Generative artificial intelligence has entered the classroom
Faculty and staff navigate the new world of teaching and learning with generative AI
Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing the classroom. Just ask ChatGPT.
As students and faculty return to classes, generative AI tools are presenting many challenges and opportunities. ChatGPT, DALL-E 2, and other technology can quickly produce unique content that mimics human creativity. People can use generative AI to alter an image, write computer code, compose a new song, and write a paper.
A few K-12 school districts, international universities, and businesses have attempted to ban the use of AI tools. However, at RIT, the community is acknowledging that generative AI is here to stay and can be used as a force for good.
Neil Hair, executive director of RIT’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), said that many in the RIT community seem genuinely excited to experiment with AI, while others are cautiously curious. Hair is working with the CTL and other campus partners to help faculty navigate pedagogy in this new world of generative AI.
“There is one big conclusion coming out of our findings—generative AI will not replace the importance of teaching good, critical thinking,” said Hair, who is also an associate professor of marketing. “However, when used well, generative AI can facilitate and enhance that critical thinking process.”
This fall, faculty members are using AI in the classroom in different ways. For example, Liz Lawley, professor in the School of Interactive Games and Media, has created a syllabus statement that welcomes students to use generative AI tools, with all their advantages and disadvantages.
“But, if you do use generative AI, you need to let me know what you used it for, show me where, and explain why,” said Lawley. “My approach is that I can’t stop you from using it, so I want you to understand what it’s good at and what it’s not good at.”
In Lawley’s Experience Design for Games and Media course last spring, she asked students to actually use ChatGPT to edit their short essays for grammar, syntax, and spelling. Students then turned in the original essay, the revised essay, and explanations for each of the changes.
Here are some of Lawley’s tips for teaching in a world with AI:
- Craft assignments that generative AI isn’t necessarily good at.
- Emphasize the importance of understanding core concepts.
- A lot less lecture and more hands-on in-class exercises—not to catch students cheating, but to walk around and ask, “How can I help you with that?”
- Students should learn how to ask the right questions and evaluate what they get back.
- As educators, be willing to continually rethink assignments and learn what works and what doesn’t work.
Many faculty are changing their course assignments to assess the learning process, as opposed to just the end result. Faculty are also focusing on plagiarism, considering possible bias, and concerns about ethics, intellectual property, misinformation, and disinformation.
Prabu David, RIT’s new provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs, is also thinking about the deeper, more challenging questions tied to the coexistence of humans with AI. His background in communication has led his research to focus on media and cognition, with active projects in AI and leadership.
“As we envision a future with explosive growth in generative AI, neural implants, gene editing, and the like, we must exert our agency to preserve our humanity and find a productive coexistence with science and technology,” said David. “This coexistence can be forged only through a deep understanding of virtues, values, ethics, critical thinking, and communication, and a deep understanding of culture, society, groups, and individuals. Instead of being observers of change, we must be agents of change.”
RIT’s CTL is hosting a series of opportunities for faculty to discuss and share strategies for incorporating generative AI into teaching. Register for events on the CTL events webpage.
- Watch the Faculty Panel on Generative AI in Education, recorded on Aug. 18. Sign in with SSO and RIT credentials.
- Fall Symposium: Teaching and Learning in the Era of Generative AI, 1-5 p.m. Sept. 22.
- Generative AI Check-in Session, 1-2 p.m. Oct. 6.
- Generative AI Check-in Session, 12:30-1:30 p.m. Nov. 9.
- Teaching Circle Program: Implementing Generative AI in STEM Courses to Enhance Student Learning, led by Amanda Bao, associate professor in the Department of Civil Engineering Technology, Environmental Management and Safety.
- Teaching Circle Program: How Might Generative AI Change the Marketplace and Therefore Our Teaching of Software Technology?, led by Keith Weber, senior lecturer in the Department of MIS, Marketing, and Analytics.
RIT’s CTL has also assembled an AI-Generated Content FAQ that reflects on how instructors can adapt teaching approaches and practices in light of generative AI capabilities.