What ChatGPT is Teaching us about the future of AI in Education

Author: Joanna van der Merwe, Michiel Musterd, and Adel Qaddoumi

ChatGPT — a freely-available Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbot which creates human-like text — has captured the attention of global educators. Anyone can use it to quickly write essays, explain complex concepts or debug computer code. The results are impressive but its arrival has also prompted concerns and questions among higher education professionals. 

At LLInC, our policy and data experts have suggestions to help faculties adjust to the short-term challenges that ChatGPT poses to student assessment. We’re also optimistic about the long-term potential of ChatGPT as a support tool for teachers and students. 

The first challenge that many teachers face is being able to tell if students have written a text themselves or automatically generated it using ChatGPT. There are currently no easy ways to detect machine-generated content. Assignments can, however, be adjusted to reflect this short-term challenge. For example, teachers can:  

  • Ask students for inline literature references. The current version of ChatGPT is unable to make such references. 
  • Flip the assignment. Ask ChatGPT to answer the original assignment and have students do a critical reflection on the output. This is especially effective if done in a classroom setting. 
  • Focus the assignments on things that ChatGPT does not or cannot, know. Think of reflections on things that happened in class, hypothetical case studies, things that happened very recently, or that are not well known outside of the Netherlands (or your local community). 
  • Switch to long-form assignments like projects or group work. ChatGPT has problems generating text that rely on multiple domains over prolonged periods of time.  
  • Ask students to explain how they came to their conclusions. This means that students explicitly answer questions about preparation, structuring ideas and working toward a conclusion (possibly through a presentation or oral discussion). The elaboration is as important as the outcome.

We also recommend that teachers discuss ChatGPT specifically, and the use of AI in general, with their students — the good and the bad. Using ChatGPT to write a complete essay assignment (and present it as their own original work) is considered fraud. It is acceptable to use ChatGPT as an aid, in the same way as we all use Google and spell-checkers. ChatGPT could, for example, be used as a tutor: providing examples and quizzes, creating learning plans, suggesting resources, and giving feedback to improve academic writing skills (to name a few of its potential uses)

Long-term Opportunities 

Although disruptive now, ChatGPT offers a window into the future promise of AI in education. The possibilities seem endless.  

Already the LLInC team has explored ChatGPT’s potential to support tasks such as generating ideas for mission/vision statements, generating an FAQ for a website, identifying angles of a problem that may have been missed, reviewing of excerpts of writing for style and language use, and writing poems for Sinterklaas — a Dutch holiday during which gifts are traditionally accompanied by rhymes about the person receiving the present. 

For teachers, these generative AI tools can help to create slides and presentations, grade students’ assignments, plan courses and broadly improve the efficiency and quality of many other tasks that teachers perform.  

We expect generative AI models to become staple tools in many future workplaces. That being the case, tools like ChatGPT should not be banned. Rather, they need to be integrated into curriculums. Students should be taught the best methods and prompts for using these tools, and how to critically analyze the content produced, so that they are prepared for future roles at work and in society.  

Let’s Experiment 

Adapting educational programmes won’t happen overnight. Students, teachers and educational professionals will need to improve their skill levels. Models and courses will need to be revamped. Recommendations for how to use AI tools will need to evolve as the technologies themselves evolve and increase in their capabilities. This will take time.  

For the moment, we encourage everyone to experiment. By using these tools, we can increase our own understanding. This is beneficial for us as individuals, and a solid personal grasp of these technologies is certain to be useful as their role increases in our daily lives and society. If we share our experiences and knowledge with others, we can also help our networks and communities to adapt to this new reality, and to reveal ways of using the technology so that it benefits all of us. 

Have questions about ChatGPT? Please email us. We’re happy to share our knowledge. We’re also curious about the challenges you may be facing related to the use of Artificial Intelligence in higher education.