Integrating ChatGPT into higher education: Embracing the technological shift.

by | Oct 20, 2023 | AI

Kevin Harding is a lecturer in Fashion Technology, Department of Materials. In this interview, Kevin discusses his approach towards the usefulness of ChatGPT within the higher education setting. He explains how this piece of new technology should be used to enhance teaching and learning, and act as a useful, additional material to those we already have. 



Attitude towards ChatGPT 

I believe that ChatGPT should be viewed as another educational tool with the aim of enhancing teaching and learning. Metaphorically, one can see it as a co-pilot, and not something which takes over the driver’s seat. This shows that by no means should it replace academic or student engagement; instead, it should simply be interpreted as another material which aids higher education. For me, this highlights the holistic approach I think the university should be encouraged to take in relation to ChatGPT, and ensure it is used to its maximum potential.  

Advantages of ChatGPT 

The advantages of this developing software should be looked at from two perspectives: students and academics. 

Firstly, for students, it can act as a personal tutor to some extent. Because our university cohorts are growing, and certain modules and programs have large numbers of students, ChatGPT can be very useful, because despite academics wanting to dedicate one to one time to students, they physically cannot do so for all, and therefore it is another tool for students to utilize throughout their educational journey. Equally, it can help students in certain subjects to kick start their research, provide overviews on broader topics, or sense check students work to reassure them on their writing. For students with English as a second language, it is also a good aid to have, as it tends to stay in context much more than Google translate for example and it is also more precise when generating translations. 

In relation to the positives for academics, I would say it is effective in lesson and assessment planning; for example, it can help generate a wide range of assessment questions for the same content; or provide general feedback templates without imputing any personal, student data. Alike, it is good for helping with administrative tasks like proofreading or summarizing content, and the overall outcome of this is that it saves times for various other duties. 

Integration of ChatGPT within the University 

From my own perspective, because ChatGPT is being used widely in industry, and is very accessible to the majority of the population, I would encourage people to test it out and look at the positives it can bring. Having regular sessions on how to ethically use ChatGPT would be a favorable development at the university because it would help expand people’s knowledge on its application, and clarify the importance of its use as a co-pilot, and not a substitute which completes the work for individuals instead. The idea of equally having a dedicated team for AI at the university could be accepted, as this would help tackle and manage some of the worries that people may have in relation to ChatGPT. 

Another way to promote integration of such technology would be to make a change to the traditional method of assessment. One example could include reducing the overall length of an essay or piece of coursework, and introducing a mini-viva element to ensure that students have understood the topic area and content. Although this may bring some practical difficulties, such as the marking process for large cohorts, these could be overcome with thought, and since ChatGPT is not going away, this may be a practical approach to adopt. 

The positives of ChatGPT outweighing the negatives 

Despite there being valid concerns in relation to ChatGPT, such as plagiarism, or disengagement of studies by students, these are subject related, and in reality, these concerns are less likely to be the case. For example, looking at the Hollywood writers strikes, there was a lot of fear relating to how generative AI would be able to produce scripts for humans. However, when one actually looks at the output of a script that AI would produce, it is evident that human participation is missing, and so would not work in practice. It cannot generate a comprehensive piece of work from scratch meaning that humans still need to bring and form their ideas, showing that AI only effectively works well as an aid. In the same way, to do well in higher education, human participation is key, as it is evident that ChatGPT lacks critical analysis, creates bias, and can give incorrect answers or references, and so students could not solely rely on this for assessment purposes.  The fact that the Russel group have also released a set of principles focusing on the adoption of generative AI into higher education shows that we should openly enhance the use of it, and not sweep this tool under the carpet. 

In conclusion, ChatGPT has the power to make a valuable and transformative change to teaching and learning within higher education. I emphasize that it should not be used to replace the work of academics or student engagement, but as long as it is used as an educational aid, it is an efficient and effective way to navigate the future of learning.  

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