Commentary: A test for educators — how to embrace ChatGPT's capabilities and exploit its limitations
The threats presented by artificial intelligence chatbot ChatGPT have been hotly debated by educators around the world.
The threats presented by artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot ChatGPT have been hotly debated by educators around the world.
It has sparked concerns among educators since early this year, following numerous reports of students using ChatGPT to produce essays and passing them off as their own work.
ChatGPT raised eyebrows again just weeks ago when it was reported to have passed examinations from top law and business schools in the United States.
Education experts and educators worldwide have rather different views on ChatGPT. While some are deeply sceptical and want it banned from classrooms, others are championing its use in teaching and learning.
We are now in that digital era where the classroom is no longer just a physical space but a virtual, 24/7 one.
It is just a matter of how soon the AI-powered technology will reach a critical mass and trigger a paradigm shift in the entire education arena.
Hence, no matter how worried we may be about the unthinkable, ChatGPT is here to stay, and its profound impact on teaching and learning culture is inevitable.
Instead of banning the learning community from using ChatGPT, it would make more practical sense to embrace it as an effective teaching and learning tool.
EMBRACE CHATGPT’S CAPABILITIES
First, it can help both educators and learners obtain relevant references for study more effectively.
Second, the time saved from searching for basic information can now be used for more effective learning. Learners can channel their efforts into deepening their domain knowledge and sharpening their critical thinking skills.
This can definitely facilitate the flipped classroom approach, where students have to discuss topics they have read up on before class, instead of being spoon-fed.
Despite much fanfare, using ChatGPT for teaching and learning is inevitably a double-edged sword. While ChatGPT represents an unprecedented opportunity for the education sector, it also poses potential threats to learning culture and to assessment design.
One major nightmare all educators may face is that students will no longer engage in active learning.
At present, students need to pore over books, web sources and other learning materials to look for answers.
With ChatGPT, all these tasks can be done within just a few minutes, in response to a simple prompt. This defeats the purpose of learning, where the journey is supposed to be more important than the destination.
To make matters worse, ChatGPT can produce plagiarism-free content. This poses a major challenge to the education sector, where academic integrity is paramount.
It can potentially make plagiarism detection applications lose their relevance unless they are equipped with the ability to detect AI-generated output.
Indeed, there are new applications, such as AICheatCheck, which can check if a student’s essay was produced using AI.
However, there remain two challenges.
First, these applications can only provide an indication of how likely a text was produced using AI, but they cannot prove it conclusively, unlike plagiarism detection applications, which can identify the plagiarised sources.
Second, such applications may not be foolproof as AI technology continues to evolve rapidly. After all, AI cheat-check software is just a stopgap solution.
It is worth remembering that, despite the shockwaves it has generated, the current version of ChatGPT is merely a "research preview", and that, with the continuous training provided by users, it will only become more powerful and more human-like. Likewise with Google’s Bard chatbot, despite its embarrassing launch.
Existing technology may become obsolete over time, but our mindsets should not.
On top of relying on software, the education sector should proactively rethink and reformulate assessment strategies and even entire curricula.
EXPLOIT CHATGPT’S LIMITATIONS
Assessments that test the ability to recall facts will no longer make sense in the era of ChatGPT.
Our preliminary studies show that ChatGPT does not fare well when asked to provide critical analyses or write from personal experience.
Hence, assessments that involve case studies or require students to discuss complex issues from personal experience may reduce their reliance on ChatGPT for answers.
Furthermore, ChatGPT is capable of producing only text-based output, at least for now; it is unable to provide multimodal answers involving video and graphic elements, for instance.
Hence, educators can redesign assignments to get students to present their answers in the form of videos or diagrams.
Additionally, students can be asked to present their work in person or online to ensure that they have done their work by themselves; this will also help ensure that they hone their presentation skills.
Most importantly, all institutions should start to redesign their education blueprint. Schools should also go beyond just computer coding and cyber wellness, and incorporate AI literacy into the curricula at all levels.
For instance, at the Singapore University of Social Sciences, faculty and administrative staff have been encouraged to experiment with ChatGPT to understand its capabilities and limitations better, and to redesign assignment and exam questions to "ChatGPT-proof" them as far as possible.
The university is also proactively providing guidance on ChatGPT/AI-related issues and conducting activities such as workshops and webinars for faculty members to enhance the integrity and academic rigour of assessments.
The learning community should not only know how to use AI, but also be able to understand ethical and other issues pertaining to using AI for their work and learning in future. (p.s. this op-ed is not generated by ChatGPT)
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Associate Professor Ludwig Tan is Dean, School of Humanities and Behavioural Sciences, and Associate Professor Brian Lee is Head of the Communication Programme at Singapore University of Social Sciences.
Related topicsChatGPT tech education
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