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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Monday, June 24, 2024
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Taylor professors respond to ChatGPT tool

Faculty discuss benefits and downsides

ChatGPT is a new language processing tool that could affect how students and teachers approach their work at Taylor University.

The difference with ChatGPT from typical artificial intelligence is that it uses the whole internet as a database to draw from, giving the user fast results, Jeff Groeling, department chair and professor of communication, said.  

He asked his teacher’s assistant (TA) to illustrate the power of ChatGPT in his media and communication class, last year. After the TA gave ChatGPT instructions on how to make an annotated bibliography, the class watched the AI tool complete the bibliography in ten seconds, including a list of five reputable sources listed in the correct format. 

Last spring, he encountered a couple situations in which students submitted work written by ChatGPT as their own. Because Taylor University’s writing policies had not been updated yet, he had conversations with these students to remind them that this type of work was plagiarizing, and they understood what they had done.

The point of education is for a student to learn and critically engage in content before applying it in a unique way, and using ChatGPT can undermine that, Groeling said.

Taylor University updated its plagiarism policy to officially ban the use of artificial intelligence in writing.

“I think that initial experience with ChatGPT left a bad taste in a lot of faculty's mouths because they saw ChatGPT and other natural language artificial intelligence as doing the work for students instead of supplementing work for students,” Groeling said.

It is imperative now that people have a firm grounding in information literacy and know how to sort through sources, including artificial intelligence, he said. Whether it is used for good or bad, this is just another technology and there is a lot of hype around it.

Groeling thinks this technology does have potential to improve a student’s educational experience. He said that teachers from kindergarten through high school have used ChatGPT to customize class lessons to students’ specific levels of comprehension. 

College professors may be a little slower integrating this technology, but they eventually will, he said.

“If you feel it's taking away from the learning experience, then change your learning experience so that it treats it in a way that is not competing with you,” he said. “I think that some faculty view technology in the classroom as competing for the attention of students.”

Li Chieh Lu, assistant professor of biology at Taylor, encourages students to implement ChatGPT in ethical ways for his classes. He has his students use ChatGPT to find code that would allow them to auto-generate code to effectively plot data from laboratory sessions. If it gives them a code that doesn’t run or produces errors, he encourages them to adapt to the situation and find a solution so that the result is fully functional.

Lu said he believed learning can take place when students use this AI tool to explain concepts, then take what they’ve seen and put it into their own words to apply in new situations.

“I think those are cases where sometimes ChatGPT can explain concepts in specific ways of using very interesting analogies that, myself as an educator, may not have considered,” Lu said.

Lu said that ChatGPT is not as effective at finding higher levels of information, like cutting-edge molecular biology research. In these cases, this AI tool could create information out of thin air to fill the void. To avoid this, he advocated for students to use previously learned classroom techniques like cross-referencing to other sources in addition to looking for primary sources and citations.

“I think, if we want our students to be able to navigate their careers and their lives, both spiritual, financial and emotional, then it's good to teach them how to be judicious when using ChatGPT and how best to use it,” he said.