ChatGPT: How to adapt your courses for AI?

Nhi Nguyen
Rebecca LeBoeuf
Rebecca LeBoeuf
January 3, 2023
Table of Contents

ChatGPT has no doubt taken the world, especially everyone within the education sector by storm, with its ability to generate full essays, scripts, discussion prompts, even an entire novel. 

Institutions are going through a period of hardship, as faculties are unprepared regarding both policy and pedagogy to address the impact of ChatGPT in particular, and AI transformers in general. Educators express concern over the negative impact of the chatbot on student learning. Jenna Lyle, a spokesperson for the New York City Department of Education explains the decision to ban the use of ChatGPT

“While the tool may be able to provide quick and easy answers to questions, it does not build critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, which are essential for academic and lifelong success,” 

Discussions surrounding the impact of ChatGPT and its implication have exploded in every teaching and learning forum. One of the biggest concerns emerged is how faculties can adapt courses that embrace AI, both short-term and long-term. There are many ways educators can incorporate AI technology into the curriculum. In this article, we will explore several suggestions to embrace ChatGPT as well as other AI tools in every aspect of course design: from writing course guidelines and instructions, planning  activities, to developing assessment practices. 

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1. Crafting course guidelines with AI in mind

According to Linda Lee, Director of Instructional Design at the Wharton School, flexibility should be the key when crafting course policies. Providing flexibility encourages a growth mindset among students, thus enhancing their lifelong skills and success in the future. 

Flexibility is shown when deciding on deadlines, attendance requirements, and especially technology use. Instead of prohibiting the use of AI transformers, faculties should go to great lengths to help students understand the pros and cons of ChatGPT, and to what extent they should utilize the tool to assist their learning. Furthermore, emphasizing that any form of cheating (including the use of chatbots or AI technology) is unethical.

Most importantly, both faculties and students need to develop a thorough understanding of AI transformers, their capacity, challenges, and potential in education. Several  institutions have taken creative approaches to cultivate such understanding. 

For example, Lance Eaton, writer, educator, instructional designer at College Unbound shared that his team launched an anonymous student survey to study the use of ChatGPT, at the same time  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. Creating growth-oriented and skill-based activities

ChatGPT doesn’t put an end to college essays, it changes how the writing activities should be designed to embrace AI technology. 

Nancy Gleason, Associate Professor at New York University Abu Dhabi remarked in her piece on ChatGPT: 

“It is the broader implications for higher education that we need to confront. ChatGPT means universities can no longer look the other way or take a band-aid approach to AI writers. Big changes are needed, fast.”

If institutions  want to achieve an equitable, inclusive, and responsive learning environment, then it is important that faculties keep upgrading, and diversifying the activities and assessments. 

“We need to embrace these tools and integrate them into pedagogies and policies. Lockdown browsers, strict dismissal policies and forbidding the use of these platforms is not a sustainable way forward.” – Nancy Gleason

Below are some suggestions to help educators design quality, diverse activities that motivate students to engage, and learn.

Replace traditional writing assignments with authentic tasks

Create and facilitate authentic activities that make use of multimedia content, while catering to diverse learning needs and encouraging skills development. Tasks such as podcast production, peer feedback, debates, interviews, research, and more are effective alternatives to traditional essays. 

Astrid Van Weyenberg, lecturer at Leiden University successfully implemented the podcast method that activates students’ motivation, engagement and deep understanding of the content in the blended classroom. 

It is also important to highlight the skills, competencies students can achieve after completing the tasks, and let them know there are opportunities for growth and improvement. If students understand this, they will actively engage in learning without seeking other easy ways to finish the assignments. 

“Show your understanding, and welcome growth among the students.” This is what Dr. Kim Chappell, Associate Professor at Fort Hays State University emphasized when discussing how to create a growth-oriented learning environment. And she also shared how she transformed the instructions of her discussion activity from merely an information-based assignment to a growth-oriented one. 

Her old discussion post asked students to provide a 150 to 200-word post answering “What's meant by the terms, scholarship and rigor?”, and respond to others’ contributions. Grades are assigned based on each element students accomplish. And the assignment turned out to be extremely time-consuming to grade, as remarked by Dr. Chappel. She said: “Do you know how much effort it took me to score every discussion post? It was insane, it was more than grading a 10-page paper.” 

As Dr. Chappell shifted her focus to growth-oriented learning, so did her assignment. The discussion activity now requires students to reflect on their own experiences when explaining the concepts, and they are graded holistically based on performance levels instead of numerical grades. 

“The levels of performance range from ‘needing intervention’ to ‘exemplary’. They're progressive in nature, intended to develop you as a thinker and a writer. As you progress through the course. The final level of performance you obtain is entered into the gradebook. So I tell them right out the gate, I'm expecting them to grow.” – Dr. Kim Chappell

Below are the 2 versions of the Discussion Post activity, provided by Dr. Chappell: 

1st version 

Discussion Post – Module 1: 

What is meant by the terms scholarship and rigor? 

Explain these in 150-200 word post. Be sure to respond to two others posts. 


  • 5 points of initial post
  • 3 points for each posting to classmates 
  • 1 point for citations/ grammar
  • 1 point for length

2nd version 

Discussion Post – Module 1

Explain how the concepts of scholarship and vigor apply to the educational leader. Discuss your experiences with scholarship and vigor. Be sure to respond to classmates. 

From the syllabus: 

Discussions are graded holistically, and the level of performance is recorded, from needs intervention to exemplary. These are progressive in nature and intended to develop you as a thinker and writer as you progress through the course. The final level of performance you obtain is entered into the grade book at the end of term. 

Upgrade the writing assignment 

Start with application-focused instructions instead of informational ones. Requiring students to make connections between the knowledge and their own experiences, or application of a concept to a unique situation in their writing would make it more difficult for Chat GPT to generate an essay. 

Consider adding a self-assessment step to the writing process where students reflect, and evaluate their own performance based on criteria. This allows instructors to identify whether students really put effort into writing their essays. 

Again, instead of completely neglecting AI tools in the classroom, why not modify the activities in which students can actively engage with the technology, and use it productively and ethically.

Nancy Gleason provides a nice sample class activity, in which students work in groups to generate a research paper using ChatGPT then compare it to the original version. 

AI tools can also be used to help students overcome challenges in writing. Mike Sharples, Emeritus Professor of Educational Technology at The Open University suggested that instructors use AI transformers to generate several writing essays, then ask students to critically evaluate, and improve these. Not only are students presented with different ideas and structures, but they also sharpen their critical thinking. 

Another helpful teaching approach is turning AI into writing assistants. In the case of ChatGPT, the chatbot can be used to help students explore new writing prompts and overcome writer’s block. There are also other AI technologies that can help students sharpen their academic writing. FeedbackFruits Automated Feedback tool provides instant formative feedback for students on their lower-order concerns (such as spelling, references, and grammar) to iteratively improve their writings before final submission.

FeedbackFruits Automated Feedback tool: generate instant feedback on academic writing
FeedbackFruits Automated Feedback tool helps generate instant feedback on academic writing

3. Utilizing alternative assessment practices

“Nobody learns, nobody gains. If ever there was a time to rethink assessment, it’s now. Instead of educators trying to outwit AI Transformers, let’s harness them for learning.” – Mike Sharples, in New AI tools that can write student essays require educators to rethink teaching and assessment

Here are some suggestions on how institutions can create holistic, inclusive assessments that nurture lifelong skills, and competencies. 

Trying out alternative assessments

The benefits of authentic assessment have long been proven, now it’s the time to scale and amplify this approach. In activities that require students to solve real life problems, and rely on their own experiences, ChatGPT can be of little use as it fails to generate proper response. 

At the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment of Deakin University, Dr. Tiffany Gunning and her team have been implementing a 2-year long, multi-faceted project to nurture career-readiness and lifelong skills, of which authentic assessment was a key component. In particular, the team implemented a team-based learning activity with assistance from technology to streamline the collaboration process, and group assessment. 

You can find more ideas about authentic assessment activities in these resources: 

Adopting holistic scoring strategies 

To help students develop a growth mindset, Dr. Kim Chappel has been using holistic scoring strategies. These strategies would be absolutely essential when designing assessment. 

Strategy 1: Use words instead of numbers

Instead of assigning a numerical grade, instructors should describe students’ accomplishment of each criteria with a word. Dr. Chappell uses “developing, proficient, and exemplary” to represent students’ performance. Assessment scores are calculated as an average of the rated criteria in the rubric. 

Example of growth oriented grading criteria by Dr. Kim Chappell
Growth-oriented criteria provided by Dr. Chappell

Strategy 2: Scoring over time

Create multiple scoring components that contribute to a final project. In other words, balancing both formative and summative assessment practices to show students that they are growing over time. 

Marnie Roestel, Associate Director of Learning System Support at Central Michigan University gave a wonderful advice on diversifying the assessments in course design: 

“Just depends on the goals and achievements of a particular assessment. Consider maybe changing the activity entirely where students work together, collaborate, learn from each other. Discuss a particular question, and arrive at the answer together.”

Strategy 3: Allow for resubmissions

Students will learn at a deeper level when they are working with materials over and over and over again. Most importantly, giving your students an opportunity to improve their work indicates that you expect and welcome them to grow.

“By doing this, you will start building a culture of growth within your courses.” – stated Dr. Chappell

Strategy 4: Use growth oriented rubric 

The rubric needs to show students the highest point they should reach, at the same time detailing what they must complete to achieve the indicated criteria. Dr. Chappell emphasized:

“It's not the amount as it is the quality. And that's the difference between a true growth oriented type of rubric.”

More resources 

AI technology is not a “one hit wonder” topic, as it promises to generate a long-lasting impact in education now and beyond. It is therefore important institutions start to get prepared regarding both strategies and pedagogy to embrace the potential of AI. To help you better understand, and catch up with this new wave as quickly as possible, we have compiled some resources. Hope you find these useful!

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