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Is ChatGPT a threat to education?

ChatGPT, which the company OpenAI recently released, generates text and can even write essays. It has already been reported that the artificial intelligence, or AI, chatbot is a co-author of four papers and preprints. What does this mean for the future of education? How can universities best deal with the challenges faced by ChatGPT, or ‘Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer’? Can the bot improve education? Does using it have benefits in the classroom?

Thought leaders at the University of California, Riverside share their thoughts on this AI language model in the following Q&A:

Yue Dong, assistant professor of computer science and engineering

Q: What can ChatGPT do easily? What can’t it do well? How could it best be used?

A: ChatGPT, as a large language model, learned to generate human-like text based on a given prompt or context. It can perform most text generating tasks involving natural language for communication. Examples of these tasks include text completion (e.g., writing emails and writing reports), paraphrasing, text summarization, machine translation, and answering questions. In addition, it can also be used for conversational AI applications, such as chatbots and virtual assistants. In addition, ChatGPT has shown some success in code writing.

ChatGPT is not well suited for tasks that require logic, specialized knowledge, or up-to-date information. Observations suggest that ChatGPT struggles with arithmetic calculations or complicated mathematical calculations, indicating that logic is not fully acquired by such models. In addition, these large language models cannot be updated in the same way that we update knowledge bases simply by replacing or updating entities. In the current model, most of the training text is derived from publicly available pre-2021 data, making such models unable to generate accurate information in a timely manner.

While the ChatGPT platform has a wide variety of uses related to text generation, the results should be critically evaluated and used with caution as they may contain incorrect, biased or outdated information.

Morris Maduro, professor of biology

Q: How can universities like UCR best go about using ChatGPT?

A: In the short term, departments and instructors should evaluate how problematic ChatGPT is to achieving learning outcomes in their classes. If students can actually avoid learning and get high grades on homework assignments by using it, instructors should make assessments “ChatGPT-proof” or find ways to use ChatGPT to help students build new skills.

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It will be impractical to try to ban or prevent the use of ChatGPT. AI tools are here to stay. They will improve and become more and more important in all disciplines. In the long run, departments may therefore need to reevaluate their teaching remit and ask themselves: If a chatbot can do most of what a graduate can do, then what’s the value of a degree?

Samia Alkam, doctoral student in education policy

Q: What are the main concerns about using ChatGPT in a university setting? Are there benefits?

A: The use of homework aids in higher education is not new. For years, students have used sites like Chegg or Quizlet to cut corners on homework assignments or online quizzes. In response, instructors and teachers have had to adapt to these challenges and design assessments that can bypass the use of these tools.

I view ChatGPT in the same light. Essentially, ChatGPT collects information readily available online to form an answer to a particular question. The AI ​​has no critical thinking ability and often misses the mark when a prompt requires critical or abstract thinking. If college faculties want to evade the ChatGPT threat, the stringency of their assignments may need to be increased. Therefore, the concern around ChatGPT is not what it is now, but should surround what ChatGPT can become as it evolves.

Ward Beyermann, professor of physics and astronomy

Q: How can ChatGPT be integrated into the classroom? How can it be used to improve education?

A: While there are many concerns that ChatGPT compromises academic assessments, it and better-optimized versions may force us to shift our curriculum to higher levels of critical thinking. In addition, we can discover ways in which it can be used to improve the learning process. When students focus on advanced aspects of their schoolwork, chatbots can help with more minor teaching tasks. For example, some teachers are experimenting with new forms of student engagement, including project-based learning. Perhaps a chatbot can be used to brainstorm these projects. It would be even more effective to use this technology to personalize the assessment and perhaps even the learning experience. Learning effectiveness can be improved by tailoring the learning process on an individual level to better suit a diversified student population.

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Goldberry Long, associate professor of teaching creative writing

Q: How can ChatGPT influence instruction in creative writing?

A: ChatGPT uses a predictive algorithm that replicates common patterns, producing text that is unoriginal, voiceless, and styleless. Beginning students of creative writing may struggle to write with those qualities. Instructors often show students a published story, but students struggle to bridge the gap between their writing and the published text. Many teachers consider it unethical to collectively revise students’ texts. Because the AI ​​generates texts that lack voice, style, and originality, classes can discuss and review writing without ethical dilemmas, helping students learn the techniques and thinking writers use to bring voice and human sensitivity to writing.

Matthew Lang, associate professor of economics

Q: How does AI like ChatGPT change the way teaching is done?

A: ChatGPT has the potential to significantly impact the way teaching is done by leveraging its advanced capabilities in the same way that computers and the Internet have done in the past. It will probably be integrated into many lessons in the next ten years, and I personally hope to integrate it into a textbook I wrote a few years ago.

From my experience using ChatGPT over the past two months, it’s clear that a fundamental understanding of the subject is crucial to effectively exploiting its capabilities. While it can generate advanced computer code quickly, it should not be seen as a substitute for higher level problem-solving skills.

In a subject like econometrics, where students have to work with data throughout the course, ChatGPT can be particularly useful. It ensures that less time is spent on tedious tasks such as loading data and troubleshooting, which can be a source of frustration for students. This allows me as a teacher to focus more on the critical analysis of empirical models, leading to a deeper understanding of the subject for my students.

I’m excited to see how ChatGPT will improve education for both students and teachers.

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Daniel Novak, assistant clinical professor of social medicine, population and public health

(The answers to the next two questions were generated by ChatGPT and edited by Novak.)

Q: What are some of the positive aspects of using ChatGPT for medical student research projects?

A: There are several positive aspects to using ChatGPT for medical student research projects.

  1. Efficiency: ChatGPT can help students quickly and easily access a huge amount of information, which can save them time and effort in their research.
  2. Data Analysis Help: ChatGPT can help students analyze large amounts of data and identify patterns and trends.
  3. Improved writing skills: Students can use ChatGPT to generate written summaries of their research, which can help them improve their writing skills.
  4. Better Knowledge Retention: ChatGPT can help students understand and remember complex information by condensing it into a more accessible format.
  5. Help with language barriers: For non-native speakers or students studying in a foreign language, ChatGPT can help them understand and interpret complex medical texts, enabling them to participate more fully in their education.

It is important to keep in mind that ChatGPT is a tool and should be used alongside other sources of information and guidance, rather than as a standalone resource. And it is also important to note that the output of ChatGPT should be critically evaluated before being used in any research work.

Q: What are some concerns about medical students using or misusing ChatGPT for the research work they need to do during their education? How can these concerns best be addressed?

A: Medical students who use ChatGPT for research may encounter issues such as over-reliance on the model, lack of originality, and plagiarism. To address these issues, students can be trained in responsible use of language models and guidelines for evaluating the reliability and validity of the information generated by the model. In addition, teachers and professors should be aware of these concerns and discuss with students how to use ChatGPT for their research work. To prevent plagiarism, students should be educated about academic integrity and plagiarism detection software can be implemented.

Main image credit: baona/Getty Images.

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