In a significant shift from the initial hesitance, universities across the globe are now embracing the integration of AI tools like ChatGPT into their academic curriculum. Rhode Island-based College Unbound administrator, Lance Eaton, who has been tracking the evolving stance of academia towards AI, noted a change from a ban-focused approach to one that encourages and instructs students on effectively utilizing these AI tools. Eaton’s continuously updated spreadsheet, widely discussed in popular AI-focused groups, provides an insight into how different universities and courses ranging from coding to sociology are adapting to the incorporation of AI in the classroom.
The growing use of AI tools like ChatGPT and Google’s Bard, which can generate original essays, stories, and song lyrics, has raised concerns about potential issues such as inaccuracies, cheating, and the spread of misinformation. However, experts believe that ignoring or discouraging the use of AI would be a disservice to students, leaving them ill-prepared for a workforce increasingly reliant on artificial intelligence. A study by Intelligent.com revealed that about 30% of college students used ChatGPT for schoolwork in the past academic year, emphasizing the tool’s growing significance in academia.
The Rise of AI in Education: Universities Embrace Generative AI Policies
Once, universities were rushing to ban artificial intelligence (AI) tools like ChatGPT. However, the tide is now turning, with many universities encouraging students to make the best use of these tools. According to Lance Eaton, an administrator at College Unbound, the shift from banning to embracing AI was noticeable last spring. Eaton has been tracking the change in AI policies at various universities through a spreadsheet, which he regularly shares in popular AI-focused groups such as Higher Ed Discussions of Writing and AI, and AI in Education.
Colleges Embrace AI Tools
Initially, the reaction towards AI was one of apprehension, but that has since changed. Universities are now teaching students how to best use AI tools, and the conversation has shifted to why it makes sense for students to use them. Eaton’s spreadsheet has provided valuable insights into how different courses, ranging from coding to sociology, are now embracing AI.
As AI continues to grow in importance, ignoring or discouraging its use is seen as a disservice to students. Tools like ChatGPT and Google’s Bard have been used to generate original essays, stories, and song lyrics. These tools have even drafted research paper abstracts that have fooled scientists and passed exams at esteemed universities.
Students Already Using AI
Recent studies suggest that around 30% of college students used ChatGPT for their schoolwork in the past academic year, with its use being most prevalent in English classes. Jules White, an associate professor of computer science at Vanderbilt University, believes that the use of AI should be explicitly stated in the course syllabus. He insists that "it cannot be ignored" and that students, faculty, and alumni need to become AI experts as it will be transformative across every industry.
Vanderbilt is among the pioneers in supporting generative AI, offering university-wide training and workshops to faculty and students. White’s three-week 18-hour online course was taken by over 90,000 students, and his paper on “prompt engineering” best practices is routinely cited among academics.
The Shift Toward AI in the Classroom
AI is not just for computer science; it’s finding its way into other areas of study as well. Diane Gayeski, a professor of communications at Ithaca College, plans to incorporate tools like ChatGPT in her curriculum. She has used these tools to help students come up with interview questions for assignments, write social media posts, and critique the output based on the prompts given.
Moreover, some schools are even hiring outside experts to teach faculty and students about how to use AI tools. Tyler Tarver, a former high school principal who now teaches tech tool strategies, has given over 50 speeches at schools and conferences across Texas, Arkansas, and Illinois in the past few months. He believes that even if teachers never use AI, their students will, and therefore they need to understand it.
The shift towards AI in education is apparent, and the trend suggests its use will only grow in the coming years. While there are valid concerns around cheating and accuracy, the potential benefits far outweigh these. AI has the potential to revolutionize education, making it more engaging, interactive, and efficient. Ultimately, embracing AI in education is about preparing students for a world where AI is ubiquitous. As Tarver aptly puts it, "You don’t want to be the last person in the horse and buggy."