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£100k grant for OU’s AI fairness project

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The Open University (OU) has secured £103,911 funding from the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation for the Open Societal Challenges AI Fairness Innovation project. This project will be delivered in partnership with the UK’s Department of Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) and Innovate UK. Out of 75 submissions nationwide, only four were selected for funding, with the OU emerging as one of the coveted winners.

This achievement underscores the University’s pioneering role in Learning Analytics and positions the OU as a frontrunner in shaping the future of education through AI-driven solutions.

The successful proposal has been led by Professor Miriam Fernandez and her team. This team is behind the research, development and implementation of the Early Alert Indicators Dashboard (EAID), popularly known as OU Analyse. This cutting-edge system, currently utilised by around 2,000 staff members at the OU, plays a pivotal role in enhancing student retention and reducing awarding gaps, thus furthering the OU’s mission of providing accessible and inclusive education.

The project aims to advance fairness in Higher Education (HE) by addressing bias and discrimination in AI-driven learning analytics systems. Leveraging a decade of experience behind the research and development of the EAID, the project seeks to establish a framework of best practices and compliance with UK regulations, guiding HE institutions in developing digital strategies emphasising fairness and responsible AI.

Organised around pillars of Fairness, Explainability, Transparency, Accountability, and Social Justice, the project will examine Predictive Learning Analytics’ performance across diverse student cohorts, aiming to enhance system fairness and transparency.

With a focus on Responsible AI implementation, the project will collaborate with regulatory bodies to ensure compliance and promote Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI), contributing to a socially inclusive educational landscape.

Professor Miriam Fernandez, Principal Investigator behind the proposal said:

“The Open University’s success in the AI Fairness Innovation Challenge is a testament to our unwavering commitment to excellence, innovation, and educational advancement.

“Through collaboration with regulatory bodies and engagement with the broader education community, we seek to disseminate knowledge, share best practices, and contribute to the ongoing discourse on responsible AI implementation.

“Our project is not just about algorithms; it’s about empowering students, enhancing the educational experience, and creating a ripple effect of positive change in society. As we navigate the intricate intersection of technology and education, our mission is clear - to create and share knowledge and pave the way for a more inclusive, fair, and transformative educational landscape.”

This story was originally authored by Laura Bandell on OU News.

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