CU Boulder professors integrate AI, ChatGPT in classroom – Boulder Daily Camera

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Artificial intelligence tools, such as ChatGPT, are already changing classroom learning at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Kirk Ambrose, professor and founding director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, said AI is used in the classroom across most departments. He sees AI advancing critical thinking skills in a new and interesting way.
“I would see AI being a tool within the classroom or supporting outside the classroom, facilitating conversations and collaboration and really advancing student learning in a really robust way,” Ambrose said.
William Kuskin, professor and chair of the English department at CU Boulder, said there’s a lot of potential in AI technology, but there also needs to be caution on how students are instructed to use it.
“There’s danger here. There’s a danger we lose our purchase on the ability to discern truth from falsehood entirely,” Kuskin said. “But the benefit may be a greater intimacy of what it means to write, what it means to articulate your imagination, and what it means to question your own thinking and point it more directly.”
Associate Professor Kai Larsen has taught machine learning and business analytics for the past 15 years and is planning to use AI in his class in the fall.
“What I’m finding is I can support my students much better by training them on how to get help from a tool like ChatGTP,” Larsen said.
In a challenging course like business analytics, a lot of that help comes from AI being able to answer a technical question quickly, like how to use a certain tool, Larsen said. He expects it will be able to do a lot to help students learn.
“It can be there 24/7, it can work under the schedule that the students are living under,” Larsen said. “Some students like to work at 2 a.m., and as much as we have office hours in my class, including Saturdays and Sundays, it’s usually no more than one hour and it might not fit into a student’s schedule. This tool is always available, so convenience is a key point here.”
The English Department at CU Boulder is also thinking about how AI fits into learning and coursework. Associate Teaching Professor Teresa Nugent generated a proposal on creating possible one to two credit courses on AI in writing and a potential certificate program for undergraduates. The courses would visit foundational writing principals, such as editing, grammar and syntax, and discuss the role of AI in those aspects of writing.
“This is all sort of early formulation of these ideas, but the main piece is for the faculty and the students to work together and figure out how do we learn to work with this new phenomenon which is very quickly seeming to become omnipresent,” Nugent said. “It’s an opportunity, but it’s also a big unknown in terms of what will work and how we’ll work with it.”
Kuskin said AI has “refreshed age-old questions of writing in a new way.” Students can take a look at voice, for example, in new ways by using AI tools.
Nugent said there are also ethical implications, including living authors being plagiarized by ChatGPT. She also said instructors need to be aware on what the use of AI will mean for students and how it might unintentionally hurt them. For example, using AI may create barriers to classroom learning for someone with a disability.
“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us to figure out how to use it for good,” Larsen said.
Ambrose said AI also brings up questions of labor and what time spent is the most valuable for learning.
For example, sometimes it’s helpful to do long division as a learning process and other times it’s not needed. Sometimes it’s helpful to struggle through drafting a paper again and again and other times it may be helpful to use ChatGPT to write a draft and then focus on the editing and revising process. Ambrose said these questions are for the professors to answer.
“It prompts instructors to kind of think about where specifically they want their students to put most of their effort in their learning,” Ambrose said.
Katherine Eggert, senior vice provost and associate vice chancellor for academic planning and assessment, said there were questions on whether the university should have a policy surrounding AI. She said the answer to that question is no, and that it would be comparable to having a policy on Google, which she said would be near impossible.
“Faculty are in charge of the curriculum and faculty have different modes of using or not using AI and integrating it into the way they teach and the way they assign work to their students,” Eggert said.
She also said some of the earliest concerns about AI surrounded cheating and academic integrity. But CU Boulder’s honor code already covers it by prohibiting plagiarism, including the use of paper writing technology, such as essay bots.
Ambrose said cheating has been a concern since the founding of the first university and some students will always find a way to do it. This new technology doesn’t change that. Kuskin said there will be students who use it improperly, but that he encourages them to experiment with it and tell him what they discover.
“There’s some craziness in this, but there’s also some exploration,” Kuskin said. “And that’s very exciting.”
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