Shortly after ChatGPT was released in November 2022, college professors began expressing fear and concerns about this emerging phenomenon. Many of them believe the AI writing tool will diminish student’s ability to think critically and hinder the process of education.
Brody Bluemel, an associate professor of Applied Linguistics in Asian Studies at Delaware State University, recognized it first hand when one of his students turned in a class assignment.
“I had a student this past spring semester who submitted his final term project, and it was very evident that it was completely generated, as I have this 12-page paper that didn’t have a single error in it,” he said.
After carefully reviewing the assignment, Bluemel found several mistakes and returned it to the student to teach them a bit about the limitations of AI technology.
At the University of Delaware, associate professor of education Joshua Wilson said AI writing tools are inclined to experience hallucinations because “it makes stuff up.”
“It’s artificial intelligence. It doesn’t know what it’s saying. It can be wrong, it can hallucinate, it can have logical errors,” Wilson said. “ChatGPT runs on GPT 3.5, [it’s] trained up to 2021, so it doesn’t know anything about the world in the last two years in its training data.”
While AI and ChatGPT show advanced abilities, both professors agree it has certain limitations. Those include a lack of common sense, lack of emotional intelligence, limited knowledge, limited training data, accuracy problems, bias, and a lack of ethics.
As the technology becomes more innovative and advanced, professors have come to the realization that AI will not leave and it’s something everyone will need to embrace.
“Initially, I think myself and many of my colleagues had a bit of a roller coaster of emotions from not liking it to kind of embracing it,” said DSU’s Bluemel. “Where we really landed at the moment is recognizing that this is a tool of the future, and that there are a lot of opportunities for us and our students to do more with it.”
Many teachers are taking matters into their own hands on how to manage this new tool, from professors changing the way they teach to taking classes learning about AI and its abilities.
“I think instructors should try it for themselves, figure out where it can help in their teaching, and where it might help students in their learning. And maybe it presents the opportunity to create new assignments that you’ve never been able to do before,” said UD’s Wilson.
AI forces new policies and procedures
The new technology means schools had to develop new policies and procedures for managing the use of AI.
At UD, it’s up to individual professors to determine what level of restriction students have to comply with, including use prohibited, use permitted with professor permission, use permitted but for certain assignments, use permitted always with documentation on usage, or use freely.
Bluemel sees himself using ChatGPT for planning purposes, too.
“As a teacher, I can use it to develop my lesson plans, to enhance my syllabus, to be creative with learning activities that I come up with, and also to make sure and adapt them to the appropriate level for my students.”