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Westminster community explores ChatGPT, examines artificial intelligence in higher education

Lucas Arico, a junior communication major, uses ChatGPT in the Data, Society and Decision-Making class Feb. 9 in the Bill and Vieve Gore School of Business. President Beth Dobkin said this kind of AI technology, and its use in education, is inevitable, in an interview on Jan. 3. Photo courtesy of Rylee Brown. Image description: A student uses ChatGPT on his computer.

ChatGPT has sparked discussions across the country about the role of artificial intelligence in higher education and how institutions are adapting their curriculum and teaching methods to this new platform, according to an article by The New York Times

Westminster College honors professor Julie Stewert said professors and students are experimenting with ChatGPT in the classroom. Stewart co-teaches Data, Society and Decision-Making with management professor Alysse Morton, and said they decided to implement ChatGPT in the course.

“We really want to play with [ChatGPT] in the classroom because that is the perfect space to explore what this means for us as people, students and professors,” Stewart said. 

The class seeks to explore the connection between data and the process of decision making, “with examples from a variety of fields used to illustrate its successes and failures,” according to the Westminster Course Catalog. 

Yovie Saiz Rodriguez, a senior psychology major and student in the Data, Society and Decision-Making class, said she used ChatGPT for the first time in this course. 

For a class assignment, Rodriguez said she prompted ChatGPT to write something involving two unrelated concepts. 

“I combined the topic of chicken noodle soup and a bad breakup,” Rodriguez said. “The poem that came out was really creative and I explored it a lot after.”

Rodriguez said she noticed similar patterns of wording as she generated more poems on new topics and the poems started to become less original. 

“I think it was really cool to be introduced to [ChatGPT] and cover the cool aspects as well as the danger behind [ChatGPT], and maybe how we can’t always rely on computers for everything,” Rodriguez said. 

ChatGPT In Action 

This new form of AI was created to perform in a conversational manner, making it easier for users to interact with and prompt the program, according to OpenAI, the creators of ChatGPT. 

The dialogue format makes it possible for ChatGPT to answer follow-up questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises and reject inappropriate requests, according to OpenAI. 

ChatGPT’s creators’ mission is to develop and research AI that “benefits all of humanity,” according to OpenAI’s About webpage.

Honors professor Julie Stewart said ChatGPT is the “newest iteration of one of those impressive computing capacities.”

“One element of [Data, Society and Decision-Making] is looking at the ways in which big data shapes our lives,” Stewart said. “Big data paired with artificial intelligence means big capacities.”

Big data refers to the exponential increase and availability of data in our world, according to the University of Wisconsin Data Science webpage. Stewart said she and management professor Alysse Morton are “intensely interested” in big data.

“[Big data is] everything from the way we think about small-scale decisions, about what to eat, where to go, where to live, all the way up to the really big decisions that are made on a societal level,” Stewart said.

Another part of the Data, Society and Decision-Making class includes looking at algorithms today and how a variety of fields are adjusting to fix algorithmic issues, according to Morton.

Morton said there are a lot of really interesting things to explore with ChatGPT, but algorithms are only as good as the data that is fed into them. 

“You should always check the work [ChatGPT] gives you,” Morton said. “It definitely gets a number of things wrong.”

Morton, who also teaches math courses, said she entered mathematical problems into ChatGPT and had an overall failure rate of 40%, answering 6 out of 10 correctly.

Faculty Discuss ChatGPT’s Capabilities

“I was instantly amazed, and somewhat bewildered and intrigued, by the capacity of this generative AI,” said honors professor Julie Stewart, who co-teaches Data, Society and Decision-Making with management professor Alysse Morton.

Stewart said she could imagine a ChatGPT connection between “almost every assignment I could give to a student.”

“From the perspective of a professor thinking about student work, ChatGPT is the ultimate shortcut, right?” Stewart said.

Yet, this new technology can be compared to computers and calculators, which were developed over time to do many tasks for people, according to Stewart. 

Stewart said, “I started to think about [ChatGPT] in those terms and thought, ‘Okay, this is not dissimilar to a calculator or something equivalent. What are ways we can use this technology to enhance learning to spark creativity?’”

Students could potentially use ChatGPT to draft a written assignment, but then work on the product to make it more personable, according to Stewart. Letting ChatGPT deal with more detailed work that doesn’t require deep thinking is another possible use, Stewart said. 

Stewart said she advises people to use ChatGPT intentionally and mindfully to avoid deconstructing the foundations of higher education.

“I think that there are techniques we can use to hopefully have our cake and eat it, too,” Stewart said. “There’s some great benefits that could come, there’s also some really big pitfalls that we could get into. It could really take the bottom out of higher ed.”

A screen recording depicts a student journalist asking ChatGPT to help write the headline and first two sentences of a story Feb. 5. This new form of AI was created to perform in a conversational manner, making it easier for users to interact with and prompt the program, according to OpenAI, the creators of ChatGPT. Video courtesy of Rylee Brown. Video description: A student enters text into an AI screen.

Westminster College’s Response to ChatGPT

Westminster College does not currently have an official press release about the school’s policies on ChatGPT, as of Feb. 24.

President Beth Dobkin said this kind of AI technology, and its use in education, is inevitable, in an interview on Jan. 3. 

“What I think we can do is adjust our teaching and expectations to create assignments that are still genuinely human,” President Dobkin said. 

Representatives from the Writing Center, Giovale Library and Computer Science will host a ChatGPT workshop on March 21 for faculty to learn more about the technology, how it works and how to meaningfully engage with it in a classroom setting, according to the Westminster campus calendar webpage.

ChatGPT has great applicability as a tool and will create adequate results, “but I don’t know if it will ever have that spark of innovation and creativity that comes from individuals,” according to President Dobkin.

President Dobkin said relying on ChatGPT to complete one’s school assignments is like any form of cheating. 

“It really compromises the person that’s using [ChatGPT] to cheat more than anybody, right?” President Dobkin said. “Because you’re not learning what you need to learn when you take shortcuts.”

ChatGPT in Salt Lake City Higher Education 

The University of Utah released official statements and guidelines for using ChatGPT Jan. 28, according to a press release from the U. 

“If students choose to use these tools in some capacity related to creative work, they must make evident any portion of the work generated by the AI tool and which AI tool they used,” according to a U press release addressed towards students. 

The press release also said faculty members will provide specific policies relating to the tools and their courses, according to the U press release

Salt Lake Community College does not have an official statement on ChatGPT policies as of Feb. 10, however an employee training program will take place Feb. 24, with a breakout session titled “Keep Calm and ChatGPT: Let’s Talk about Artificial Intelligence and Student Writing,” according to the SLCC campus event page

The event is for newly hired and past employees to celebrate company accomplishments as well as reflect on the college’s current strategic plan, according to the SLCC campus event page


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Rylee Brown(she/hers) is a senior Communication major with a minor in Spanish. She is a reporter and the Business and Advertising Manger for the Forum. In her free time she also works as a social media manager for local business, loves to spend time with her siblings, playing board games with her fiancee, and traveling whenever she can.

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