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Making ChatGPT Work for You

By Xi Lin, Steven Schmidt / April 2023

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Lately, those of us working in education cannot go a day without hearing something about ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence (AI) language model that can engage in natural language conversations with humans. It was developed by the company OpenAI and is based on the GPT-3 architecture, which is a state-of-the art deep learning algorithm that is capable of generating human-like responses to text-based prompts. Built on a massive corpus of texts, ChatGPT can produce coherent and contextually relevant responses to a wide range of inputs.

Much of the discussion around ChatGPT in academia has to do with issues related to academic integrity and plagiarism. Students could use ChatGPT to write papers and other course assignments for them.  ChatGPT can generate complete papers when given a prompt, and its responses can also be used in conjunction with students’ work to create a comprehensive paper. However, it is important to note that ChatGPT is not foolproof.  It may produce errors or inaccuracies in its responses, which would affect the quality of the work produced. It has rhythms that both instructors and students can come to identify over time.  While there are certainly a lot of problematic ways ChatGPT could be used by students, there are also some constructive ways instructors can integrate this tool in their teaching. Taking a proactive and positive approach to this type of technology can be beneficial to educators and their students.  Consider the following ways ChatGPT could be used in teaching. A few examples are noted below.

First, ChatGPT could be used to answer questions your learners have about course material, or it could be used to provide information on a topic you are covering in class. If you have assigned readings for a course, you could ask learners to pose questions to ChatGPT about the material. ChatGPT can be used very effectively to help clarify difficult concepts or to provide additional context. Additionally, ChatGPT can provide a more dynamic learning experience by offering a new perspective on the material that may be different from the instructor’s interpretation. This can encourage students to think critically about the material and broaden their understanding of the topic.

Second, instructors could design interactive lessons that involve ChatGPT. Specifically, educators could provide students with a set of prompts related to a topic and ask them to have a conversation with ChatGPT. For example, if the topic of the lesson is the American Civil War, students could be prompted to ask ChatGPT questions such as “What were the main causes of the Civil War?” or “What were the key battles of the Civil War?” ChatGPT would respond to each question, generating text-based responses that could help students reinforce their understanding of the topic. This could be a fun and engaging way to help students reinforce their learning.

ChatGPT can also serve as a discussion starter. Instructors could present students with case study-type examples of conversations between a person and ChatGPT on a particular topic, such as climate change or healthcare reform, and then ask students to discuss the validity and accuracy of the responses provided by ChatGPT. This could help students develop critical thinking skills and engage them in a dialogue about course material. That is, by questioning the responses generated by ChatGPT, students can learn to evaluate the reliability and credibility of different sources of information. They can also learn to identify biases and assumptions in the responses and develop strategies for verifying and validating information. Through this process, students can gain a deeper understanding of the topic and learn to engage in constructive discussions that consider different viewpoints and perspectives.

Finally, ChatGPT could be used to provide personalized learning experiences. Instructors could ask students to input their questions or topics of interest into ChatGPT, and have it generate responses tailored to their individual needs.  This could help learners feel more engaged and invested in their learning. Further, by providing immediate feedback to students, ChatGPT allows them to track their progress and identify areas where they need to focus their efforts. For example, an English language instructor can use ChatGPT to provide feedback on grammar and sentence structure, helping students to improve their writing skills. Therefore, integrating ChatGPT could provide students with a more dynamic and responsive learning experience, one that can adapt to their individual needs and preferences.

In summary, artificial Intelligence, like ChatGPT, is here to stay. Educators would be foolish to think they can keep AI out of their classrooms. Rather than fight against AI, instructors should demonstrate to learners that it can be used effectively as a learning tool. Instructors should also be proactive about posting guidelines for what constitutes proper and improper use of AI, such as ChatGPT, in their courses. Because learners will use ChatGPT and other forms of AI whether or not instructors approve, the best approach instructors can take is a constructive and proactive one that includes teaching students how to use these tools effectively and ethically.

About the Authors

Dr. Xi Lin is an associate professor in the Department of Interdisciplinary Professions at East Carolina University. Her research focuses on student engagement and interaction in online and distance learning and international students and faculty in the U.S. higher education. More information about her can be found at

Dr. Steven W. Schmidt is professor and program coordinator of the Adult Education Program in the College of Education at East Carolina University.  Dr. Schmidt’s research interests include online teaching and learning, workplace training and development, and cultural competence.  His research has been published in a variety of journals, and he has authored two books on adult education. In addition, he has been involved in leadership in the field of adult education for several years, including a term as president of the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education in 2014. 

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