Overview & Purpose

Recently there has been no shortage of discussion about ChatGPT, the new artificial intelligence (AI) tool, and you are not alone if you have questions and concerns about this quickly progressing technology. While this is a platform or software that is constantly learning and evolving, it is important to acknowledge the current and potential applications.

The purpose of this page is to provide an overview of ChatGPT in higher education, its potential applications, offer suggestions regarding academic integrity and strategies that may help promote student success, and provide additional resources on this topic. The goal is to acquaint faculty and staff with this quickly-evolving technology, and promote incorporation and experimentation with this tool in the classroom.

Please note, we have incorporated responses directly from ChatGPT to highlight its capabilities.

A Simple Definition

In late November 2022, OpenAI, an American artificial intelligence (AI) research laboratory, released a free prototype of their chatbot called ChatGPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) that uses OpenAI’s GPT-3 family of large language models to generate answers to questions in a human-like manner. ChatGPT defines itself in the following way:

Simple definition of ChatGPT

ChatGPT is a type of language model developed by OpenAl. It uses deep learning techniques to generate human-like text based on a given input. It can be used for a variety of tasks, such as language translation, text summarization, and question answering. The model can generate text that is coherent and grammatically correct, making it useful as a tool for writing and communication.

A ChatGPT prompt asking for a simple definition of Chat GPT. Chat GPT replied with ChatGPT is a type of language model developed by OpenAl. It uses deep learning techniques to generate human-like text based on a given input. It can be used for a variety of tasks, such as language translation, text summarization, and question answering. The model can generate text that is coherent and grammatically correct, making it useful as a tool for writing and communication.

Potential Applications

For Higher Education, ChatGPT could have extensive uses within the classroom setting. Most notably, it has the ability to answer questions, such as ones posed in essays, exams, or quizzes. This, understandably, may give faculty pause. However, ChatGPT can also be viewed as a tool for promoting student success. To explore this idea further, we asked the following question directly to ChatGPT: How might students use ChatGPT?

According to ChatGPT the example below highlights potential applications from the student perspective:

How students may use ChatGPT

Students can use ChatGPT for a variety of tasks, such as:

  1. Writing assignments: ChatGPT can assist students in generating ideas and writing coherent and grammatically correct sentences.
  2. Research: ChatGPT can assist students in generating a list of key points and ideas for a research paper.
  3. Language learning: ChatGPT can assist students in practicing their language skills by generating examples of grammar, vocabulary and idiomatic expressions.
  4. Study aids: ChatGPT can assist students in generating flashcards, summaries, and quizzes to help them study and prepare for exams.
  5. Essay editing: ChatGPT can assist students in editing their essays by providing suggestions for grammar, vocabulary, and sentence structure.
  6. Translation: ChatGPT can assist students in translating texts from one language to another.

It's important to note that while ChatGPT can assist students with these tasks, it is not a replacement for human effort or creativity. Students should always review the work generated by the model to ensure that it is accurate, original and properly cited. Also, it's important for students to be aware of the ethical issues surrounding the use of GPT-3 and similar models. They should never use it to plagiarize or misrepresent the work of others and should consult their institution's academic integrity policy and guidelines before using it.

A ChatGPT prompt asking how students mav use ChatGPT. ChatGPT listed six items including: writing assignments, research, language learning, study aids, essay editing, and translation.

Although there are valid concerns about the ways that ChatGPT can be used by students, the above example highlights the ways in which the technology can also positively assist students and facilitate learning opportunities.

Instructors in higher education can also engage students in critical analysis of the ethics and applications of ChatGPT more broadly by having students participate in class discussions, group projects, and/or research assignments. A few examples include:

  • Exploring the ethical implications of using ChatGPT (and AI) more broadly, such as issues surrounding privacy, data protection, intellectual property rights, and algorithmic bias.
  • Discussing the potential applications of ChatGPT, such as in customer service, healthcare, and education more broadly on the labor market, and how it could affect job opportunities.
  • Evaluating the accuracy and reliability of ChatGPT in producing content, and how it could be improved.
  • Investigating the potential for ChatGPT to be used in the public sector, and how it could have an impact on policy making.
  • Examining the implications of using ChatGPT in terms of access to information, and what measures could be taken to ensure that everyone has access to reliable sources of information.

Now What?

Now that you are familiar with ChatGPT and some of its capabilities, the question becomes, what can I do now? Here are some suggestions of how you can address the use of this tool in your teaching practices:

  • Identify the why of the assignment: Some types of assignment prompts ask for regurgitation rather than deep thinking and application. (e.g. Write a one-page essay summarizing the major points of chapter three of your textbook; List the five steps of the scientific method in order, etc.) When considering the why of the assignment, you may find that you do not actually need a writing task or that you can re-evaluate the writing prompt to encourage reading, thinking, synthesizing and collaborating.
  • Re-evaluate your writing prompts: There are certain questions that ChatGPT is unable to fully respond to. Some examples, according to ChatGPT, include:
    • Questions that require knowledge or information that is not present in its training data: If the model has not seen any information about a certain topic, it will not be able to answer questions about it.
    • Questions that require common sense or knowledge that is not easily quantifiable: Questions that require understanding of the real world or human behavior may be difficult for the model to answer.
    • Questions that require logical reasoning: Questions that involve deductions, inferences, or abstract concepts may be hard for the model to answer.
  • Use Authentic Assessments: By employing authentic assessments within your course, you are providing students with an opportunity to connect their personal experiences with the content and their learning. The key to authentic assessments is the ability to ask questions that are aligned to your objectives and learning outcomes, so that students are able to produce products that demonstrate their mastery and understanding of concepts and ideas. An easy process to create authentic assessments is provided in this Authentic Assessment Toolbox.

For additional strategies and discussion about ways to incorporate this tool into your teaching practices, check out the article Teaching Actual Student Writing in an AI World from Inside Higher Ed.

Academic Integrity and Student Success

Like other forms of plagiarism, improperly using ChatGPT is a form of academic dishonesty. Considering UNLV’s Student Academic Misconduct Policy, instructors may also choose to specifically address ChatGPT in their own courses. With this in mind, the following example of a ChatGPT policy was shared on Twitter by a current university professor:

“Technology is rapidly changing, in some ways online tools have outpaced the skills of students and professors. One such tool is ChatGPT. Students should be aware that not only is using ChatGPT for assignments a gray area for the honor code, but the artificial intelligence (AI) used by ChatGPT may make significant mistakes - providing information that is clearly incorrect to those with subject-matter expertise. It is possible that AI will eventually get to the point where those mistakes rarely happen; that day, however, is not today. As such, I do not recommend using ChatGPT for course assignments. If you do choose to use ChatGPT or any other AI system for language and writing generation, please cite the program in your works cited. Failure to do so constitutes an honor code violation as using an AI’s words without citation is “representing another’s ideas or words as one’s own.”

There are also some patterns in student writing that instructors can be on the lookout for to help identify misuse of this ChatGPT. In the recent article, Chatting and Cheating. Ensuring academic integrity in the era of ChatGPT, the authors list several key indicators to be aware of in student writing patterns. Some examples include:

  • Unnatural or awkward phrasing: Instructors should search for any sentences or phrases that are grammatically incorrect or do not fit in with the surrounding text.
  • Repetitive content: Instructors should look for sections of text that appear to be recycled or copied from other sources. AI tools can struggle to produce original content and may repeat the same words or phrases over and over again.
  • Lack of detail: Instructors should look for sections of text that are too brief or lack the depth and complexity that comes from a human writing, which tends to be more contextually aware and responsive to the needs of the audience.
  • Missing citations: Instructors should watch out for sections of text that appear to be plagiarized or copied from other sources without proper attribution.

Now It Is Time to Experiment

Want to see what all the fuss is about? Create a free ChatGPT account for yourself and give it a try.

We are here to support you. Please stay tuned for future communication on this topic and possible workshops and roundtable discussions.