Using Artificial Intelligence in the Classroom

Created by Laura Schmidli with contributions from Molly Harris, Alison Caffrey, Antonella Caloro, Jonathan Klein, Luis Loya, David Macasaet, Erika Schock, and Parker Story.

In December 2022, ChatGPT made headlines. This new conversational artificial intelligence (AI) program (or chatbot) has many in higher education discussing AI’s potential threat to our work and purpose. It has inspired both awe and fear. To read more, see References and Further Reading.

Like with any new technology, one approach instructors can take in the classroom is to transparently make use of it. This allows you to move beyond stress over whether or not students are using AI, and instead have a voice in when, why, and how you and your class use it. You can even invite students to consider and explore AI with you (Tufekci, 2022). Although this approach may not work or be right for all instructors and courses, this strategy has the advantages of encouraging student participation in a larger societal question and helping students to develop their own ethical grounding and practical understanding of academic integrity related to AI.

Now Available!

The L&S Exchange Podcast: Episode 1

ChatGPT has caught the attention of L&S Dean Eric Wilcots. Hear about this and more on the first episode of the L&S Exchange Podcast.

Steps to Consider

  1. Reflect on the threats and opportunities you perceive for your teaching and work from AI. People have raised concerns for student academic integrity as well as for the longer term impact on student motivation, engagement, and knowledge retention. However, there are also potential benefits. AI may save time and effort on routine tasks, provide a new perspective on a problem, or generate content that can be analyzed or critiqued.
  2. Test AI out for yourself and consider its strengths and weaknesses.  If you are able to, chat with ChatGPT during its open testing phase or try other AI language models. (Note: ChatGPT requires creating an account using an email address and phone number, and will only be available for free testing for a limited time.) If provided with a prompt or assessment question from your class, how does the AI perform? What is it good at, and where does it struggle? For example, currently ChatGPT can write with correct grammar and confident flow, but cannot create accurate citations or write with much depth. This is because it creates word patterns, with some variability or randomness, but does not generate meaning (Warner, 2022). ChatGPT is also limited to producing about 5 paragraphs of writing at once, and cannot currently produce complex code or reliably perform accurate mathematical calculations (Wolfram, 2023). However, it can be asked series of questions to iteratively produce better work. See OpenAI’s guidance for designing prompts for ChatGPT.
  3. Consider revisions to your assignments. Making your questions more personal, reflective, specific, local, or complex (i.e., requiring higher order thinking) may make it more difficult for student to use AI to adequately complete. But more importantly, these changes can make your questions more interesting and valuable to your students.
  4. Consider data and privacy policies. Before using ChatGPT or any other third party tool in the classroom, instructors and students should review the data retention and privacy policies. For ChatGPT, the OpenAI FAQ is helpful. Using ChatGPT requires creating an account using an email address and a cell phone number. When designing an assignment where students can use ChatGPT, always provide an alternative for students who don’t want to share their data with a third party tool (i.e., students shouldn’t have to share their data to be successful). Alternatives could include making part of the assignment optional, the instructor engaging with the AI on behalf of students, students using a different AI language model that does not require personal information, or students using another supplemental source (e.g., interview with a person, responses on social media, review article, etc.) in place of ChatGPT.
  5. Identify and communicate opportunities in your course. Some students are already using AI on their own. By acknowledging and working with AI, we can guide students in considering the capabilities of these tools, surface differing opinions among students around fairness, and help them align use of these tools with their own ethical frameworks.

Next, read the crowdsourced ideas below to help you consider opportunities in your own course. 

Considerations for Teaching & Learning Writing

UW-Madison’s Writing Across the Curriculum staff have collaborated to draft guidance for instructors on supporting student writing practices in an age of AI, which will evolve as campus guidance and policy changes. Please see AI-Generated Text: Considerations for Teaching & Learning Writing.

Share Your Ideas for Using AI

We’d love to add your knowledge to this guide. What plans, ideas, questions, or concerns do you have for using AI in your classroom?

Share Your Idea

Join a Discussion on ChatGPT

The Teaching Academy is hosting a conversation about ChatGPT and teaching and learning on Friday, February 24. This conversation is open to all, and will take place via Zoom.

Learn More and Register

Exploring Capabilities and Limitations of AI in Your Classroom

Ask 20 Questions of AI: In small groups, students collaborate to write 20 questions for a text-generating AI about how it works. In a larger group, they consider what the AI’s responses mean for academic integrity, authority, validity, trust, or other important ideas in your course. 

Analyze AI Perspectives: The instructor asks the text-generating AI to respond to a prompt as a specific person – e.g., a historical figure. Students then critique the AI’s response, drawing on their interpretation of the person’s perspective. 

Predict Where AI Excels: Individually students construct one question or prompt on a specific topic that they think text-generating AI can respond to successfully, and another prompt or question they think AI responds to unsuccessfully. In a larger group, students share their work to identify characteristics of prompts to which AI struggles to respond.

Compare Exam Questions: Individually students write one multiple choice exam question and ask text-generating AI to write a second. In a larger group, students analyze which submitted questions are AI-written, which are human-written, and evaluate which provide a better assessment of learning.

Evaluate AI Output: The instructor uses AI to generate work, like a thesis, short analytical paper, theater dialogue, computer code, image, or even musical composition. In groups students analyze the sample work created by AI, with particular attention to evidence, sources, perceived bias, or other important elements for your course. Students can then revise it for improvement in groups, and share back revisions for comparison.

Integrating AI into the Writing Process in Your Classroom

Rubric Calibration with AI Writing: The instructor uses AI to generate an essay, thesis, or other written work. Groups then use a rubric to evaluate the AI’s work, and suggest changes or improvement to the rubric. This can help students think about how they define high-quality work, and how a rubric might help identify AI-generated work. 

Planning and Evaluating AI Use: Students create a plan for using AI within a specific assignment, like a scaffolded research paper, where they articulate for which steps it is valuable and appropriate to use AI, and when original thought and creativity are needed and why. This activity works best when sequenced with other activities that explore AI capabilities.

AI Drafting Process: Students use AI to generate a draft of a simple writing assignment. Students then analyze the AI’s writing, focusing on accuracy, bias, or other characteristics important in your course. You may also ask students to improve the AI’s draft to complete a second draft.

 

AI Feedback: Students ask AI to evaluate an initial draft of a short writing assignment, asking AI to focus on a specific element. Students then incorporate any valuable feedback into their work, and share their revisions with a small group. This can help students get another perspective on writing quickly, while encouraging them to consider that feedback critically.

Writing with Images: Students or instructors use image-generating AI as part of a reflective writing, freewriting, or creative writing process in any language. Students can use AI to quickly visualize descriptions from their writing, or students or instructors can use AI to generate images that prompt elaboration in writing.

AI Thesis Revision: Students use AI to quickly generate thesis statements on a variety of topics. Individually students revise these statements and share two that are strongest to a group for feedback, including what prompts they provided the AI and what revisions they made to each statement. Students use AI to “get started” by quickly generating ideas, and then leverage their own skills to refine and improve.

Citing AI: If students are using AI in your class assignments, discuss if and how AI should be cited. For example, students may cite it as a source or disclose their use of it in a disclaimer, footnote, or appendix that includes the prompts they created. For AI-generated images, users should consider tools like Stable Attribution to provide attribution to human artists. For specific help, Ask a Librarian or contact your Subject Librarian

Establishing Norms and Boundaries for Using AI in Your Classroom

Co-create Class Expectations: Students collaborate to suggest “ground rules” for using AI within a specific course or assignment. As a class, consider specific tasks where AI is helpful, tasks where AI is unhelpful, when students and instructors think using AI is cheating, and if and how students should cite AI in their work. Ultimately the class will produce documented expectations with the instructor for using AI.

Structure an AI Discussion: Based on the “structured academic controversy” model, students are assigned a stance related to using AI in the classroom. Groups collaborate to develop arguments for one perspective and take turns presenting while the other team listens actively and then summarizes the arguments they heard. Individually or in a large group, students then reflect on what they learned, how their personal stance may differ from the stance they were assigned, and whether or not their personal position has changed.

Make Instructor Expectations Clear: Whatever your aims for using (or prohibiting) the use of AI within your classroom, make your expectations clear to students at the semester’s start. This may include adding a statement to your existing academic integrity statement, and reviewing expectations with students in class. Students should also have the option to not use any tool that requires personal information shared with a third party not contracted by the University.

Connect with Help

We are happy to connect with instructors about using AI in your classroom, designing assignments, or brainstorming solutions for your course.

Schedule a Meeting

AI & Academic Misconduct

We recognize that the advancement of AI creates concern about academic integrity enforcement. While the focus of this guide is different, the following resources may be helpful when you suspect students are using AI to bypass work.

References & Further Reading

Acknowledgements

Thank you to Dorothea Salo, Dave Bloom and other UW Libraries staff, several anonymous commenters, and IDC team members for crowdsourcing and discussing these ideas.

Published January 5, 2023
Last updated January 31, 2023

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

How to Cite and Re-Use this Guide

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. This means that you are welcome to adopt and adapt content, but we ask that you provide attribution to the L&S Instructional Design Collaborative and do not use the material for commercial purposes.

Example attribution: From Using Artificial Intelligence in the Classroom by the L&S Instructional Design Collaborative, licensed under the BY-NC 4.0 license.

Example APA citation: Schmidli, L. (January 5, 2023). Using Artificial Intelligence in the Classroom. L&S Instructional Design Collaborative. https://idc.ls.wisc.edu/guides/using-artificial-intelligence-in-the-classroom/