AI in teaching and learning

The recent emergence of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools, such as the Open AI chatbot called ChatGPT, has many instructors wondering how access to such a tool may affect student work. The Office of Digital Learning has assembled the following information to help instructors understand the tool and how it may be used, as well as some ideas for adjusting assignments and activities to deter students from submitting AI output as their own work.

ChatGPT: What is it?

ChatGPT is a large language model chatbot that has been trained to interact with users in a conversational, dialogue-driven format. Users can ask ChatGPT complex questions, and the AI will provide human-quality long-form answers in a matter of seconds. You can learn more about the tool and try it out yourself here.

What can it do?

Some of the things that ChatGPT can do include the following:

  • Answer questions posed in conversational English
  • Write short essays (up to 700 words)
  • Answer college level math questions, including showing work done to reach an answer
  • Write computer code
  • Write questions, titles, and descriptions
  • Summarize or paraphrase provided text

What are its limitations?

Even AI can’t do everything. Some of the currently acknowledged limitations of ChatGPT include:

  • Some answers sound plausible, but may be incorrect or inaccurate.
  • It can be excessively verbose, and reuses some phrasing.
  • If the question asked is not clear, ChatGPT may just guess what the user meant and provide an answer, rather than trying to clarify the question.
  • ChatGPT (currently) only has access to information from up to 2021.
  • It has a limited capacity; when too many people are using the tool at once, you may need to wait.
  • It may provide answers that are biased against certain groups (e.g., women).
  • It can’t formulate a response to video, images, audio, etc.
  • It can’t create video, images, audio, etc. in its output/response to questions.

Students and ChatGPT

The question on many instructors’ minds is, How can I make sure my students aren’t turning in AI-generated content in my class? Please also remember, that like any other form of cheating, you will most likely be unable to combat student use of said tool. However, we have provided a few approaches you can take to try to deter inappropriate student use of ChatGPT and re-think how to creatively incorporate this new tech in your course.

Tools available

Respondus LockDown Browser: All University courses can use Respondus LockDown Browser for assignments, quizzes, and tests through WebCampus. When students take an exam using LockDown Browser, they are unable to copy, access other programs/applications (like a browser with ChatGPT), or take screenshots.

Turnitin: The Turnitin Originality tool purportedly can detect some AI-assisted writing; however, not much information on this ability has been provided. Turnitin plans to enhance AI detection in 2023.

External detection tools: The following tools are new on the scene, and are not supported by the Office of Digital Learning.

Revising assignments and activities

Another option would be to reimagine your course or assignments to make the use of ChatGPT difficult or useless.

Revise the types of questions you ask

  • Current events: Ask questions about very recent events. ChatGPT only draws on information from 2021 and before.
  • Local or class-specific concepts: Ask students to reflect on a specific lecture or quest speaker, or a campus location or event.
  • Process/rationale questions: ChatGPT can’t easily explain its rationale. Questions such as “Which solution to Problem X is more appropriate, and why?” ask the students to explain their reasoning behind the answer.
  • Source integration: Require students to include textual evidence from readings or applicable sources, and explain how the quotes they use support their argument. Point them to the University Writing & Speaking Center’s page on Quote integration for help.
  • Analysis of images, video, or audio: ChatGPT doesn’t accept multimodal inputs (as of January 2023), so will not be able to analyze anything but written text.

Revise the assignment types and sequences

  • Scaffold assignments so that students are building on previous work as they progress through the semester. Learn more on University of Michigan’s Sequencing and Scaffolding Assignments page.
  • Employ metacognitive reflection on the writing process, asking students why they chose the topic they did, why they made the choices they did, what was difficult or easy in the writing process, what they’d do differently if they were starting the assignment over, etc.
  • Include conferences (instructor-student or small group) where students have the opportunity to discuss their work and demonstrate their understanding while gaining valuable feedback from you and/or peers.
  • Assign presentations in which students explain their work, and then answer dynamic questions from peers and the instructor.

Putting ChatGPT to work for you!

Another option might be to consider how you can make ChatGPT work for you and your students in your class. It’s an incredibly powerful tool, and providing your students with the opportunity to use it in a responsible way can prepare them for a future in which AI may be ubiquitous.

  • Demonstrate asking ChatGPT for additional help with difficult topics, or to provide additional examples of concepts.
  • Direct students to ask ChatGPT a question about a topic, then correct the provided output, or provide a critique of how well ChatGPT answered the question.
  • Use ChatGPT as a brainstorming tool or initial research assistant to help students get started with a major assignment.
  • Demonstrate providing ChatGPT with a portion of writing, and asking for suggestions for improvement (bonus tip: have students submit ChatGPT’s suggestions and reflect on why they did or did not take the suggestions provided in their revisions).
  • Ask students to create their own response to a given prompt and have them feed the same question to ChatGPT; then compare and contrast the two responses.

Resources consulted

Cannity, D. (2022, December 28). CHAT GPT. [Online forum post]. Educause Instructional Technologies.

Center for Teaching and Learning at the American University of Armenia. (2022). ChatGPT (AI) in education-- An Overview.

Wu, G. (2022, December 22). 5 big problems with OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Make use of.

Additional resources

Alexander, B. (2022, December 15). Resources for exploring ChatGPT and higher education. Bryan Alexander.

Trust, T. (n.d.) ChatGPT & Education. Google Docs.

University of Toronto Academic & Collaborative Technologies. (2022, January 9). AI readings.

Watkins, R. (2022, December 18). Update your course syllabus for ChatGPT. Medium.