Grappling with the impact of ChatGPT

Educators on the fence about artificial intelligence in the classroom.
Newly created AI Generative sites have skyrocketed following the release of OpenAI, otherwise known as ChatGPT. After the release in November 2022, ChatGPT’s mission is “to ensure that artificial general intelligence — AI systems that are generally smarter than humans — benefits all of humanity.” This new generative AI is used worldwide in many different ways, but it is affecting classrooms and universities.
This semester, all of my courses have a syllabus section regarding the use of generative AI listed along with academic misconduct. This contrasts with last semester when there was no mention of AI. Most professors prohibit AI use or content in their courses and compare it to academic misconduct. In a 3000-level English course, the AI policy is listed as such: “In this class, if you submit any assignment containing plagiarism of any kind, including AI generated sentences and/or entire reports, etc., and it is your first offense, you will receive a 0 for that assignment. A second plagiarism offense will result in an automatic withdrawal from the class, and the student will be reported to the department chair.” The professor for this course additionally teaches English courses at Tulsa Community College and calls herself “a complete Luddite” regarding AI-generated work, particularly on the use of writing assignments.
While most educators are against using ChatGPT, some opinions are changing. In a 3000-level business course, the policy in the syllabus is listed as “I encourage you to explore [generative AI] for enhancing your understanding and creativity. For instance, crafting customized prompts and responses using AI models can be a great way to deepen your comprehension of the subject matter.” Many see the opportunity that comes with generative AI rather than the problems. Even while some professors forbid using AI on assignments, they allow specific use of the software in their classroom. Professor Woolard, an Applied Assistant Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and director of Jolt@TU Business Club, writes, “ChatGPT is a new and extremely powerful tool that can and should be leveraged when possible. It’s a second brain that can be used to help brainstorm, serve as a personal assistant, or participate in an ongoing dialogue that helps develop thoughts and perspectives.”
While there can be positives in the creation and growth of ChatGPT and AI, it is wrong to assume there are no harmful outcomes for students. Woolard continues, “Too often, students use it as a copy/paste tool, simply putting in a discussion question prompt and pasting the outcome into a paper. The problem with that is that many students often do not understand the content ChatGPT is creating for them, and they miss the entire opportunity to learn and grow with the assignment.” When students use AI to do schoolwork for them rather than using AI as a tool, it can hinder the critical thinking and writing skills necessary for academic growth.
Ultimately, ChatGPT and AI software will only continue to grow. Educators must teach students how to use these tools efficiently to keep up with scholarly expectations. Normalizing this software can benefit students entering the workforce rather than denying students the opportunity to grow with the AI software. In 2024, we are at the beginning of AI impacting education. Students and faculty are still considering the limitations and ways to fit websites like ChatGPT into educational environments.

Post Author: Eva Patton