New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)
Area colleges grappling with student use of ChatGPT, AI writing
NEW HAVEN — Professors at area colleges and universities are welcoming the arrival of ChatGPT, a pre-trained language model that many said would disrupt the academic setting, especially when it comes to writing classes.
Local educators said they’re exploring how to best incorporate the new tool in their classes while some are advocating for a move away from the traditional essay-writing model and assignment.
JT Torres, Quinnipiac University’s assistant professor of English, said he thinks “college essays might be dead.” He said he now focuses more on the multi-week writing process with an end product ChatGPT couldn’t produce.
Torres has his students come up with their own writing prompt and find sources, while providing how those resonate with their lived and academic experiences and future goals.
“We might work on one page of that essay, at least in an outline per class, and they don’t know what’s coming next,” Torres said. “Each class has that surprise element … so we just stay in this process of drafting informal writing to learn of inquiry of exploration and emphasizing that curiosity piece.”
Even if students hit a phase where they could use AI, such as writing a summary or creating an outline, Torres said he still would ask questions that require students’ interpretive capacities.
“I’m OK with them bringing it in to help them with the outlining, that could expedite for them, and it could also be helpful for the learning process,” he said.
Quinnipiac Director of Academic Integrity Claude Mayo said the school’s existing rules prohibiting “possession or use of unauthorized devices or materials” already cover the use of AI.
Mayo said the university isn’t seeking to ban the platform entirely, but it will let professors determine and provide guidance on the use of ChatGPT in their respective classes.
Torres, who also heads the Center for Teaching and Learning, said he sees ChatGPT as a tool that can be useful for students, and new tools will always change the landscape of the academic setting.
“Similar anxieties when the calculator came out and we’re like, ‘now and people aren’t going to do math anymore,’ right?” Torres said, noting professors should explore the use of the tool “with an open mind” to prepare students to live in the world where these tools are available.
Southern Connecticut State University also doesn’t have a ban, but the faculty is in “policy discussions,” a spokesperson said. The university’s academic misconduct policy prohibits cheating, plagiarism, fabrication and falsification. It covers giving or receiving assistance from another without being authorized to do so.
As a writing director at SCSU, Marie McDaniel recently gave a presentation as a part of faculty development to help others understand what the chatbot is, address misconceptions and issues and provide information on how to best utilize it.
“I am in favor of trying to understand it, recognizing how and when people will use it and also being very clear on its pitfalls, including its very strong biases that are available through its generated text and the falsehoods that it can generate, as well,” McDaniel said.
The history professor said she would move away from assignments that require a summary of a text, something she said should’ve been stopped a long time ago anyway.
“We don’t want to have students do what ChatGPT does. That’s not useful,” she said. “We want students to be detectives, explorers.”
For example, she said she might have students find a particular source and do a reflection on it or come up with a different modality such as a twominute video presentation on top of a written response to explain how they produce the work.
But if a student turns in an AI-generated work, McDaniel said it means she’s doing her job wrong. Trying to police it is just a short-term solution, she said, because the chatbot will become smarter over time.
“What I do believe is that when you’re creating assignments, you can go on to ChatGPT, put in the prompt assignment, if ChatGPT generates an assignment you would find acceptable, change your assignment,” she said. “Change it so that it can’t be something that ChatGPT would generate.”
At nearby Albertus Magnus College, Vice President for Academic Affairs Sean O’Connell said “a number of faculty agree with the educational literature surrounding ChatGPT that attempting to police or to ban it is less constructive than engaging students” in finding the useful aspects of it.
The college’s Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence has scheduled sessions for faculty to discuss how to best address the chatbot in their courses, according to O’Connell. However, a policy banning students from submitting work that’s not the result of their own effort or one that lacks proper citation is in place.
Officials at the University of New Haven in West Haven did not respond to an inquiry about its policy.
Yale University, which did not have officials immediately available for comment, has developed AI guidance for the faculty through the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning. The guide suggested that instructors be “direct and transparent” when it comes to tools permitted in their respective classes, including AI, and said detection technology is “probably not feasible.”
Similarly, the center recommended changes in assignment design and structure to reduce the likelihood of cheating, according to the guidance.