Some Colleges are Embracing ChatGPT

As the next school season begins next week in the US, some universities are said to be embracing the once feared ChatGPT or similar chatbots in their classrooms. Since they came out last winter, many universities banned the use of AI chatbots in their classroom, because they were worried that students might cheat.

According to a recent report, Professor David Schultz at Hamline University and University of Minnesota Law School, is said to be experimenting with AI by incorporating ChatGPT into his classroom. “He encourages students to use AI when working on assignments as long as they acknowledge its use and exercise caution. Schultz sees AI as a valuable research tool that can enhance the learning experience and compares it to cell phones, which can be both distracting and beneficial.”

University of Minnesota has reportedly provided instructors with guidance on how to address ChatGPT and similar AI tools in their classroom syllabi. “Faculty members have the discretion to allow, limit, or prohibit the use of AI, and students are required to disclose their use of AI in their assignments.”

In a MIT Technology Review interview, Yale University associate Provost Jenny Frederick, who is also the founding director of the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning, told “Yale never considered banning ChatGPT and instead wants to work with it. I’m sharing here some of the key takeaways and most interesting parts from our conversation, which has been edited for brevity and clarity”.

Below are some highlights from Frederick’s interview about the use of ChatGPT in Yale classrooms.

  • What do I want my students to learn in this course? If a robot could do it adequately, do I need to rethink what I’m asking my students to learn, or raise the bar on why it is important to know this? How are we talking to our students about what it means to structure a paragraph, for example, or do your own research? What do [students] gain from that labor? We all learn long division, even though calculators can do that. What’s the purpose of that? 
  • There was no moment, ever, when Yale thought about banning it. We thought about how we can encourage an environment of learning and experimentation in our role as a university.This is a new technology, but this is not just a technical change; it’s a moment in society that’s challenging how we think about humans, how we think about knowledge, how we think about learning and what it means.
  • The students in general are way ahead of the faculty. They’ve grown up in a world where new technologies are coming and going, and they’re trying things out. And of course, ChatGPT is the latest thing, so they’re using it. They want to use it responsibly. They’re asking “What’s allowed? Look at all these things I could do. Am I allowed to do that?”
  • So the advice that I gave to faculty was that you need to be trying this out. You need to at least be conversant in what your students are able to do, and think about your assignments and what this tool enables. What policies or what guidance are you gonna give students in terms of whether they are allowed to use it? In what way would you be allowed to use it? 
  • I really think that if you’re teaching, you need to realize that the world has AI now. And so students need to be prepared for a world where this is going to be integrated in industries in different ways. We do need to prepare them.

You can read the full interview in this MIT Technology Review article.