AI Tools (ChatGPT) FAQ
The recent evolution of artificial intelligence (AI) tools, such as ChatGPT, is impressive, as is the associated volume of media coverage. Are such tools an opportunity for or a threat to teaching and learning? Is it appropriate for students to use these tools? Do instructors need to change their approaches? Tools like this, and the important questions they raise, are not necessarily new. The answers are debatable and highly contextualized by disciplinary norms, course learning objectives and assignments as well as students’ level and background. Consequently, we acknowledge that recent developments can generate both instructor enthusiasm and concerns.
In response to inquiries from CMU colleagues, we compiled a list of frequently asked questions. We based our responses on evidence-based and inclusive teaching strategies, CMU policies, and the current state of technology tools. Furthermore, we approached these questions with two beliefs in mind. First, we acknowledge that both perceived opportunities and challenges can be daunting, yet we believe that you can and will be effective teachers amidst these developments. Second, we do not assume that students will automatically make academically dishonest choices solely due to the emergence of new technologies.
We hope this resource will help instructors deliberately and intentionally think about the evolution of AI tools, and other technologies as they arise. If you’d like to talk to an Eberly colleague about your teaching context, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d also like to hear from you if you have had an encounter or use case that can inform this resource and our support for instructors.
1. What is ChatGPT? What other AI tools is it similar to?
ChatGPT is an AI tool, sometimes called a chatbot, which can convincingly reproduce characteristics of natural language. Using a range of parameters, you can prompt it to instantly respond to simple and complex requests, like writing comparative essays, producing the steps for some math problems, writing or fixing bugs in code, generating or answering discussion questions, and even writing emails. If it cannot fulfill a request, it will respond with clarifying questions. Just like a student, it learns from repeated practice! You can read more about the particulars of ChatGPT’s model and explore the technology for yourself here.
ChatGPT is similar to other AI tools such as Quillbot, a tool that can paraphrase submitted pieces of text, or Wolfram Alpha, software for solving math problems. As with any new technology (remember when graphing calculators arrived!), the fundamental principles of how learning works and what we can intentionally do to facilitate learning remains largely the same. Because ChatGPT can generate very natural sounding language, it can be concerning for instructors who rely on assessments like final papers, essays, or take-home exams. However, it is important to continue to be intentional in your teaching choices, because being reactive (only) isn’t sustainable in our technologically advancing world. You can take this opportunity to think deeply about your courses, and the kinds of knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes you want your students to develop.
If you would like to discuss your courses in light of ChatGPT with an Eberly Center consultant, please contact email@example.com.
2. How should I talk to my students about this?
There are several access points to start a conversation. We encourage you to be curious and have an open mind when discussing AI tools like ChatGPT with students, rather than assuming or focusing on the worst-case scenario.
Convey confidence in your students' motivation and engagement.
Let them know you are here to support their learning. Discuss your course learning objectives and why they matter. Provide positive encouragement that students can succeed with effort, good strategies, and asking for support (see Promoting a Growth Mindset).
Ask students about their experiences with AI tools generally.
Have they heard of them? Do they know what they do? For many, these are exciting, fun tools and acknowledging that can give you a way to connect with your students. If students are familiar with AI tools, what kinds of prompts have they plugged into them and what did they think of the responses? Try playing with it yourself using both class-related and non-class-related prompts so you can also share your experiences.
Talk about academic integrity early on and why it's important.
Define what plagiarism, unauthorized assistance, and cheating look like in the context of your course, as students may assume another course’s policies are the same as yours or may have a different cultural understanding of academic integrity. Provide examples of what kinds of work is appropriate and not. Use AI tools, like ChatGPT, as an example and discuss the ways in which it can be appropriately used (if any) in the context of your course and discipline.
Be transparent about why ChatGPT or AI tools are concerning or exciting to you in the context of your course.
This is an opportunity to explain how your assignments are structured to help students develop key skills and expertise, and how the use of ChatGPT may disrupt or enhance this process or help or hinder students in the short-term and long-term. Articulate for your students the inherent inequities that arise when some students are generating their own work for the class, while others are automating that labor. Being transparent about the purpose of your policies around academic integrity and assignment guidelines helps students understand why they are beneficial, rather than arbitrary.
Give students multiple opportunities or means to ask questions about ChatGPT and academic integrity.
Starting from the perspective that students do not want to cheat, allow students to ask questions about academic integrity and ChatGPT without judgment. This can be as simple as inviting questions using any of the above approaches, and by encouraging students to contact you outside of class or during office hours. Remind students that it’s better for them to ask you well before an assignment is due than to operate from a place of uncertainty and anxiety as they are trying to complete it.
3. How can I design my assignments to facilitate students generating their own work?
Regardless of the technological environment, the first thing to consider in assessment design is always whether what you are having students do aligns with what and how you want them to learn. Be transparent with your students about why your assessments are designed to support their learning and help them develop the skills and patterns of thought that they will want to rely on in their future professions. Additional structure that illuminates the how of their assessments, like grading criteria, evaluation rubrics, and assignment briefs, will often make it easier for your students to engage in the work than not.
Break your assessments into smaller pieces that will build on each other. The final product could be a culmination of the prior components, which also had the chance to benefit from formative feedback and low-stakes evaluation. Alternatively, consider requiring multiple drafts and value improvement across drafts in response to your feedback. Provide in-class time for students to work on these components but allow them to expand on or refine their work outside of class as well. Rather than focusing on the product alone, scaffolded assessments like this prioritize the process of generating the final deliverable. Students are less likely to turn to quick solutions for a deliverable if they’ve already put in considerable time and effort, and gained their own expertise, to the point where they feel confident in their own ability to do quality work in a timely fashion.
Schedule assessments to balance workload:
Students may turn to ChatGPT if they are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, unsupported, or out of time. Even if they are motivated and engaged, external pressures and incentives can often lead them to make choices that save time rather than enhance their learning. Consider timing assessments to take place outside of typical exam weeks. Prioritize preserving students’ breaks (for wellness) and giving a longer time horizon for when items are due. Build in some time in-class for students to work on assignments or projects.
Focus on process:
Ask students to explain their process and reflect on their own learning. This could look like:
- a reflection checklist or rubric
- a list of specific steps they took, what they could have done differently, and why
- annotations on an assignment or deliverable justifying the creative choices they made (or a separate deliverable reflecting on and referencing specific aspects of their previous work).
You might consider assessing students on how much they have improved rather than on one instance of their performance, which traditional exams and final papers often do. This could mean awarding additional points to students who are able to articulate mistakes, why the mistake was made, and how and how they can avoid them in the future.
Design assessments to make learning visible through connections:
In his 2013 book Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty, James Lang defines “original student work” as that in which students “create an original network of connections.” This network can be made from various sources that the student is uniquely positioned to curate (e.g., information presented in the course, from other courses in their curriculum, their personal experiences, and external sources they’ve encountered), and is helpful for learning as those connections between their prior knowledge and new course content make students more likely to remember and be able to apply the new information in the future. This idea can be leveraged in assessment design, where the emphasis is less on the originality of the ideas students are generating (countless scholars have already analyzed the same poem, or have written a similar line of computer code and their work is out there), and more on how students relate these disparate ideas to one another. This can be accomplished by reframing assignment descriptions and rubric criteria, as well as considering the types of deliverables that best align with the learning objectives and which allow students to demonstrate the original network they’ve created. Remember that providing an environment of positive support, which instills in your students the confidence to generate their own unique and successful ideas, can go a long way in promoting students’ motivation.
Provide choice, creativity, and flexibility for assignments:
Students may turn to plagiarism or AI tools like ChatGPT when they lack motivation to complete assignments. One way to increase the value perceived by students (thus increasing their motivation to complete them authentically) is to provide more choices on the assignment deliverable. For instance, if your goal is to assess how students synthesize, evaluate, and communicate about multiple sources, some students may choose to write an essay, while others could demonstrate those same skills in a video or by designing an infographic, as long as the deliverable demonstrates the required learning objectives. Consider the component skills your assignment is targeting and what competencies students must demonstrate. Then design an assignment prompt that includes these skills, but allows more choice in what the final product looks like. Finally, design a rubric with criteria that are agnostic of the form of the deliverable.
Avoid over-reliance on hand-written deliverables, in-class evaluations, or oral exams and presentations:
We do not recommend drastically changing your assessments to exclusively or excessively rely on the aforementioned approaches as a reaction to ChatGPT concerns. While one or more of these approaches may appear to be a simple solution, these changes could raise more difficulties than they solve, particularly for reasons of equity and inclusion. For example, some of these approaches may inadvertently disadvantage non-native English speakers or students requiring accommodations for disabilities (see also FAQ 4). Prioritizing student success means providing an environment where everyone has an equitable opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities. Timed, hand-written exams, for example, may disadvantage students who know the material well, but are unable to hand-write their answers quickly. Oral presentations may put extra stress on students with anxiety, who then are faced with additional challenges which their peers do not face. Does completing a writing assignment during a class session, without the ability to adequately revise while drafting, authentically and fairly assess written communication skills across students? We suggest reflecting on who will be advantaged or disadvantaged by particular assessment choices and how well they align with your highest priority learning objectives.
Don’t necessarily redesign all assessments to focus on ChatGPTs current limitations:
At the time of writing this, ChatGTP has some limitations. For example, because it is trained on data that needs to already exist, it is not particularly good at responding to prompts about current events. It also cannot leverage data that is protected by paywalls, such as JSTOR articles or reference classroom discussions. Additionally, it will also reproduce any latent biases in the data on which it was trained. Nevertheless, ChatGPT will adapt as it is used. Consequently, designing assignments around any current limitations may be a temporary solution, but not a sustainable one. Instead, consider some of the strategies discussed previously.
4. What equity and inclusion considerations should I be thinking about?
Unauthorized assistance, cheating, and plagiarism create inequities. All are unfair to students who do the work themselves. However, some approaches to preventing academic dishonesty, or students’ use of AI tools, may inadvertently create inequities or marginalize some students. All teaching strategies have pros and cons, so we recommend that you consider potential implications for equity and inclusion.
Some assessment strategies directly support equity and inclusion. These include providing student choice when appropriate in assignment deliverables or topics, varying the type of required assessments or deliverables, strategically leveraging low stakes assessments, scaffolding high stakes assignments to include milestones and drafts, and more (see Centering DEI in Teaching, Creating a Welcoming Classroom Climate, and suggestions above).
However, other strategies may disadvantage certain students. For instance, some commonly discussed potential reactions to AI tools include intentionally shifting assessment designs toward hand-written deliverables, in-class evaluations, or oral exams. Relying exclusively or excessively on these approaches may prevent non-native English speakers or students with disabilities requiring accommodations from fully demonstrating their learning. Additionally, in-class writing or other time-limited assessments may not align well with learning objectives. Adopting such approaches may result in assessing students’ speed more than their true competency. Consider whether speed is a high priority learning objective or a fair assessment criterion for your students. Furthermore, requiring students to purchase particular texts or resources (e.g., the newest editions of textbooks, subscriptions to educational cases including newspapers, or purchasing sample data) to avoid the expertise of certain AI tools may disadvantage students with limited resources and cause undue financial burdens. Consider how you can provide such resources for free through your Learning Management System (e.g., Canvas) or the university library. Additionally, if you are encouraging or requiring use of AI tools, consider whether or not they are digitally accessible to all learners.
For additional support on determining how assessments may impact students with disabilities or how to make appropriate accommodations for CMU students, please contact the Office of Disability Resources.
5. How can I integrate ChatGPT into my course?
Remember that ChatGPT is a web resource, and like other such tools may not always be accessible to you or your students. Before planning any activities or assignments using this tool, ensure you and your students can go online and successfully and equitably access it (see also FAQ 4 ).
As with any new technology, there are often exciting avenues for new or enhanced learning experiences. It is important to be transparent with your students about the purpose you have in mind. Let them know the best way to approach the technology to maximize their learning. Try connecting this purpose to one of your existing learning objectives. If you would like to integrate ChatGPT into your course, here are some ideas:
Explore the limitations:
Let your students explore the capabilities and limitations of AI generation. Guide them on big questions surrounding what defines things like communication and interaction. For example, if ChatGPT writes your emails for you, are you really communicating? Have your students think about the nature of the data ChatGPT pulls from and its intersections with ethics. For example, what is the range of “inappropriate requests” and why? What might your students want to change about ChatGPT to make it more useful for their lives? What does it mean to create with or without AI assistance? How might ChatGPT enhance equity or create inequities?
Spot the differences:
Prepare a class session where students attempt to identify differences between two pieces of writing or art or code, one created by their peers, and the other created by an AI. In advance, choose a set of prompts to provide to small groups of students to input into the AI. For example, ask students to request a paragraph, email, or poem from ChatGPT in a particular style or from a certain perspective to a specific audience on a topic. Next, ask each group to write their own response to a different prompt and collect them. Then match the student- and AI-generated responses to the same prompt. Give each pair to a group. Be sure you don’t give students the same prompt that they wrote on. Challenge your students to identify differences in tone, clarity, organization, meaning, style, or other relevant disciplinary habits of mind and which sample was AI-generated.
If you’re teaching a math or computer science course, input some homework problems and have your students critique where the AI succeeds or not (and how it could improve) or articulate alternative solutions. Can your students determine whether code was written by humans or an AI?
Have students prompt ChatGPT to generate discussion questions for the next class session, then have students create their own responses to those questions. ChatGPT can also follow-up questions and responses of its own, and students can continue their discussions with AI assistance. This approach to discussion facilitation could work well in small groups first, with a large group debrief afterwards. This helps students engage and learn about the topic while fostering and sustaining discussion, but it will also bring up interesting secondary questions. For example: Will the small groups have all learned and discussed the same things? Different things? Did ChatGPT lead some groups off topic?
Assign a topic and let your students come up with different ways to input it into ChatGPT. Then task them with writing the same thing, but in a different way. Ask your students to explain their decisions. How might they change the language? Why? What rhetorical strategies could make it sound better, worse, more beautiful, more parsimonious, or more confusing? Have your students take on the role of an instructor and “grade” ChatGPT on its output.
Generate samples for students to critique:
Have your students enter your assignment prompt into ChatGPT. Then ask them to use your grading criteria/rubric to evaluate the output that ChatGPT generates. This can be a helpful way to provide “sample” work to your students who may be looking for examples or curious about what a “good” and “bad” version of the deliverable looks like. You can also include your own comments and critiques and use the AI-generated output like you would use an example of a past student’s work. This approach not only enhances transparency of grading criteria but also helps students practice and get feedback on necessary skills.
Have ChatGPT write an academic integrity policy forbidding its use. Ask it to write an email to students’ pets. Input an unsolvable math problem. After requesting that it write in another language, compare the output to other translation algorithms. Be creative! Regardless, talk about what it means to do things “the human way;” have your students make a list of all the things they would rather do than have an AI do for them, then have them ask ChatGPT to write up that list and compare!
6. Is the CMU academic integrity policy changing due to ChatGPT?
No. According to CMU’s Office of Community Standards and Integrity, CMU’s academic integrity policy addresses the unauthorized use of such tools. Among the three categories of academic integrity violations (i.e., cheating, plagiarism, and unauthorized assistance), “unauthorized assistance” applies most directly, but the other two may also arguably arise. Specifically, the policy states, “In any manner of presentation, it is the responsibility of each student to produce [their] own original academic work. Collaboration or assistance on academic work to be graded is not permitted unless explicitly authorized by the course instructor(s)...Unauthorized assistance refers to the use of sources of support that have not been specifically authorized in this policy statement or by the course instructor(s) in the completion of academic work to be graded.”We recommend that you consider:
- Engaging students in transparent discourse about the rationale behind your learning objectives and assignments.
- Discussing academic integrity with students, including its importance and your expectations. Don’t assume that students know what is acceptable and not in your context. Norms change across disciplines, cultures, and courses. Sometimes this is referred to as “the hidden curriculum”.
- Including an academic integrity policy in your syllabus and soliciting student questions about it.
- Amending or adding an addendum to your academic integrity policy. If you do not wish students to use AI tools, such as ChatGPT, consider referencing them explicitly as an example of unauthorized assistance. If you allow students to use it AND want them to cite what has been generated by the AI Tool (as they would another source of ideas), be explicit about both.
- Including improvement across assignments sharing learning objectives as a component of how you calculate grades.
- Talking to your students about AI tools as they relate to all of the above.
7. How can I know/detect if students are using it (e.g., what tools are available for this)?
Tools are emerging for detecting ChatGPT output, but you might first want to consider if AI output will pose a problem for your teaching and learning context. Try out ChatGPT using a sample of your assignment(s) to see if you need to make any adjustments (see FAQ 3). If you are still interested in looking for ways to detect students’ use of AI tools on assignments, tools are being developed. For example, Turnitin (for which CMU has a site license and is available through Canvas) is developing its detection software which you can preview here. Other web-based tools designed to help with detection are emerging and gaining media attention. However, none have been established as effective. Until (and after) robust AI detection tools are available, we recommend that you consider the variety of instructional design and teaching strategies provided in this resource.