Harleen Kalra standing outside on a sunny day and smiling at the camera.

Integrating AI into classrooms

June 24, 2024
Author: Eric Zimmer

Graduate student Harleen Kalra shares her research

Working as a high school teacher in India, Harleen Kalra says it was the sudden transition to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic that first piqued her in interest in the evolving impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on education.

“The mass move to online learning underscored a stark lack of resources and support for educators, leading many of my seasoned colleagues to leave the profession,” says Harleen, who graduated from VIU’s Master of Educational Leadership program this year. “When I moved to Canada, I saw that AI – particularly its generative aspects – was in classrooms. The lack of dialogue about this technology within educational settings sparked my desire to explore more.”

Harleen’s research project aims to develop practical ways to integrate AI into educational practices to ease educators' tasks.

“This project was about more than understanding the tools; it was about creating a dialogue between educators and learners to set clear expectations about the use of Generative AI,” she adds.

As part of this effort, Harleen developed a free video course for educators, designed to demystify AI, as well as address fundamental and ethical considerations. It also introduces practical tools to help educators integrate AI into their teaching practices. She’s also led workshops for educators and learners.

“This isn’t just about enhancing the way we teach and learn,” she says. “It’s about fundamentally rethinking our approaches to meet the needs of a diverse student body across the globe.”


This past spring, Harleen was selected to be share her work at a national conference in Ottawa during the Annual General Meeting of the Alliance of Canadian Comprehensive Research Universities (ACCRU).

“ACCRU is an organization of 48 small- and medium-sized universities across Canada that focuses on being a collective voice for these institutions, and addressing the unique challenges and issues they face,” she says. This year, the conference sought to highlight student research that addressed different facets of AI.

For Harleen, who was working with VIU’s Office of Graduate Studies as Graduate Student Experience Leader at the time, the conference was a perfect fit.

“The experience was truly enriching,” she says. “I had the privilege of engaging directly with assistant vice presidents of research from various universities, sharing my views and participating in constructive discussions.”

She says a highlight of the conference was receiving feedback on her research, which helped give her more perspective on its relevance and impact.

“It was affirming to see the real-world application of my studies and the potential impact on the educational community,” she says.

Harleen says her time at VIU helped reinforce her educational and career ambitions. Her ultimate career aspiration is to become a professor or educational technologist at a university. She’s also considering pursuing her PhD in the near future to help her achieve her career goals.

“The support and encouragement I received from the faculty and staff at VIU were extraordinary,” she says. “I was consistently impressed with how they appreciated my work and connected me with resources and individuals that enhanced my academic journey. Studying at VIU has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my academic career. The environment fosters innovation and supports extensive research opportunities. VIU not only met my expectations but exceeded them, providing a solid foundation for my future endeavours.”

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