and knowledge of Generative AI

The first section of the survey began with a question regarding whether the respondent used Generative AI or not. If the respondent answered “No” the survey ended. If they answered “Yes”, they were asked questions regarding their usage and knowledge levels.

General usage of Generative AI tools

We asked the respondents if they are currently using Generative AI tools and specifically identified tools like ChatGPT, Claude, Microsoft Co-Pilot, Google Bard, Adobe Firefly, Stable Diffusion, GrammarlyGo, etc. We had a 50%-50% split among the 1133 respondents (No=567, Yes=566).

Self-assessment of knowledge of Generative AI

Next, we presented respondents with the following Generative AI knowledge framework that was adapted from A Framework for AI Literacy from Barnard College Literacy for Educause (Elana Altman & Melanie Hibbert, 2024):

  • Understand AI
    • Define the term AI, as well as machine learning, large-language models, and neural networks
      Identify and explain differences between various types of AI, as defined by their capabilities and computational mechanisms
    • Recognize the benefits and limitations of AI tools
  • Use & Apply AI 
    • Successfully utilize generative AI tools to get desired responses
    • Experiment with prompting techniques and iterate on prompt language to improve AI-generated output
    • Review AI-generated content with an eye towards potential “hallucinations,” incorrect reasoning, and bias
  • Analyze & Evaluate AI
    • Examine AI in a broader context, bringing in knowledge from your own discipline and/or interests
    • Critique AI tools and offer arguments in support of or against their creation, use, and application
    • Assess your own willingness to engage with AI
  • Create AI
    • At this level of AI literacy, you can successfully synthesize your learnings to conceptualize or create new ideas, technologies, or structures that relate to AI. Examples of reaching this level of literacy could include:
      • Building software that leverages AI technology
      • Proposing theories about AI
      • Conceiving of novel uses for AI

Understand AI: 345 are Moderately to Extremely Familiar; Use & Apply AI: 330 are Moderately to Extremely Familiar; Analyze & Evaluate AI: 201 are Moderately to Extremely Familiar; Create AI: 79 are Moderately to Extremely Familiar

Of those who are using Generative AI, the respondents indicated that they are familiar with how Generative AI works as well as how to use and apply the tools. But, they could use more opportunities to learn about how to evaluate AI and create AI tool usages.

It should be noted that this question was not asked of those who indicated they were not using Generative AI tools. The reason for this was the primary focus was on the next question (how are you using Generative AI), while we can assume that a primary reason why some of the respondents are not using Generative AI is due to a lack of understanding about AI and/or how to use to AI, this may not be the only reason.  It is also possible that some of the respondents are using tools that have Generative AI features built into them, such as GMail, and they may not realize it. 

Usage of Generative AI

We asked respondents (n=455) to identify which tasks in which they are using Generative AI and offered up six specific options to choose from.

Task Number of Response
Writing emails/sending messages 262
Summarize/synthesize information 217
Summarizing data 187
Other 186
Writing reports 170
Creating graphics 141
Translating materials 123

We then asked them to provide more details as to how they are using the content created with Generative AI. Based on the 366 responses, our faculty and staff are using generative AI content in a variety of ways, including:

  • Writing assistance: Generating drafts, outlines, or starting points for emails, reports, assignments, presentations, lesson plans, scripts, and other written communications which are then reviewed and edited. An example of this from the respondents was  “I insert a prompt for some writing I'm trying to craft, get a "draft" from AI, then tweak it for my own voice and purpose.”
  • Brainstorming and ideation: Using AI to spark ideas, get suggestions, explore multiple perspectives on a topic, and overcome writer's block when starting a project. This was highlighted as one respondent said “Another big use of AI is a research starting point. It's easy to use textual AI systems to ask broad questions that help me narrow thoughts down or give me ideas. Then, I can go off and refine these.” 
  • Summarizing and synthesizing information: Summarizing long documents, research papers, meeting notes, and other lengthy materials into concise overviews. One case from the survey is where a respondent found that “Integrating generative AI with Google Docs has been a game-changer, particularly in scripting routine tasks and processing outputs from diverse educational systems. This strategic application of AI streamlines administrative chores like document formatting, report generation from form responses, and distilling extensive notes into concise summaries. The resultant efficiency gains allow me to devote more time to strategic educational initiatives and personalized student learning.”
  • Editing and improving writing: Using AI suggestions to rephrase, clarify, check grammar, and improve the tone/flow of existing written content. Some respondents indicated that they utilize Grammarly and one said, "Grammarly assists me in crafting better emails by suggesting various styles of writing."
  • Creating examples and practice materials: Generating sample problems, case studies, test questions, and practice activities for students. This will be discussed more in the next section.
  • Coding and technical tasks: Assistance with programming, debugging code, creating queries, and accomplishing technical tasks more efficiently. Several respondents indicated they used Generative AI to assist them with these tasks.
  • Creative projects: Generating ideas, outlines, or basic drafts for stories, scripts, lyrics, and other creative writing. Also using AI for creating graphics, images, and artistic assets. Several respondents indicated that they were creating images and graphics for their presentations, especially when they could not find suitable clipart. 
  • Language translation and accessibility: Translating materials to other languages and describing images/content for accessibility purposes. Some respondents specifically cited creating video transcripts  One stated, “As a researcher and playwright I need to check the grammar and spelling in other languages.” Another said “I use ChatGPT to quickly translate my lessons into Spanish so students have both available. As an intermediate Spanish speaker this would take a long time by myself.”
  • Research and topic exploration: Using AI to gather background information, explore concepts, find relevant sources, and develop an understanding of new topics. Some respondents indicated that they were using Generative AI instead of a Google Search.

Overall, while some use generative AI extensively across many tasks, most seem to utilize it as an assistive tool by providing starting points or suggestions that require significant human review, editing, and refinement.

Teaching and learning uses of Generative AI

If respondents were using Generative AI, we then asked them if they were also using the tool for teaching and student learning purposes. This section may have been completed by both faculty and staff who support teaching and learning. If they answered “Yes” to this question, they were presented with a question to describe that usage. If not, they were forwarded to the last section. 35% of the 462 respondents indicated that they were using Generative AI to support teaching and student learning.

How Generative AI is used for teaching and learning

We asked the respondents to describe how they were using Generative AI for their teaching and student learning. Based on the 148 responses, faculty are using Generative AI in a variety of ways to support teaching and student learning, including:

  • Generating content such as lesson plans, assignments, activities, quizzes, case studies, and discussion prompts. A case that was identified was “to create kahoot questions based on my lectures” and another uses “magicschool AI for generating rubrics for assignments. Typically I still need to modify them, but it is a helpful starting point.” Also, one stated that “AI is used to create a range of testing materials that cater to different levels of understanding”
  • Summarizing and simplifying complex topics and materials for students. One example cited was “to help summarize larger topics into smaller bite-sized presentations for the lecture points of class and to remind students of discussion points when they are working collaboratively.”
  • Providing explanations and examples to help students understand concepts. One faculty member said that they “use generative AI to come up with example problems for students. It cuts down on the amount of time I have to spend creating examples” and another uses “AI to build programming/code examples.” Another faculty reported using AI to “explain challenging sections to compare to their [students] knowledge and understanding.” 
  • Assisting with writing tasks like creating outlines, drafts, grammar checking, and paraphrasing. Some faculty mentioned their use of Packback.
  • Supporting research by suggesting keywords, finding sources, and summarizing information. One faculty member shows their students ways to “use AI responsibly like to brainstorm keywords to use in a library database when starting research for a paper.”
  • Creating visuals like images, graphics, and slide presentations. One example was to create “images which illustrate some concepts. Using the data/information from chat gpt as a starting point.”
  • Demonstrating AI capabilities and limitations to students to foster critical thinking about AI use. One faculty member described their process: “I want students to be able to critically engage with the AI tools. I encourage students to use it for brainstorming. First, students brainstorm on their own. Once they have created original ideas, I then ask them to use generative AI as a partner. We discuss effective prompts, and they use it to create a separate brainstorming document. Then, they compare the documents, picking and choosing from the two. I use AI to talk about tone and voice, but mostly as a foil to students' own original voices (I want them to see that they can write better than the machine--maybe not more grammatically correct content, but more engaging content). I also show students how AI ‘hallucinates’ sources; my hope is that this helps them to understand how AI works (using predictive statistical algorithms rather than critical thought).”
  • Creating accessible course materials by creating captions for blind and visually impaired students.

Overall, faculty are leveraging Generative AI as a tool to enhance instructional materials, provide supplemental support for students, and promote hands-on learning experiences around AI itself. However, many emphasize the importance of using AI responsibly, critically evaluating its outputs, and maintaining human oversight and original thinking.