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A complete guide to support students in using AI

Nhi Nguyen
Rebecca LeBoeuf
Rebecca LeBoeuf
May 2, 2023
Table of Contents

The introduction of ChatGPT has sent higher education into a whirlwind over the past months. And it is certain that this chatbot, as well as other AI generative tools will be here to stay.

“How can I prevent students from cheating with AI, and maintain academic integrity?” are perhaps the biggest questions that faculties wish to address considering this continuation. However, according to Andrew Pass and Pauline Valvo,

“…the real question that educational stakeholders must answer is: How can schools most effectively enable students to develop the necessary skills to use AI for their own meaningful purposes?”

AI technology emerged years ago and will continue to play an important role in our lives. Therefore, it is important that students develop understanding and skills to utilize AI in real life.

So how can faculties effectively assist students in exploring the potential of AI without compromising academic integrity? This article introduces a step-by-step guide to help faculties create and implement a successful AI introduction to students.

How to upgrade writing assignments in harmony with AI technology with practical strategies, success stories, and templates.
Join Cole Groom of FeedbackFruits and Patricia Luna of TAMU for an in-depth webinar exploring authentic assessment and how it can transform your approach to student evaluations

5 steps to introduce students to AI

1. Understand students’ perception towards AI

Before getting students to use AI, it is important to understand their attitude and knowledge regarding this technology. Such insights can be gathered via a pre-course survey asking students what they think about AI generative tools, what they use AI for, and if they think it is useful to integrate the tool into classroom.

The survey responses will reveal the existing questions, misconceptions and expectations of students regarding AI use, which helps faculties when designing curricula and guidelines.

For inspirations and suggestions on crafting student surveys, check out Ukrant’s survey on students’ attitude towards ChatGPT use.

Lance Eaton, writer, educator, instructional designer at College Unbound and his team launched an anonymous student survey to study the use of ChatGPT, while involving students in developing AI usage policy. They also thought about creating a credit course in which students can actively explore ChatGPT, and other AI tools.

2. Co-creating norms and boundaries in using AI

Adjusting classroom policies is considered among the top priorities of institutions when embracing AI technology. According to Dr. John FitzGibbon, Associate Director for Digital Learning Innovation in CDIL at Boston College, having clear policies regarding AI use brings a layer of transparency and honesty to students. They will be well aware of the specific tasks where AI is helpful or unhelpful; when using AI means cheating; how citation works, and more.

“Have specific policies, have them written in your syllabus and clearly laid out to students.”

Since setting AI norms is so important, why not involve students in the establishment process?

That is, instructors need to first help students identify the capacities and restrictions of AI tools: what they can and can not do. Dr. Fitzgibbon shares a great example of how he involved his students in discovering AI capacities. For each mid-term test question, he provided students with 4 answers (one of which was generated with ChatGPT) and asked them to choose which one is the best. Most students went for the AI-generated option since it was well written with sufficient reasoning and information. It was then he pointed out that this answer is actually bad, due to lack of proper referencing or weak reasoning. By doing this, students are immediately aware of AI limitations and more critical of the AI-generated content. Dr. Fitzgibbon concluded:

“Just be transparent with students about AI. Here it can be an expert for these reasons. It's not good here. And then here's how my expectations of your work has changed. Or, like, here's how you can use ChatGPT in your own work in this course. I've been very clear with students about how ChatGPT should be used, its limitations, its positives, etc.”

After this, instructors can organize discussion panels where students collaborate to suggest “ground rules” for using AI within an activity or a course. They would consider the following questions:

  • Which AI tools should be used?
  • To what extent should AI tools be used in the learning process (e.g. brainstorming ideas, generating outlines, writing essays, etc.)
  • How can AI-generated content be cited?
  • What constitutes cheating, plagiarism and academic dishonesty when using AI?
  • What measures can be taken against violations of these policies?
  • In what ways do students expect instructors to work with/use/implement AI?

By the end of the discussion, it is expected that both instructors and students agree on the ground rules and produce documented policies to be used throughout the course.

For examples of policy statements created by different institutions, you can check the following resources:

3. Generate content using AI

Once universal policies and expectations have been established and clearly communicated, students are encouraged to utilize AI tools in content generation processes. At this stage, students are free to explore the capacities of AI in different activities with the help of instructors. But first, they need to learn to produce quality prompts for AI generative tools.

It is true that AI generative tools like ChatGPT can produce anything, from an academic essay, curriculum vitae, to coding script, promotional materials, speeches, short stories, and much more. However, we can’t just simply provide basic prompts then expect AI to deliver well-written products. Getting good writing out of AI requires curation of specific and elaborate prompts, and this should be emphasized and highlighted for students at the beginning.

Dr. Ethan Mollick, Associate Professor at The Wharton School provides a concrete instruction on how to produce effective prompts:

“Try asking for it to be concise or wordy or detailed, or ask it to be specific or to give examples. Ask it to write in a tone (ominous, academic, straightforward) or to a particular audience (professional, student) or in the style of a particular author or publication (New York Times, tabloid news, academic journal).” Use ChatGPT to boost your writing

Providing thorough instructions is important, but it is also crucial to let students explore generative AI themselves. Therefore, instructors should make it clear that students don’t have to strictly follow the guidance and have freedom to generate prompts in their own ways. By navigating the use of AI tools, students gradually grasp the “language that ChatGPT is using”, according to Dr. Mollick.

Now that student know how to produce good prompts, they can use AI in numerous writing activities, namely:

  • Create a writing draft: Students come up with prompts based on the writing assignment topic, then feed into AI tools to produce a writing draft of an essay, academic paper, resume, and more.
  • Brainstorm ideas: AI generative can help students overcome writers’ block by generating writing ideas for topics, suggesting sentences rewrite or paraphrasing, etc.
  • Revise their own writing: Students can paste their writing into ChatGPT then ask it to improve or provide suggestions in terms of tone of voice, audience, writing style, and more.

For more suggestions on how to guide students in prompts production, as well as ideas for AI activities, check out the resource below:

4. Critically evaluate the AI-generated content

It is easy for AI to create hallucinations or plausible facts, which are completely false content that look convincing. In other words, AI-generated content can be unreliable and students need to establish the ability to critically evaluate these responses.

Read more on how to avoid biases in AI content: How to Get an AI to Lie to You in Three Simple Steps

So how can faculties create opportunities to develop this essential skill?

After students generate content using AI, they should be asked to critically analyze these drafts and check every fact and claim mentioned. This can be done either individually or collaboratively. To make the evaluation process more fruitful, instructors should provide students with a rubric outlining the criteria when analyzing AI-generated content. University of North Carolina outlined a comprehensive set of evaluative criteria, namely:

  • Accuracy of information: Are there factual errors, outdated information, or inaccuracies due to biases in the AI-generated content?
  • Relevance: Does the AI-generated content align with the desired topics and prompts?
  • Quality: Does the AI-generated content have a logical flow, appropriate organization, and use correct vocabulary?

This self-evaluative step can be turned into a peer or group assessment activity, resulting in meaningful dialogues and diverse insights. Based on these insights and their own evaluation, students proceed to revise the AI draft individually or in groups. Throughout this activity, students are able to develop awareness of AI’s limitations, as well as the necessary skills to critically reflect on the AI-generated content.

Nathan Riedel, instructional technologist at Teaching Innovation and Learning Technologies (TILT) of Fort Hays State University shares several activity examples of AI content evaluation, which range from self, peer to group assessment.

5. Reflect on the AI generative process

Now that students gain further understanding of AI benefits and limitations, know how to use the technology, and critically evaluate AI content; it is time to summarize and reflect on these inputs.

That is, students produce an evaluation of their AI generative process by answering a number of questions:

  • New beliefs: What have you learned from generating content AI?
  • Establishing reliability: Did you use only AI tools when drafting the content or rely on other sources for input?
  • Benefits: How did AI benefit you in generating content?
  • Challenges: What problems did you face during prompt-craft? How did you deal with them (e.g. adjust prompt, or followup questions)?
  • Input biasing: If possible, share an example where you (intentionally or unintentionally) introduced bias to get the results you wanted during the prompting step.
  • Output bias: If possible, share an example where you suspect there is bias in the generated content.

The future may well be AI-driven, and it is important to ensure that all students learn how to be effective AI users, with the skills and knowledge to utilize AI to produce the desired outcomes, as well as critically analyze the AI-generated content.

Further resources

Resources and content to help you and your faculty successfully guide students in using AI tools:

  • FbF AI resources hub: A collection of resources on AI including articles, use cases, tools, and more that will help you and your faculty embrace AI technology (such as ChatGPT) in every teaching and learning aspect: from course design, assessment, technology adoption, to policy making.
  • Writing with ChatGPT journey: A 7-step framework detailing how educators can integrate ChatGPT into the writing process to stimulate AI literacy and feedback skills.
  • Considerations for using AI in the classroom: A collection of ideas on how to introduce students to AI, compiled by University of Wisconsin-Madison
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