COLUMN: Pro-rector: It would be irresponsible of us to ignore ChatGPT
The artificial intelligence chatbot ChatGPT has caused a stir in educational settings all over the world, and, in January, AU reacted quickly by banning the chatbot in all exam contexts. But how should AU approach artificial intelligence in the longer term? We should be neither overly optimistic nor overly sceptical, says pro-rector Berit Eika in this month’s column by the senior management team.
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“Aarhus University prohibits the use of chatbot”.
This was the essence of several headlines that appeared in the media at the beginning of 2023. And it’s true – at AU, we regard it as cheating if a student uses the chatbot ChatGPT or other types of artificial intelligence to write their exam papers.
We must adopt a much more nuanced approach to artificial intelligence. Regardless of whether we fear it or celebrate it, we cannot afford to ignore it.
But, of course, this simple headline doesn’t tell the whole story. Because we need to adopt a much more nuanced approach to artificial intelligence. Regardless of whether we fear it or celebrate it, we cannot afford to ignore it.
This is why we are in the process of arranging a mini-conference for AU employees, during which we can discuss both the risks and potentials of ChatGPT and other AI models for our degree programmes. Because there are plenty of both.
On the one hand, we could view ChatGPT as a threat to our exam integrity and to our students’ ability to think independently and critically. But, on the other hand, we could see it as yet another digital tool – a kind of sparring partner whose shoulders our students could stand on in order to see further, to quote Isaac Newton.
ChatGPT is neither good nor bad in itself
Like all technology, ChatGPT is neither good nor bad in itself. Everything depends on how we use it. It makes no sense to be uncritically optimistic (we rarely are at universities). But we must also refrain from being overly sceptical and overlooking the potentials of this new technology.
In the 1980s, many accountants in America were nervous when Excel’s forerunner arrived on the scene. They worried it would automate accounting and render their jobs obsolete. But, in reality, the programme ended up streamlining their processes and freeing up resources, which increased the productivity of those who could use the technology. And, thankfully, the accounting profession still exists.
Holding ChatGPT at arm’s length would be irresponsible
If we attempt to keep ChatGPT at arm’s length, we will actually be evading our responsibility. Many of our students will have to use artificial intelligence in their professional lives, and we must of course prepare them for this – not only for the technological aspects but also for the legal, ethical and social aspects it involves.
But, before we get that far, we need to carefully consider how we should adapt our degree programmes, our exam formats and our teaching methods so that they take ChatGPT into account, as well as the other forms of artificial intelligence that will follow. This is a question that affects exam rules, didactic approaches and everything in between.
The arrival of ChatGPT has also sparked important discussions in our own academic fields. Even for those of us who are not part of the technological avantgarde, ChatGPT has given rise to interesting and fundamental questions about what education is, how it contributes to society, and what an exam certificate actually represents. With this in mind, I hope that many of you will be keen to discuss AI and the role it can play in education.