What is ChatGPT?
GPT refers to Generative Pre-trained Transformer, which is a type of AI language model developed by OpenAI. GPT models are trained on large amounts of text data and can generate human-like responses to given prompts or questions. This technology has many potential applications in the higher education sector, including natural language processing for educational resources, personalised learning experiences, and automated grading systems. GPT models can also assist with language translation, information retrieval, and data analysis in academic and research contexts.
GPT raises opportunities and challenges, particularly concerning academic integrity and plagiarism. Yet, it also has the potential to revolutionise the way that educators and students interact with educational materials, learn new skills, and analyse data in the higher education sector. Staff and students must recognise these benefits and constraints within an educational context, as it’s not a perfect tool and has been proven to provide plausible untruths.
ChatGPT is currently open access, with free accounts students and staff alike can access easily.
What are the benefits and opportunities of ChatGPT?
AI and all its functions could be used as a supplement to education to enhance the learning experience. AI would not replace the critical elements of learning but could be used positively to develop tasks that lower the barrier to entry. ChatGPT, for example, can help make higher education more accessible, engaging, and effective by providing personalised, on-demand learning experiences.
Most of the benefits apply to both staff and students. There are, however, some additional ones that are more relevant to staff – see below.
Improved language understanding
Some generative AI is trained on vast amounts of text data and deeply understands language, including grammar and vocabulary. This means that it can help students better understand the complexities of language and provide them with instant, accurate answers to questions.
Enhanced writing skills
AI can provide students with real-time feedback on their writing, helping them to identify areas for improvement and develop better writing skills over time.
Making information more accessible
AI can make education more accessible, as students can access information and support from the model at any time, from anywhere with an internet connection (providing the technology is fully functional). AI can also be used to generate content in different formats, such as audio or visual aids, making it more accessible to students with disabilities. This can ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to learn and succeed.
Interactive and personalised learning
AI chatbots, such as ChatGPT, can provide a more interactive and engaging learning experience, as students can interact with the model in real-time and receive personalized responses to their questions. The software is trained on a massive dataset of text, which means it has access to vast amounts of knowledge. It can provide answers to questions on a wide range of topics and can help students discover new ideas and perspectives. Additionally, the conversational tone provided by ChatGPT can help to make learning more accessible and less intimidating, especially for students who may struggle with more traditional, passive learning methods.
Research and Development
GPT can be used to generate new ideas and research questions for academic research, providing a starting point for further exploration and investigation.
Automated essay scoring
GPT’s natural language understanding capabilities could be used to grade student essays and other written assignments, potentially providing more accurate and efficient scoring than human graders.
Generating Test Questions
AI tools such as ChatGPT could be used to generate multiple-choice or short-answer test questions, which could save time and effort for educators.
Other opportunities include virtual tutoring, quick question answering, providing personalised feedback on student work, and more.
Explore how others are using ChatGPT effectively
What are the limitations and challenges of ChatGPT?
While AI technology can be useful tools in academic contexts, it is important to note that these tools are not perfect and have their limitations and associated challenges. As such, it is important to use these tools with caution and in conjunction with other resources and expertise.
Large language models generate text from online sources. They are trained on massive datasets of text which can contain biases and inaccuracies. So, they are more likely to follow trends which are wide spoken but may contain outdated or incorrect information. This means that particular biases or misconceptions can be reinforced, such as historic gender biases that exist within numerous academic fields, like the prioritisation of male symptoms within health subjects. Inaccurate or incomplete responses can be especially problematic in fields that require a high degree of precision, such as the sciences.
AI cannot comprehend the emotion behind both what it is being asked to say or do. This means it does not understand the context of the conversations it is having. While ChatGPT can simulate human conversation, it cannot replace the value of human interaction. Some students may find it difficult to learn in an environment that lacks the personal touch of a teacher or mentor.
As with any technology, there are ethical considerations to using ChatGPT in higher education. Institutions must consider the potential impact on student learning and the potential for bias in the system’s responses.
Additionally, the reliance on generative AI technologies could lead to a reduction in critical thinking and problem-solving skills as well as a lack of creativity in the learning process – all of which are essential for academic success. This is because educators and students may become overly dependent on such tools as automated essays or responses. People may trust that the AI is correct rather than doing their own research on the topic area. AI cannot think critically, insert references, or develop that breadth of knowledge personal to users (e.g., students and their essays). By using AI in a way which might undermine students’ skills, they will not be achieving their learning outcomes, so it may stunt their academic development.
ChatGPT does not provide any explanation for the result it produces. It just returns the text. It is not useful to understand the reasoning behind the results or to evaluate the quality of the arguments.
Fake vs Real
Most AI is currently unable to distinguish between fake and real information and could generate false citations and statistics, affecting the quality of work produced. This could be more obvious when asking the Chatbot to explain a complex or niche topic. Or even something that is not widely available.
Most applications of AI are still limited and have a narrow scope in terms of outputs and real-life applications (limited algorithms).
Lack of creativity
AI can produce text that is usually grammatically correct and coherent. However, it cannot critically or creatively do this. This implies that it may struggle with creating original ideas required for academic work.
Generative AI tools may give you a lot of cliches for your work or overused themes or theories. This is because the AI will have limited knowledge to pull from its database and will not be able to expand on that knowledge creatively.
Although certain generative AI systems may have been trained on a substantial amount of text data from numerous sources, some languages are still left out. As a result, it might not be able to comprehend or produce text in those languages, which can be a major drawback for students working in multilingual settings. s more challenging.
Lack of context
AI may struggle because of a lack of context. Although it can create text depending on the information supplied, it may not completely comprehend the context or background of the study question or issue. This might result in erroneous or partial replies that are unhelpful to researchers. Moreover, ChatGPT may lack access to specific expertise or resources required for academic research, limiting its effectiveness in this setting.
If you ask an AI chatbot a question on the impact of climate change on the economy. It may generate responses based on the patterns in its training data. It may not consider specific details such as the economic sector or the geographical location of the impact.
AI relies on technology, which can be prone to malfunctions and downtime. If the system experiences technical difficulties, users may be unable to access relevant (learning) resources or get the help they need when time is of the essence.
Data privacy and security
ChatGPT uses large amounts of data to generate its responses. This raises concerns about data privacy and security. Institutions must take measures to ensure that student data is protected and that ChatGPT is not used inappropriately.
Considerations of AI in teaching
Activities for students to explore AI
Examples of practice
Teaching with ChatGPT (Digitally Enhanced Education Webinars, University of Kent)
Are you using ChatGPT or AI in teaching?
If you’re using ChatGPT or AI within a teaching and learning context, we would love to hear from you. If you’re happy for us to capture and share your story in a case study let us know.
General uses of AI
There are a vast range of AI technologies and tools available; some even feature in the tools we already use.