The launch of ChatGPT sparked a hot debate around the globe as the recently released technology can draft an entire essay in a matter of seconds. The emergence of this new AI tool is causing two camps of educators and parents to call into question artificial intelligence and its role in our education system. On one side there are calls for an outright ban. According to a recent study, 64% of respondents believe that AI will eventually replace teachers, and 63% believe the integration of technology is deteriorating the quality of education.
On the other side of this argument, many proven case studies have documented the success of AI in education, from helping predict students’ outcomes, to preventing them from failing, to answering thousands of students’ questions with 91% accuracy. While AI can streamline processes, we can’t expect it to completely replace traditional, classroom-based education. We also can’t expect creators and researchers to stop developing it over time; we have a collective responsibility to constructively shape the role of AI in education.
Streamline time-consuming tasks
Imagine building a deck. You need to hold the lumber in place with screws. What’s the best tool for the job? You’re likely going to use an electric drill instead of a hand screwdriver because it will dramatically reduce the time and effort needed to build the deck. We need to look at AI through this same lens – as a purpose-built tool that’s most effective when used deliberately and with care. We expect photojournalism majors to learn to use Photoshop, advanced mathematics majors to learn WolframAlpha, – and explore processes that are cumbersome or data-intensive and how this technology can streamline those tasks.
Student recruitment data is an area the admissions side of higher education spends a massive amount of time studying to inform future decisions. Implementing AI can cut down on the labor-intensive work of this process and analyze potential applicants, flagging those that have a higher likelihood of success, and suggesting financial aid packages that would likely lead to an application. College and university instructors can also leverage ChatGPT to help them build course assessments. For example, say an instructor is using the same assessment in two different courses, and they’re worried the students in Section A will share the answers with the students in Section B. Tools like ChatGPT can help the instructor rapidly “remix” a second version of each question to test the same concepts, but with different question framing and responses.
Establish ethical uses for the technology
Academic dishonesty is a common worry among many course instructors when it comes to students using AI. Again, AI-powered tools like ChatGPT should be viewed as tools, not a replacement for one’s expertise. This is why colleges and universities must establish policies that define ethical uses for the technology instead of banning it altogether. We must acknowledge that students will likely use AI at some point throughout their learning experience no matter what policy is in place.
Faculty should think of AI-powered tools the same way math teachers view calculators. Students have access to an incredibly powerful tool, but it really only works well when you know how to use it. I can hand anyone a TI-83 graphing calculator. That doesn’t mean they’ll know how to generate a graph of an algebraic equation without the proper instruction and guidance from a subject matter expert.
Prepare students for the future
Many students pursue higher education as a means to jump-start their careers. Part of this experience helps them develop a wide array of skills that employers are looking for in potential candidates. AI-powered tools can help employees streamline certain processes and boost their overall efficiency and productivity. Generative AI tools like ChatGPT are not going away, and they continue to improve at a very rapid pace. Colleges and universities must commit to not only catch up as quickly as possible, but continue to keep a pulse on updates to this technology. Failing to do so may deprive students of the opportunity to develop what will likely be an extremely marketable skill in the future.
Higher education institutions are finding themselves at a crossroads: ban AI tools altogether or embrace them and integrate them into their learning environment. Just like other revolutionary tools like Google and Microsoft, AI will undoubtedly become a resource the next generation will use throughout their careers. It’s our shared responsibility to ensure they’re prepared to use them both effectively and responsibly.
About the author
Michael Vaughn is the education adoption specialist with Open LMS. Beginning August 1, 2023, Michael will be hosting a course called The ChatGPT Approach: AI-Enabled L&D Strategies for Success, which will highlight ChatGPT and how to use it to create impactful and engaging learning experiences for learners.