Some guidance for using AI in the classroom


Several technologies historically have impacted education. The introduction of the calculator altered ideas about learning, and now artificial intelligence is making educators rethink their methods. Graphic by Deb Berger.

Abram Anders is not shying away from the challenges artificial intelligence (AI) presents in the classroom. The English associate professor will teach the experimental course Artificial Intelligence and Writing this fall, using only AI.

"It is exciting and there is no better teaching and learning experience than when everyone is excited to try something new," he said. "It's clear that the future of writing will be drastically, dramatically influenced by these tools, and I want to be at the forefront of that to help our students be prepared."

Lean more

CELT hosts a monthly ChatGPT teaching talks series that began in January and continues through March. Anders' virtual presentation, "How to use ChatGPT to boost your research and teaching" is Feb. 20 (1-2 p.m.). Faculty with questions about AI and its use can email

One of the newest AI tools is ChatGPT. Launched in November 2022, it can generate text, computer code, images and more when asked questions by a user. The quality of its output separates it from other AI tools and has some educators across the nation worried it will do students' work for them. Some institutions have gone as far as banning it.

"It's artificial intelligence backed up with a database," said Matt Carver, Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) enterprise instructional technology senior manager. "It can't think critically and can only act on the sources it finds, mostly the internet. Those sources are extensive but limited."

University leaders, led by the provost's office, began meeting last month to address AI questions and provide guidance to help instructors address the use of AI by students and incorporate it into their teaching, if they choose.

Set expectations

Instructors can set expectations for students in the syllabus or on assignments by defining when and how AI can be used. Four examples for content-generating AI could be:

  • It's not allowed: Only content done by a student or as part of an assigned group is accepted.
  • It's allowed with appropriate attribution: AI-assisted work on some assignments is allowed when students clearly identify what parts of the assignment were AI generated and how it helped them.
  • It's allowed in limited instances: AI can be used to prepare for assignments by brainstorming, but students must show how it helped them reach the result.
  • Use is encouraged broadly: Students can use AI but must identify what parts it generated.

"It is important to be open and set expectations with students ahead of time," Carver said. "They are aware it is out there, and they are aware the faculty member knows about it."

When students use AI -- no matter how much -- they are responsible to ensure the information is correct. Carver said one of ChatGPT's biggest limitations is its database only goes up to 2021, making it unaware of current events.

Instructors can encourage or discourage its use by the type of assignments. Instead of testing students' knowledge through a written paper, they can use debate, student reflection or focus on current events. Instructors also can look at the amount of work and the timeline to complete assignments to not overload students and increase the possible use of AI.

ChatGPT poses a challenge for students who require accommodations because it is not designed for universal accessibility.

Embracing AI

Anders said the new course will have students use AI to generate multiple arguments and counterarguments on a topic leading to discussion. Students also will have AI generate text to evaluate things like tone and style.

He believes AI increases the important role of instructors, who must know how to use it effectively. It can benefit students who use it for some of the mundane tasks, allowing them to focus on more challenging aspects. Students still need to be able to understand what they are reading and learning to use AI.

For instructors looking to see how AI can benefit their teaching, Anders suggests trial and error.

"Use AI tools to do things you already need to do and find the spaces where it works and doesn't. That is the discovery of beautiful teaching moments," he said.

Using AI detectors

Instructors can use software to detect when students use AI, but Carver said most of the detection tools lag behind upgrades to AI. They're not as effective as, for example, tools to detect plagiarism, he said.