Should AI be permitted in college classrooms? 4 scholars weigh in

One of the most intense discussions taking place among university faculty is whether to permit students to use artificial intelligence in the classroom. To gain perspective on the matter, The Conversation reached out to four scholars for their take on AI as a learning tool and the reasons why they will or won’t be making it a part of their classes.

Nicholas Tampio, professor of political science: Learn to think for yourself

As a professor, I believe the purpose of a college class is to teach students to think: to read scholarship, ask questions, formulate a thesis, collect and analyze data, draft an essay, take feedback from the instructor and other students, and write a final draft.

A man with glasses smiles.

Nicholas Tampio,
Fordham University

One problem with ChatGPT is that it allows students to produce a decent paper without thinking or writing for themselves.

In my American political thought class, I assign speeches by Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X and ask students to compose an essay on what King and X might say about a current American political debate, such as the Supreme Court’s recent decision on affirmative action.

Students could get fine grades if they used ChatGPT to “write” their papers. But they will have missed a chance to enter a dialogue with two profound thinkers about a topic that could reshape American higher education and society.

The point of learning to write is not simply intellectual self-discovery. My students go on to careers in journalism, law, science, academia and business. Their employers often ask them to research and write about a topic.

Few employers will likely hire someone to use large language models that rely on an algorithm scraping databases filled with errors and biases. Already, a lawyer has gotten in trouble for using ChatGPT to craft a motion filled with fabricated cases. Employees succeed when they can research a topic and write intelligently about it.

Artificial intelligence is a tool that defeats a purpose of a college education – to learn how to think, and write, for oneself.

Patricia A. Young, professor of education: ChatGPT doesn’t promote advanced thinking

College students who are operating from a convenience or entitlement mentality – one in which they think, “I am entitled to use whatever technology is available to me” – will naturally gravitate toward using ChatGPT with or without their professor’s permission. Using ChatGPT and submitting a course assignment as your own creation is called AI-assisted plagiarism.

A woman looks straightforward.

Patricia A. Young,
University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Some professors allow the use of ChatGPT as long as students cite ChatGPT as the source. As a researcher who specializes in the use of technology in education, I believe this practice needs to be thought through. Does this mean that ChatGPT would need to cite its sources, so that students could cite ChatGPT as a type of…

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