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ISU academic head advises ‘vigilance not fear’ as education adapts to ChatGPT

A ChatGPT prompt is shown on a device near a public school in Brooklyn, New York, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023.
Peter Morgan/AP
A ChatGPT prompt is shown on a device near a public school in Brooklyn, New York, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023.

The new artificial intelligence program ChatGPT has educators concerned that its ability to write impressive long-form narratives will tempt students to use it to do their homework and write their research papers.

Created by San Francisco-based AI developer OpenAI, ChatGPT is able to generate human-like responses to prompts in a matter of seconds.

Aondover Tarhule, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Illinois State University, said the university has produced a guide to help faculty betterunderstand what is known about ChatGPT, adding education is still figuring out the technology's potential and its pitfalls.

“Each time something new comes up first there, is some fear and anxiety and concern and rightly so. We have lots of reasons (to be concerned),” Tarhule said. “My advice is let’s be vigilant. We’ve been here before. This requires vigilance but not panic.”

Andover Tarhule
ISU provost Aondover Tarhule

For now, Tarhule said faculty are discouraged from letting students use ChatGPT for their coursework.

“We would much prefer the students don’t use it to answer questions,” Tarhule said in an interview on WGLT’s Sound Ideas.

Tarhule predicts a vast majority of ISU students won't use ChatGPT to cheat. He said students from earlier generations had calculators, the internet and Wikipedia as forbidden homework aides, so he said those temptations are not new.

He advised instructors could reduce the risk of cheating by requiring more in-class exams and writing assignments.

Tarhule said he sees a day when artificial intelligence will be a positive force in the classroom as the technology improves accuracy and educators adapt to its capabilities.

He likens the AI program to calculators or the internet, saying, “it doesn’t mean they’re (students) any dumber, it just means it has freed them from that part of the work so they can deploy their intellect. I think this will be the same.”

Tarhule recalled his own time as a Ph.D. student, having to write out computational code while students today can just build on existing databases to build something better — an area he believes ChatGPT could prove useful to students, while still maintaining academic integrity.

The technology may lead to some jobs being lost, he said, but it might also create new technologies and industries.

“We’ll have to be very thoughtful and very careful in how we deploy it. Like all of those past technologies, it’s exactly the same concerns … I fully expect that AI, we’re going to learn its potential, its limitations, and work out the disadvantages and it can become a useful tool," he said.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
Erik Dedo is a reporting and audio production intern at WGLT. He joined the station in 2022.