ChatGPT Edu: A New AI for Higher Education

by | Jun 12, 2024 | Education

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The debate over artificial intelligence (AI) can often be broken down into two camps: Those who are afraid of what it might become, and those who embrace it and try to take advantage of its abilities.

In the world of higher education this became clear when ChatGPT was first made available to the public. The doubters tended to put the focus on how the technology might be misused. Students might use it to write a paper, for example, and schools would need to figure out another way to make sure students were submitting their own work. But there were also educators and institutions using ChatGPT to make their lives easier. Here’s a look at how colleges and universities have adjusted to ChatGPT…and also how ChatGPT has adjusted to colleges and universities using the technology.

The benefits of AI

In the time since ChatGPT was first released, schools have slowly adapted to the technology. Instead of placing a ban on it, which was the first reaction of some institutions, schools have taken the opportunity to update policies surrounding technology, identifying what does or does not constitute acceptable use of AI.

Some teachers and students, though, were taking advantage of what AI had to offer from the very beginning. Students used the technology for tasks like researching, summarizing information, and generating study guides for themselves. Teachers, meanwhile, also used AI to summarize information, and they used it to generate tests and assignments. Many teachers at all levels of education also used AI to generate lesson plans, and have developed some of what they’ve done into shareable resources.



Higher ed-focused ChatGPT

It is this kind of work that has led to the newest iteration of ChatGPT. ChatGPT Edu is specifically for higher education institutions, with the aim of giving students free access. The tool could be used for any number of education applications from tutoring to writing grant applications and reviewing résumés.

There is more privacy involved in the education version of the technology than in the publicly available ChatGPT, with the option of personalized large language models used to power the AI, and the Edu version’s conversations and data not being used to train the other AI models created by OpenAI.

Successful cases

ChatGPT Edu was built after universities had found success in some way using the enterprise version of the AI tool. Schools such as Columbia University, University of Texas at Austin, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Oxford, and Arizona State University provided input into its development. Some of their work with the tool included:

  • Students at Wharton completing their final reflection assignments through discussions with a GPT that has been trained on course materials.
  • An initiative at Columbia to integrate AI into community-based strategies to reduce overdose fatalities. This GPT reduces weeks of research work into seconds by analyzing and synthesizing large datasets to inform interventions.
  • The development of a language GPT at Arizona State for students to engage in German conversations suited to their language level while receiving tailored feedback.

ChatGPT Edu is able to respond to audio, visuals, and text in real time, allowing for the kind of tutoring interactions developers are hoping for.

Arizona State University was the first school to partner in the development of the technology. ASU asked for proposals on ways to use AI, soliciting the opinions of both faculty and students. Other schools have looked to that example as a way of introducing artificial intelligence into their technology work.

Not everyone is completely sold on use of AI at the college level. Arizona State has a number of task forces set up around AI: immediate input, long-term strategic planning, and AI ethics. A union representing Arizona’s three public universities also recently formed a subcommittee called “AI Concerns” where it is collecting feedback to present to university leadership.

ASU’s chief information officer stresses AI isn’t meant to replace existing faculty, only to augment the work they do. But that’s why the integration of AI isn’t all that different than other work involving data and analytics. One of the most important aspects is communication: figuring out what the goals of the technology should be, and making sure stakeholders from all parts of the organization are involved in those discussions. The more everyone is on board from the start, the easier it is to successfully integrate technology that could transform an organization for the better.

John Sucich
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