Hello, ChatGPT.

Human hand writing on notepad paralleled with robotic hand writing on a laptoo

Okay, let’s talk

Who or what are you? 

ChatGPT is a cutting-edge language model developed by OpenAI. Using deep learning techniques, it is able to generate human-like text, making it a powerful tool for natural language processing tasks such as language translation, text summarization, and conversation simulation. With its ability to understand and respond to a wide range of topics, ChatGPT has the potential to revolutionize the way we interact with machines and has already been implemented in a variety of industries including chatbots, virtual assistants, and content creation. 

That seems true enough. What effect will you have on teaching and learning in Higher Ed? 

ChatGPT and other similar language models have the potential to revolutionize higher education by improving the effectiveness and efficiency of teaching and learning. Here are a few ways that ChatGPT and other language models could be used in higher education: 

  • Automated Essay Grading: ChatGPT and similar models can be trained to grade student essays, providing instant feedback to students while also reducing the workload of teachers. 
  • Language Learning: ChatGPT can be used to develop interactive language-learning programs, providing students with personalized feedback and helping them to improve their language skills. 
  • Personalized Tutoring: ChatGPT can be used to create virtual tutors that can provide students with one-on-one help and advice, making it easier for students to get the help they need when they need it. 
  • Research Assistance: ChatGPT can be used to help researchers and students with their research by providing them with relevant information and insights on their topic of study. 
  • Curriculum Development: ChatGPT can be used to assist in the development of new curriculum materials, by providing teachers with suggestions for activities and exercises that will engage and challenge students. 

It is important to note, however, that the use of language models such as ChatGPT should be carefully considered and evaluated, and always in combination with human oversight and intervention. 

Well, that was weird.  

ChatGPT: Friend or Foe? 

Earlier this month The New York Times reported how universities across the nation were reacting to ChatGPT once the extent of powers began to sink in. Since college is where most students are expected to compose written works to prove mastery over subject matter, synthesize information, or produce new knowledge, it’s not surprising that language-model AI has gotten higher education in a bit of a sweat.  

Still, many education writers hold an optimistic view of ChatGPT. In Why I am Not Scared of ChatGPT, for instance, Christopher Grabe concludes that recognizing the current limits of the chatbot’s ability to mimic real human thinking can push students to deepen their own writing.  

Even composition theorist John Warner argues that we should see ChatGPT as an “opportunity to re-examine our practices and make sure how and what we teach is in line with our purported pedagogical values.” Mark Watkins adds that “[w]e should be proactive in our response [to AI] and not approach our teaching out of panic and mistrust of our students.”

For the Not So Bot-timistic 

For many instructors, there’s no time to weigh tech-utopian promises. They need immediate, practical solutions pertaining to the academic integrity issues emerging as a result of ChatGPT. While we know OpenAI engineers are working on a watermarking system, it will be hard to trust a company to solve a problem it started. For better or worse, Turnitin is working on detection systems, too.  

As Watkins suggests, it’s not a bad idea to trust our students more. For encouragement, check out this this NPR story about how one college student created GPTZero, an app that can tell whether or not AI wrote an essay. For now, you can always practice ChatGPT literacy by testing yourself using this interactive feature: Did a Fourth Grader Write This? Or the New Chatbot?  True, we can expect more from college writing than we do as a fourth grader, but it doesn’t hurt to get acquainted with the writing ticks common to chatbots.  

FIU Online Has Your Back 

Here at FIU Online, we’re processing the onrush of AI advancements like ChatGPT with the primary goal of looking out for both faculty and students. You can expect more articles on the “AI revolution” here at Insider as we learn more.  

As with all technology, we believe there’s a fine line between friend and foe. It’s about how instructors and instructional designers harness new tools for ever more effective learning experiences. That takes human ingenuity, care, and creativity––organic activities no bot can beat.  

Michael A. Martin is an instructional designer and writer for the Continuing and Professional Education team at FIU Online. He is also an adjunct lecturer in Writing and Rhetoric at FIU.

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