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Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Higher Education

​​​What is Artificial Intelligence?

A simple flow diagram shows a three step writing process - Draft, Review, Revise and a repeat symbol (from musical notation). Before
Bill Hart-Davidson

Artificial intelligence (AI) encompasses a variety of computer-based tools that source existing data to solve a problem, such as search tools that rely on algorithms to find information or language translation tools (McCarthy, 2007). Generative artificial intelligence refers to a suite of tools that source existing data to create new artifacts in response to user prompts (Goodfellow et al, 2020). For example, ChatGPT is a conversational generative AI that sources a wide range of texts to create unique responses to text prompts.

Generative AI is an emergent and rapidly evolving space. New tools, or updates to existing tools, are released frequently, but a few examples are helpful in framing out what these tools do:

  • ChatGPT (where GPT stands for “generative pretrained transformer”) sources a broad range of texts and other data in order to respond to inquiries with customized text. It can also generate basic code.
  • DALL-E and Stable Diffusion pull from a broad range of image data in order to produce customized images in response to prompts from users.
  • Midjourney a research lab that has created another image creation generative AI. This platform is integrated with the Discord chat application.
  • Lensa is an AI that edits and transforms existing photos.

AI ​Teaching Recommendations

Masland (2023) describes a range of ongoing responses to emerging AI technologies in higher education. In doing so, Masland encourages instructors to reflect:

  • What do I want to model to my students about this technology?
  • What additional labor am I willing to invite into my teaching?
  • How can I ensure that my response to this threat isn't bigger than the threat itself?
  • What decisions can I make that will maximize my student's success and my own enjoyment of this facet of my career?

As we continue learning about generative AI tools and considering our responses, these approaches will help you to acknowledge the tools with students and consider how they might impact your teaching right now:

Discuss academic integrity with students.

Enforce your expectations with a syllabus statement and other classroom policies, and remind students of DePaul’s Academic Integrity Policy. Consider co-creating guidelines for responsibly using AI tools.

Look for opportunities to check in with students’ processes and learning strategies.

Scaffold large projects. Consider adding reflection activities, such as process reports or exam reflections. Provide students with credit for making their processes and learning visible.

Use your assignment prompts to experiment with generative AI tools.

See how the tools respond to your assignment and activity prompts. Review approaches to effective assignment design that might limit the possibilities of using generative AI tools. Focus your assignments on higher order thinking tasks and give students opportunities to showcase their unique interests and perspectives. Consider alternative assessments, such as social annotation and multimodal projects, like podcasts.

Discuss the possibilities and limitations of generative AI tools with students.

Use the “Curated Readings and Podcasts About AI” to guide some of your discussion. Consider how your field or discipline impacts the conversation. 

Generative AI Assignment and Activity Ideas

Curated Readings and Podcasts About AI

The following texts represent some of the recent conversations about generative AI. DePaul Driehaus College of Business Online Learning Director James Moore also maintains a curated list of texts that address AI.

“The Brilliance and Weirdness of ChatGPT,” Kevin Roose, New York Times (12/5/22)

Roose provides an overview of how ChatGPT works as an A.I. chatbot, including some screenshots that demonstrate the interface.

“The College Essay is Dead,” Stephen Marche, The Atlantic (12/6/22)

This alarmist piece is referenced in many of the other articles. Eliciting panic can be effective! Useful to read as part of the initial discourse.

“ChatGPT is Dumber than you Think,” Ian Bogost, The Atlantic (12/7/22)

Bogost demonstrates some limitations of ChatGPT and argues “ChatGPT isn’t a step along the path to an artificial general intelligence that understands all human knowledge and texts; it’s merely an instrument for playing with all that knowledge and all those texts.”

“GPT and a New Generation of AI for Education,” Tony Wan, Reach Capital Blog (12/10/22)

Tony Wan discusses the emerging field of AI tools in use for education beyond ChatGPT, including platforms that can help with online language learning, and more collaborative approaches to using AI technology in education.

“AI and the Future of Undergraduate Writing”, Beth McMurtrie, Chronicle of Higher Ed (12/13/22)

McMurtie provides a near-immediate, yet thoughtful, academically-framed response to the release of ChatGPT: adjusting learning processes, incorporating generative AI in curricula, and rethinking assessment.

“How About We Put Learning at the Center,” John Warner, Inside Higher Ed (1/4/23)

Warner argues ChatGPT has created an opportunity to examine how we value learning and how we create experiences that help students learn.

“Academic Experts Offer Potential Advice on ChatGPT,” Susan D’Agostino, Inside Higher Ed (1/12/23)

Eleven academics share their advice for approaching ChatGPT. Suggestions include “Think a Few Years Out,” “Invite Students Into the Conversation,” and “Experiment. Don’t Panic.”

“Why I’m Not Scared of ChatGPT,” Christopher Grobe, Chronicle of Higher Ed (2/3/23 issue)

This detailed walkthrough of how Grobe incorporated ChatGPT into his course shows the affordances and limitations of the tool.

“My class required AI. Here’s what I’ve learned so far,” Ethan Mollick, One Useful Thing (2/17/2023)

Ethan Mollick focuses on the importance of learning to use AI correctly, by learning to collaborate with it as opposed to expecting it to do the work for you.

“A new AI chatbot might do your homework for you. But it's still not an A+ student,” Emma Bowman, NPR KQED (12/19/22)

A brief look at the trustworthiness of the content produced by generative AI.

“ChatGPT Goes to Law School,” White Paper (1/23/23)

Professors at the University of Minnesota Law School used ChatGPT to generate answers on a small set of blindly graded exams. ChatGPT performed, on average, at a C+ level. The professors describe their methods and results and discuss the implications for law education.

“Would ChatGPT Get a Wharton MBA?,” Christian Terwiesch, Mack Institute for Innovation Management at the Wharton School (January 2023)

Terwiesch, an operations management professor, asked ChatGPT several final exam questions. She found that it performed well at general questions, made pretty glaring math errors, and couldn’t move towards more complex analytical responses. It got a B/B+ on the exam.

“Sam Altman and the AI Revolution, Trillionaires, and the Future of Political Power,” Ezra Klein and Sam Altman, The Ezra Klein Show (6/11/2021)

Klein’s conversation with Altman from 2021 is pretty broad, but it’s helpful to hear from the founder of OpenAI (the source of ChatGPT and Dall-E) to understand his operating principles.

“How AI Could Change Apple and Google, Writing and Music, and Everything Else,” Derek Thompson and Ben Thompson, Plain English (1/27/23)

Thompson and Thompson offer a wide-angle-lens conversation that situates generative AI in potential technological, economical, and societal impacts.

Events and Additional Resources

See Events for opportunities to learn more about AI. Email facultydevelopment@depaul.edu to suggest additions to this guide.