UC Faculty member reflects on the use of ChatGPT, and Artificial Intelligence resources within University of Cincinnati classrooms.

ChatGPT is an AI-powered chatbot launched in November 2022 and has sparked conversation on the use of AI in the classroom, including at the University of Cincinnati (UC). 

According to Forbes, a chatbot is a computer program that stimulates human conversation to answer questions and solve queries. Artificial intelligence is used to build conversations for the chatbots that use texts, but how exactly these chatbots work depends on the way they have been programmed and developed.

“ChatGPT is a language model that responds to user prompts. It draws from a large database of existing texts, mostly things from the internet, to create these responses,” said Dr. Daniel Dale, the assistant director at the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning at UC. “[ChatGPT] doesn’t create ‘unique’ responses. It kind of paraphrases the texts in its database when responding.” 

Dale held a workshop in February for UC faculty about using ChatGPT in the classroom. Many professors are not aware of the capabilities, limitations and opportunities that the chatbot presents. The workshop aimed to help instructors learn how it would impact their classes in both positive and negative ways. 

“It could be used in unique ways by professors. Classes can use ChatGPT responses as a starting point for discussion. Students can also critique and expand on the basic responses created by ChatGPT,” Dale said. “One of the big dangers for students, though, is that ChatGPT can give wrong or false information.”

To test this, Dale said he used the chatbot to answer some organic chemistry questions but received wrong answers. He wouldn’t have known the information was wrong without having already known the answers.

Dale said the chatbot also tends to make up sources if the user asks for sources on a specific topic. 

Because ChatGPT uses texts written by other people without attribution, if a student turned in a ChatGPT-generated report, it would be considered plagiarism. 

“Turnitin, the plagiarism detection software UC uses, can now detect AI writing,” Dale said, “I’ve tried to fool it and haven’t been able to.” 

Dale said that he hesitates to recommend ChatGPT as a study tool as it frequently gives out the wrong information, but it can be a good editor for checking grammar and syntax. 

“ChatGPT and tools like it are kind of like calculators, in my opinion,” Dale said. “Sometimes, learning math without a calculator is important. Sometimes, learning how to do math with a calculator is important. I think the same could be said of ChatGPT. Learning certain things without AI help will still be really important in the future. However, we can’t ignore it, so it will also be important to learn how to work and learn with AI tools.”