Texas universities, colleges respond to rise of ChatGPT use on campuses

AUSTIN (KXAN) — With increasing use and familiarity with the artificial intelligence program ChatGPT, some Texas colleges are looking at the technology’s impact on their campuses.

Several Texas higher education institutions told KXAN they became aware of ChatGPT in late 2022 and began looking at its on-campus use at the start of the 2023 spring semester. ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence chatbot, creates responses to the user’s prompts and questions.

Art Markman, the vice provost for academic affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, said the university is focusing on using new tools like ChatGPT to learn and teach most effectively rather than focusing on finding students who are cheating.

“I think when a tool comes along, like ChatGPT, initially everybody’s concern is ‘Is this going to destroy our ability to teach?’ Markman said. “But very quickly we discovered no, actually, it’s a tool that could be used in interesting ways—just like the calculator didn’t kill our ability to teach math.”

Markman said UT did not change any policies to include ChatGPT because existing academic policies require students to do their own submitted work. These policies include using third-party AI systems like ChatGPT or even image-generating technologies like DALL-E.

He added that there have been discussions, including a student-led talk, within UT’s Center for Teaching and Learning about ChatGPT. He is also part of a committee with the provost and student affairs offices that is having larger discussions to bring best practices to faculty.

“Our focus at the university is really the understanding of why even though you could cheat using these tools, you shouldn’t cheat because you are ultimately both shortchanging yourself and really disrespecting the community,” Markman said.

Texas State University sent an email in January saying faculty are encouraged to create expectations about resources students can and cannot use when completing assignments with AI help.

The email said TXST relies on the use of computers to help with common work tasks every day, but it is an academic integrity violation “when used in lieu of individual thought, creation, and synthesis of knowledge by falsely submitting a paper written (all or in part) as one’s own original work.”

At Austin Community College, some instructional departments are creating committees to investigate how ChatGPT can be used and incorporated. Gaye Lynn Scott, the vice chancellor of instruction, said faculty responses to the ChatGPT range from concern about the technology to never hearing about it to interest in using it.

“What I’m hearing mostly is interest in figuring out how we can take advantage of what it has to offer,” Scott said.

Scott also said it’s too soon for any policy changes for ChatGPT. The college already has plagiarism, citation and collusion policies in place.

What is ChatGPT?

The AI technology was created to follow an instruction from a prompt and provide a response, according to ChatGPT. The technology’s human trainers teach the program to compose responses.

Open AI, the ChatGPT maker, says the program has limitations including sometimes writing incorrect or nonsensical answers, being “excessively verbose,” exhibiting biased behavior or responding to harmful questions.

The company released the fourth ChatGPT update March 14, which is supposed to make the system safer and more useful. OpenAI said “GPT-4 is 82% less likely to respond to requests for disallowed content and 40% more likely to produce factual responses” than the previous version.

How is ChatGPT being used?

Beata Jones, a business information systems professor at Texas Christian University, said she uses ChatGPT daily for professional and course-related activities such as writing emails, troubleshooting code, creating exam questions and formatting citations.

Jones said she encourages students to use ChatGPT for anything except for entire assignments as that would be cheating. Her classes have talked about the chatbot’s capabilities and limitations. She said her assignments require references, which ChatGPT cannot create well.

Markman said students could potentially use the AI technology to help start papers and then edit and verify the information.

At ACC, some faculty members are using and experimenting with ChatGPT in liberal arts writing courses, in the biology department and in workforce education.

“We’re sending students out into the workforce where this is going to be something they’ll need to learn how to use and they’ll need to learn how to use it well, how to recognize mistakes, that it makes flaws, and its arguments… those sorts of things,” Scott said.

Scott also said one of her ACC instructional dean colleagues used ChatGPT to create a template for support letters.


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