Using AI as a Resource In and Outside of the Classroom

By Dr. Erin Bell, Assistant Director of Educational Development

Much of the current academic discourse about ChatGPT and other large language models (LLMs) has focused on addressing/confronting its use by students. There are myriad viewpoints and approaches for utilizing AI within the context of a course as well as prohibiting its use. Both approaches have merit, and while providing an AI policy in syllabi is recommended,  it is not yet required at Detroit Mercy. The CETL has provided sample language for both approaches in our AI Toolkit found here. As with any emerging technology, it is important to explore Chat GPT’s capabilities for student use as well as for faculty use.

For example, Dr. Elena Garcia, Writing Program Director and Assistant Professor of English has investigated the application of ChatGPT in certain facets of the composition classroom. Dr. Garcia notes that it is important to frame ChatGPT and other AIs as possible resources while underscoring their ethical use. Exploring ChatGPT, according to Garcia, “does not always make sense for all assignments. We can use it as a resource that does not counter the point of an assignment.”  As she explains, the use of ChatGPT and other AIs should not be framed as evil or forbidden, but educators should explore what constitutes using the tool appropriately in their courses and how AI tools may be used in their future fields.

“Students are already struggling with technology that is not their phone,” notes Garcia, “so we do not want to keep important technology from them that they might need to know. My take on academic writing for students is for them to learn to do it effectively and efficiently by finding the right tools that can assist them.”

So far, students in Garcia’s courses have explored the use of ChatGPT as a revision partner, comparing the feedback provided by the AI against that offered by peer reviewers and the instructor. Such assignments highlighted the tool’s capabilities as well as its shortcomings. Tasking the AI with providing feedback also highlights the need to write specific and detailed prompts.

Beyond its use as a writing partner in the classroom, there are several ways that ChatGPT and other LLMs can be leveraged for academic work. Here are a few quick ideas that instructors may wish to experiment with. If you have another tip for utilizing Chat, let us know.

Re-Organize Syllabus and Schedule: Manually re-organizing a syllabus to shift from a 15-week schedule to a 7-week schedule can be a time-consuming task. Use the AI to reorganize and recalibrate course meeting schedules quickly and efficiently.

Create Rubrics: AIs like ChatGPT can be tasked with creating efficient and logical rubrics based on assignment outcomes and directions. Instructors may also work with ChatGPT to develop clear and specific criteria for assignments, ensuring that expectations are communicated effectively.

Partner to Develop Quick Lessons Plans: ChatGPT can serve as a good brainstorming partner for creating formative engagement activities for online and in-person classrooms by plugging in a topic, your goals for the session, and the timeframe. The plans can be modified to suit your course needs.  

Create Worksheets and Review Sheets: If a professor is planning on a student peer review session, they can create a guide, worksheet, or checklist for students to follow by inputting the assignment directions and rubrics in ChatGPT.

Craft Sample Projects for Discussion.  Most students appreciate examples/samples of course projects. Instructors can provide ChatGPT with project instructions and see what it develops. Such projects can serve as objects of analysis in several important ways. First, the class can address how well the generated project meets the guidelines. Allows students to analyze AI-generated content, fostering discussions on the strengths and limitations of AI in writing and its relevance in academia.

For more guidance on the use of AI in the classroom, please refer to the CETL’s AI Toolkit. Here you will find a series of additional resources regarding current research, best practices, and more.