Alarm bells seemed to sound in teachers' lounges across America late last year with the debut of ChatGPT — an AI chatbot that was both easy to use and capable of producing dialogue-like responses, including longer-form writing and essays. Some writers and educators went so far as to even forecast the death of student papers. However, not everyone was convinced it was time to panic. Plenty of naysayers pointed to the bot's unreliable results, factual inaccuracies and dull tone, and insisted that the technology wouldn't replace real writing.
Indeed, ChatGPT and similar AI systems are being used in realms beyond education, but classrooms seem to be where fears about the bot's misuse — and ideas to adapt alongside evolving technology — are playing out first. The realities of ChatGPT are forcing professors to take a long look at today's teaching methods and what they actually offer to students. Current types of assessment, including the basic essays ChatGPT can mimic, may become obsolete. But instead of branding the AI as a gimmick or threat, some educators say this chatbot could end up recalibrating the way they teach, what they teach and why they teach it.
At Santa Clara University this month, 32 students began a course called "Artificial Intelligence and Ethics" where the usual method of assessment — writing — would no be longer in use. The course is taught by Brian Green, who also serves as director of the university's Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, and in lieu of essays, he'll be setting up one-on-one sessions with each student to hold ten-minute conversations. He said it doesn't take any more time to evaluate that than to grade an essay.
"In that context, you really remove any possibility of text-generating software. And in talking to them, it really becomes all about whether they understand the material," he said.
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