PBS and NPR for Southwest Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

To ChatGPT or not to ChatGPT: That is the AI question for FGCU

Jenes Ochoa Rojas goes over the lines of a three-scene play written by ChatGPT in Donnie Piercey's class at Stonewall Elementary in Lexington, Ky., Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. Piercey entered parameters of the play into the ChatGPT site, along with instructions to set the scenes inside a fifth-grade classroom. Line by line, it generated fully-formed scripts, which the students edited, briefly rehearsed and then performed. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Timothy D. Easley/AP
Special to WGCU
ChatGPT is the next step in artificial intelligence. It’s smarter than Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa. It uses its vast knowledge to answer questions, write essays, write computer code and help with tasks such as lesson plans. FGCU is grappling with what to do with the artificial intelligence software that the San Francisco-based company Open AI released to the public last November.

Additionally, FGCU has also been utilizing ChatGPT to enhance the accessibility of educational resources for students. The university has been exploring the use of ChatGPT to create interactive chatbots that can provide students with personalized learning experiences. These chatbots can assist students in understanding complex topics, provide instant feedback on assignments, and offer customized study plans.

The above paragraph was not written by the writer of this story, it was written by ChatGPT when the writer asked the artificial intelligence app to “write me a paper on what FGCU is doing with ChatGPT.”

Read the entire paper here.

ChatGPT is the next step in artificial intelligence. It’s smarter than Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa. It uses its vast knowledge to answer questions, write essays, write computer code and help with tasks such as lesson plans.

FGCU is grappling with what to do with the artificial intelligence software that the San Francisco-based company Open AI released to the public last November.

“FGCU is evaluating the academic impacts of this type of emerging technology, but no university-wide guidance or changes to FGCU’s syllabus language have been issued at this time,” the university said in a written statement.

“It’s remarkable how quickly this landed on all of us,” said Bill Reynolds, who is director of the Lucas Center at FGCU. The Lucas Center oversees faculty development.

Open AI released ChatGPT as the fall semester was ending. It began making headlines while students were enjoying their semester break. The app had more than 100 million active users by the time students returned to classes.

The Lucas Center has held a couple of forums since the semester started, helping faculty understand the technology. Business School Dean Christopher Westley used one of his online monthly meetings to talk about it. Faculty from the Department of Digital Learning led the sessions.

“These first couple of open forum sessions that we had were primarily facilitated by instructional designers and just kind of gave faculty some background information about what exactly is chat GPT,” Reynolds said. “How does it operate? How is it constructed? And what can it do?”

Faculty member Chrissann Ruehle teaches in the Lutgert College of Business. She heard the presentation during the dean’s monthly meeting.

Special to WGCU
Chrissann Ruehle

She said the number one take from the presentation was everyone should start experimenting with it.

Ruehle, who did her dissertation on the ethics of AI, said many of the faculty she talked to looked at how it could be used in the classroom.

Professors took their assignments and placed them into ChatGPT to see the response.

“It was very interesting in that ChatGPT actually produced some really good, viable responses to the assignments,” Ruehle said. “So that actually prompted a lot of faculty to go back and revise some of their assignments to make them more challenging for students to use ChatGPT to write the assignment.”

Ruehle started experimenting with ChatGPT almost immediately.

She said she found several ways to use ChatGPT to make herself more efficient. She uses the software to help develop her lesson plans.

“I almost use it as a brainstorming partner,” she said.

Special to WGCU
Marc Bole

Mark Bole, an instructor in the Daveler and Kauanui School of Entrepreneurship also uses it as a brainstorming tool. He’ll ask it to come up with 20 YouTube title to get a conversation going with students. Some titles might be good, some might be bad.

“It’s a tool to help them get over writer’s block,” he said.

ChatGPT’s ability to write essays, answer test questions and do school assignments have made for sexy headlines. The Chronicle of Higher Education already has had a story “Will Artificial Intelligence Kill College Writing.”

Ruehle said it would be easy for students to use ChatGPT for the wrong reasons.

Nobody knows how many students are turning papers in using ChatGPT. Reynolds isn’t sure how many students even know about it.

Reynolds, who teaches in the school of social work, said a good number of his students in his class had never heard of it.

ChatGPT does have its drawbacks. The writing is bland and emotionless.

Its database only goes through December 2022, so it’s not up to date on current events. It’s been known to make factual errors, and it doesn’t create citations that are needed for research papers.

But that hasn’t stopped students from using it.

Victoria Foltz, a sophomore journalism major who is editor of the Eagle News, said it’s a popular conversation topic in her newsroom.

She said she knew somebody who turned in a ChatGPT-written paper for a humanities class and received an A.

George Tibbetts, a sophomore finance major, also knows people who have used it, mostly for essays. Some just popped the assignment into the software and turned in what ChatGPT spit out, others used it as a tool to help with the paper, he said.

He said nobody was caught.

FGCU does not have any record of AI-specific violations, said Pam McCabe, university spokeswoman.

FGCU has a Student Code of Conduct that was written before ChatGPT existed, Reynolds said. However, there are guidelines in the code about plagiarism that would cover somebody caught submitting a ChatGPT-written paper.

There are some programs that professors can use if they think a student plagiarized a paper. Turnitin can sift through the internet to see if a student plagiarized from papers, periodicals or publications.

There’s also software that is more than 90 percent accurate in detecting if the story was generated by a person or a machine, Ruehle said.

She isn’t sure she could tell if a student or artificial intelligence wrote a paper, so she came up with her own solution.

She has been giving her students in-class writing assignments to see their writing styles and writing strengths and weaknesses so when her students turn in their big paper at the end of the semester she will be able to compare if she thinks somebody is cheating.

Maybe students should be required to do more creative writing in class, Reynolds said.

“If you’re asking a student to describe something in their personal environment, or that has to do with their own kind of feelings and experiences, it may be a lot more difficult for an AI response that can’t get inside your own head and your own experience,” he said.

Faculty should rethink homework assignments. Why give homework assignments where students can create written responses to homework and essay prompts? he asked.

He’s afraid students will use the new tools of technology as crutches, which will inhibit them from learning how to solve problems, think critically and become decision makers.

Ruehle, despite the negatives, insists students need to learn how to use artificial intelligence.

“I see so many valuable applications for this tool out in the business world,” she said. “And my thought process is as academics we have a responsibility to educate and inform our students about this technology.

“I want them to work with it, so that when they leave my classroom and they leave FGCU I want them to know how to use it.”

WGCU is your trusted source for news and information in Southwest Florida. We are a nonprofit public service, and your support is more critical than ever. Keep public media strong and donate now. Thank you.