The first AI program was written in 1951. And the introduction of AI into education could be traced back to the 1970s. For a couple of years now, we have been seeing a few use cases of AI such as virtual assistants, chat bots, driverless cars etc.
However, it wasn’t until recently that we were forced to take notice of the power of AI. OpenAI released ChatGPT on November 30, 2022. Since then, it has acquired more than 100 million users in a span of only 3 months recording the highest user growth rate ever. Based on Generative Pre-trained Transformer Version 3, ChatGPT is a language-based model that generates text in a conversational format. Just like humans.
This was the biggest differentiator between ChatGPT and the AI tools that preceded it. We can chat with it just the way we would do with another human being.
People who used it couldn’t stop themselves from talking about it, which explains the explosive growth of users.
It can write essays, summaries, emails, stories, recipes and more. It could even write in somebody else’s style. The list of what we can do with ChatGPT is endless with each day hundreds of new use cases being discovered around the world.
It is natural for every industry to think about the impact ChatGPT could have on the way they work, the jobs and so on. Education was no different.
Writing being one of the core components of learning, ChatGPT has had a polarizing effect on the educational fraternity around the globe.
On the one hand was the side that felt ChatGPT is threatening the very foundations of teaching-learning mechanism. Whereas, on the other side was the group that thought ChatGPT and AI will revolutionize education for the better by becoming a powerful ally for students and teachers.
Let’s rationalize the arguments from both sides, and see where we end up.
ChatGPT in Education — boon or to be banned?
Many education leaders and experts fear ChatGPT will produce a generation of students lacking in the skills of writing, reading, comprehension, logical thinking, critical thinking and problem solving to name a few. Mental and intellectual growth of a child may be compromised as they could now get any answer, essay, summary — handed to them on a silver platter by the tool.
This can lead to many new challenging scenarios that didn’t exist before, which has forced several schools, colleges and universities in the US and France to exercise a strict ban on ChatGPT. In India, Bangalore’s RV University was the first institute to exercise ban the tool. Recently, India’s CBSE officially announced that mobile, ChatGPT and all other electronic devices are prohibited in the exam halls. Some universities have also stated expulsion as the consequence of not adhering to the ban.
Let’s take a look at the grounds on which the ban was executed.
ChatGPT is trained on the data from the internet. Now, students have been relying on internet for their essays and assignments for a long time now. However, they had access to the source of information which helped them gauge the reliability and authenticity of the content.
With ChatGPT, the source of content is not visible to us (in the current version) which makes it impossible for us to estimate how reliable the information is.
Here are some of the content challenges students can expect when using ChatGPT.
As the content used by ChatGPT can be sourced by any website, we cannot expect everything it says would be 100% accurate.
Another concern is the validity of the content. Current version of ChatGPT is trained about the events that have occurred up to September 2021. It doesn’t have any information about the events that have occurred since then.
- Inappropriate, Offensive & Biased
The users of the current version have come across inappropriate, biased and offensive content time and again.
Plagiarism / Cheating
With everything available within a fraction of sections, it can be too tempting for students to not directly use the content generated by ChatGPT for their essays, summaries and other kinds of assignments. Often, university students find themselves struggling to meet the submission deadlines. And ChatGPT might seem to be a saviour.
This is a grave challenge as some universities weigh in the performance in assignments and assessments to calculate the final grade of a student. This can lead to an unfair and rigged educational system where students’ understanding could take a massive hit.
For young school and college students with packed schedules and no time to spare, ChatGPT can be a potential source of distraction resulting in the wastage of precious hours they could spend on productive tasks such as playing, spending time with parents or engage in physical activities.
According to many educators, the ban is justified as ChatGPT poses a severe threat to education. But, how do we measure the effectiveness of the ban? Blocking the site might work on campuses and on the devices issued by the institute. However, that doesn’t stop students from using ChatGPT in their homes or on other devices. In fact, bans could lead to more number of students cheating the system than they would otherwise.
AI is here to stay
Every time, something new and big is released and offered to the world—whether it was television, telephone, smartphone or social media—they were surrounded by endless apprehensions from society. Every coin has two sides and every new invention will have two kinds of people using it—the users and abusers.
By 2024, it is estimated that AI in education will be worth $6 Billion industry.
Microsoft, one of the largest technology companies in the world, has invested more than $12 Billion in OpenAI and has already rolled out its Bing integration with ChatGPT. They have announced that soon they would be integrating ChatGPT with a host of Microsoft products including MS Teams, MS Office and more. Google and Meta have been reported to be working on their own AI tools using generative models on a par with ChatGPT.
Therefore, it’s safe to say that AI is not going anywhere. With time, it will only get more intertwined with our day-to-day lives. Keeping students away from it is like asking them to solve a puzzle without revealing all of its pieces. This is a great time for us to enable our students to get acquainted with using AI applications and mastering how to use them.
Looking through the positive lens
While there is no perfect solution, there is a workable solution that minimises damage and maximises benefits.
What if we find a way to integrate the positive use cases of ChatGPT in education while educating students and teachers about the negative benefits? Perhaps, this could be better understood when we look at a few positive use cases.
Improve Quality of Understanding
Imagine you are reading a book and you come across a term that’s totally new to you. You have somebody next to you whom you can instantly ask what the term means, they explain it to you and you continue with your reading. ChatGPT is this person who’s ready with answers for all your questions. It will not throw a list of URLs that you need to scroll through and open to find the answers—it will give you the answer.
This could help students gain a deeper and lasting understanding of concepts and theories, especially those that are time agnostic.
Put an end to Rote Learning
Majority of our examinations still test students’ memory as opposed to understanding. With ChatGPT and with the answers readily available, the focus will shift away from memorization to thorough understanding which can be a game-changer for education. It’s an opportunity for examiners to design questions that assess students on their level of understanding and not their ability to reproduce what’s there in the textbooks.
Personalized & Independent Learning
ChatGPT is adaptive and learns about the preferences of its users. For example, it’s capable of regenerating its responses as many times as we want. If a student is unable to understand the explanation provided in the first response, they can ask it to regenerate the responses until they understand the concept fully. Also, when something is explained in different ways, the retention and recollection improve.
ChatGPT is a perfect tool to acquire personalised learning which is practically impossible to achieve through in-person teacher training. Its scalability and adaptability can be a powerful weapon to increase the quality of learning in our educational institutes. We can leverage this power in places where there’s little to no access to skilled teachers.
Create skilled writers
ChatGPT can correct the grammar and language of any select chunk of text, which enables students to understand how they need to improve their writing capabilities. Students could also learn the nuances of a language better by asking meaning, grammar rules and even ask feedback on their essays and writing.
Unique Assignments & Assessments
ChatGPT would be immensely helpful to teachers to obtain innovative ideas for application-oriented assignments that encourage students to apply their learning as opposed to merely summarising or writing essays. It does a great job at providing a good combination of application-based activities even for classroom delivery proving to be a great ally for teachers while lesson planning.
Opportunity to deliver real value through education
One of the positives effects of ChatGPT is that it has got us thinking. If educators fear their roles might become extinct and if we fear students could easily cheat the system and get away with it, it’s time to think about the structure and value of our education system.
We have to think of ways of imparting real value to students through activities that cannot be replicated by AI, but require the students to employ their critical, abstract and logical thinking skills.
First-hand training for students for such disruptions
Several industries today have started using AI and ChatGPT to get their work done which has left workforces wondering if their jobs would be replaced by bots. Training students to use ChatGPT now would prepare them to face such disruptions in the future, and teach them the importance of human skills and how they could hone them to make themselves stand out. Because with technology progressing so rapidly, such disruptions are simply inevitable.
Tool to tackle inequalities in education
After recognising the role of AI in addressing the problems of inequalities in education, UNESCO has published a document for education policymakers around the globe, which aims at educating them on the different possibilities of integrating AI in education and using it to achieve equitable access to knowledge and research, without widening the technological divide between nations.
Education With or Without AI?
Today, nobody knows the potential of AI and what it might be capable of doing. However, if we don’t embrace it now, we will be forced to do that at some point in time in the future. And that time will come sooner than we imagine. As the role of education is to prepare students for their future, restricting them from using AI is both counterproductive and unwise.
OpenAI is implementing measures to eliminate the current problems of bias and offensive content through techniques such as debiasing and adversarial training. The process of segregating and labelling abusive and harmful content as such is also underway, all efforts indicating that the AI tool will get better with time.
Therefore, the best way forward will be the one where we educate students by steering their attention to the loss of learning they would suffer if they use ChatGPT in unethical ways. We should enable them to see beyond assignments and grades and into their future, where they would be expected to apply their learning. This can be achieved through proper training and guidance.
Meanwhile, the educators and education policymakers have the job of redesigning the curricula to make it more valuable by focusing on the development of skills and traits which will have great value in the upcoming future.