AI at CI: How ChatGPT is changing how students and faculty approach school 

AI at CI: How ChatGPT is changing how students and faculty approach school 

Graphic by Aljohn Campana

By Destiny Caster

(*Editor’s note: All the names of students have been changed in order to protect their identity and prevent repercussions from future professors or from the University.) 

As artificial intelligence (AI) persistently evolves, our society is in a continuous discussion on its impacts and uses. In the college setting, there are various opinions on whether AI software like ChatGPT have a home on campus.  

ChatGPT is a free chatbot that was released in late November 2022 by the AI research company OpenAI. The AI model is used to engage in a conversational dialogue that mimics human interactions. ChatGPT was trained to use reinforcement learning from human feedback, which includes answering follow-up questions and admitting mistakes. 

When asked to describe itself, ChatGPT said:  

“It is based on the GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) architecture and uses deep learning techniques to generate natural language responses to text prompts. 

As a language model, ChatGPT has been trained on vast amounts of text data, which allows it to understand the nuances of language and generate human-like responses. It can be used for a variety of applications, including chatbots, language translation, content generation, and more. 

Overall, ChatGPT is a powerful tool that can help make communication more efficient and effective, and it represents a significant breakthrough in the field of artificial intelligence.”  

ChatGPT when asked to describe itself

The CI View reached out to faculty, staff and students to find out about their perspectives on ChatGPT. Lecturer and assistant director in the Writing & Multiliteracy Center Daniel Lenz, stated, “There’s sort of a whole range of perspectives on it, you know, it’s ranging from, is this the end of humanity to kind of more specific interests.” 

ChatGPT can be used in a variety of ways; it can be used to generate essays and answers to questions within a matter of seconds. Schools and colleges alike have gone over the cautions and benefits of having this tool be used in the classroom. Some faculty members are embracing AI and using it within their classrooms, while others are less keen on using it in their courses. 

One of the major concerns with ChatGPT is that it can be used to plagiarize or cheat on assignments. Educators worry that students will use it to do their assignments instead of doing it themselves. While ChatGPT was not specifically created to complete homework, there is a concern that students will use it in the same way they use other homework helping tools.  

According to CI’s Senate Policy 13-06, “Academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to such things as cheating, inventing false information or citations, plagiarism, and helping someone else commit an act of academic dishonesty. It usually involves an attempt by a student to show possession of a level of knowledge or skill that he/she does not possess.” 

As of now, considering the novelty of ChatGPT, it is part of each professor’s discretion whether to classify AI-generated pieces of work as plagiarism. Faculty such as English lecturer Emily Spitler-Lawson have implemented policies regarding ChatGPT and other text-generators in their syllabi.    

“I had an existential crisis like every other writing teacher for about an hour after I learned that it existed,” said Spitler-Lawson. “My policy right now is students are not allowed to use it in any way unless I explicitly tell them it’s all right.” 

Spitler-Lawson has already had an experience with a student using ChatGPT to complete an assignment. “The difference is pretty obvious to someone who’s spent 20 years reading student papers and spent quite a bit of time reading ChatGPT papers.”  

Unfortunately for professors that are not so confident in being able to discriminate between actual student work and AI-generated work, accurate AI detection has not completely made its way into the world yet. Plagiarism checkers such as Turnitin and Grammarly are currently only able to detect more traditional forms of cheating, like copying phrases word-for-word from online sources or classmates. 

OpenAI has launched their own classifier for AI-written text. But recently, reports have come out about plagiarism checkers incorrectly flagging non-AI generated work as AI generated work. If and when AI plagiarism checkers are more robust, it is still up to each institution’s academic policies to determine whether AI-generated work is considered to be plagiarism or cheating.  

While submitting work generated by AI may be considered as cheating, some professors have introduced ChatGPT in their courses. Their goal is to show students how ChatGPT is a powerful tool that can be used efficiently. 

In his classes, business professor Dr. Minder Chen had his students ask ChatGPT questions and log their findings in their journals. Chen warned students about the hidden biases that AI software may have. “They (text-generation software) will enforce your confirmation bias. So, we have to be aware of that and, and to learn how to ask the question so we get a full perspective,” he told The CI View. 

Chen, however, recognizes that other faculty may have differing rules on using AI for assignments. “I keep reminding them (the students) that they need to talk to their professor if they’re going to use it in other classes, because in my class it’s pretty clear how they use it and in the policy, the guideline, but I don’t want them to get into trouble.” 

Fourth-year business major Bianca Jauregui* was introduced to ChatGPT through a class. “I was surprised at how easy it was,” she said. “I thought it would be a lot more difficult.” While Jauregui does not use it to complete her assignments, she does use it to help start assignments. “I’ve kind of been using it as more of like a starting point if I don’t know where to start with the certain topic.” 

Third-year environmental science and resource management major Samuel Crowley* learned about ChatGPT outside of the classroom. “Actually, I think I learned about it through TikTok,” he stated. Thousands of people on TikTok have asked ChatGPT questions from scheduling out their days to coming up with business names relating to coffee.  

One way that people have started using ChatGPT is assigning it a role before asking it a question. Some students ask it to become their tutors and explain what they are trying to learn. Crowley said, “I can spend hours, like, shuffling through my calc textbook trying to find, you know, the one specific thing I need, or I can just ask ChatGPT.”  

Some professors think that students will become reliant on using AI-based chatbots for their learning. Philosophy lecturer John Caravello stated that it will be harder for him to “deprogram” his students from being dependent on ChatGPT to learn. “They’re going to come in, like, more, more confident than ever that they understand, and yet they won’t. I actually am concerned about that aspect of it, but I don’t know. At least they’re engaging with the thinking.” 

Caravello is also concerned about staff and faculty being replaced with AI. “How far are we really from them, universities simply taking the likeness (of a professor), right?” He wondered if it were possible that universities would produce AI recordings of professors teaching classes instead of having them teach in person.  

However, Dean of Martin V. Smith School of Business and Economics Dr. Susan Andrzejewski believes that using AI software can help staff and faculty with their tasks.  

“I know of some staff members on campus who have also experimented with ChatGPT to try and help them with their work. And I know AI in general, across higher education has been used with things like interventions through academic advising for students who might exhibit at-risk behaviors early on in a class or thinking about admissions and recruitment,” stated Andrzejewski. 

She went on to say, “I think more and more opportunities like that exist for us to really harness AI in a way that supports meeting students where they are and encouraging them to more deeply understand the material than perhaps, we could have before AI existed.”  

As we move further into learning how to use AI, we will also begin seeing its effects on students and their learning. Lenz reflected, “Our main guiding influence should be about how this is going to impact students. Because, you know, on the faculty side, we’re secure. We have our jobs you know; our careers are fine for the foreseeable (future).” 

He questioned what kinds of skills employers expect students to have by the time they graduate if software such as ChatGPT is able to write papers, essays and documents in a minute or less. Lenz asked, “What kind of world are they going to be graduating into?”  

Companies like Microsoft and Slack have quickly adapted to using ChatGPT for copywriting, creating content for social media and writing code. Now is the time to analyze what skills are needed and which ones might be delegated to AI. This is something that will have to be worked on as we continue to move forward with the advancement of AI software. 

While we are still trying to figure out ChatGPT and AI software’s place in academia, there are currently no definitive ways to constrain the use of it. Andrzejewski concluded, “(My) hope is that both students and our faculty really realize that we are learning to coexist not just in higher education with AI, but it’s transforming the workplace.”