A typical first class for a college senior comprises a greeting from the professor, an introduction from other students in the class and a walkthrough of the syllabus for the year. Never did I imagine the first day would include a threat against the use of artificial intelligence, or AI.
In November 2022, OpenAI launched Chat-GPT, a futuristic chatbot that is not only interactive but also understands context, nuances and humor. The chatbot went viral on social media quickly due to its accessibility and simplicity, as well as its enormous data set, per Dallas News.
Professors are taking a new approach to their curriculum this year at Quinnipiac University, and it is not uncommon to find a section of your syllabus that prohibits the use of ChatGPT and other forms of AI. Faculty members are threatening academic integrity violations, plagiarism and even expulsion from the class.
I understand why professors are nervous about cheating. However, I think they’re failing to look at the bigger picture: AI is a tool that should be considered an aid in the classroom, not a weapon.
There are simple ways that professors and teachers can meet in the middle, allowing students to gain an incredible learning tool while preventing them from taking advantage of it.
Begin by addressing the issue of plagiarism clearly and explaining the consequences that accompany wrongful use of the chatbot. Then teach students how to use it in a productive and proactive way.
One professor at Quinnipiac believes in working with AI instead of against it.
“In my media studies class, I think (AI) can be useful to help with various brainstorming activities, although I’ve made it clear that it shouldn’t be used to write papers,” said Nancy Worthington, professor of media studies, in an email to The Chronicle.
If you’re reading this, chances are you use AI every day without even knowing. Some examples of AI in our lives are maps, navigation, facial detection on our iPhones, autocorrect, Venmo payments and social media, according to Internet of Things, a data and software website.
While all of these methods of artificial intelligence are perceived by society as acceptable and even helpful, the latest adaptation is leaving many people angry and uncertain, including Quinnipiac faculty members.
“It’s definitely an evolving issue, so I’m trying to find balance between staying true to the course goals and capitalizing on AI for certain efficiencies,” Worthington wrote. “I plan to be explicit on assignment guidelines about when it can be used and how, and I’m asking students to be sure to cite it when they use it and include drafts showing how their work evolved from AI results to the finished product.”
Many people do not believe that ChatGPT is revolutionary and see it as damaging to education, with the National Education Association stating, “more than one-fourth of teachers have caught students using the chatbot to cheat … an influx of ChatGPT generated work has left many educators spending more time checking for AI plagiarism.”
Educators are approaching this the wrong way. They simply focus on the negative aspects of the program instead of its potential in the classroom. Specifically for college students, ChatGPT can be used as a database for sources for research papers, a search engine for potential job opportunities and a tool for feedback on written responses.
An article on LinkedIn by LearningSol states that the program can be used as a creative outlet and increase aspects of learning such as accessibility, engagement, cultural knowledge and innovation.
Students gain instant access to information and can ask questions, request explanations or seek guidance from the program without relying on teachers or peers. For students who prefer a conversational learning style, ChatGPT makes learning more interactive and engaging while catering to students’ interests and goals.
The AI model can also increase cultural exposure through different perspectives, languages and communication styles. It can also act as a brainstorming partner, problem-solver or generate literature for inspiration. I personally use the platform as a database to find sources for research.
Regulating and balancing when ChatGPT should be used in the classroom is a good conversation to have with students. By completely outlawing the program as a resource, professors are putting limits on students’ ability to grow.
Quinnipiac has addressed the issue in a variety of ways, with some professors against it and some intending to teach students how to use it.
In August, Quinnipiac Provost Debra Liebowitz announced the creation of a Committee on AI Strategy to address the best possible way to work with the program, according to the provost’s fall 2023 update. While this is a positive step forward, the AI conversation is far from over.
There are always going to be students who would rather cheat than learn. There is always going to be evolving technology that allows for more unique learning. Banning ChatGPT is not fair to the students who want to experience learning from a new perspective, especially when it’s likely that AI will follow them into their careers.
We have always been a society that embraces change and encourages innovation. Are educators seriously ready to draw the line at a chatbot?