University professors dealing with onset of AI, ChatGPT usage among students

After roughly a quarter-century of teaching at Hamline University and University of Minnesota Law School Professor David Schultz is treating this fall semester as a grand experiment.

"Just type into your browser – Chat GPT – [it’s] really quite simple at this point," Schultz told FOX 9.

Teaching his students how to use artificial intelligence.

"Professors and administrators are like ‘Is this a new tool for cheating? Is this going to undermine the development of writing skills, analytic skills, etc. etc.,’" Schultz said. "So this is the big issue that is captivating higher education right now."

Starting by typing in simple questions, and quickly turning to more complex ones, Schultz is allowing ChatGPT and Artificial Intelligence [AI] to be used when students write assignments for his class, as long as they clearly state how they used it. He’s also driving home to point, AI needs to be used with caution.

"Right now I’m seeing AI as a new research tool, and how we learn that research tool in the classroom," Schultz said. "Much like cell phones. Cell phones are a distraction, but there’s ways you can turn them into a positive."

At Minneapolis College of Art and Design or MCAD, Chari of the Design Department, Erik Brandt show us how a couple of books, created by staff, used AI to create the images.

An analogy from a coworker, echoing in Brandt’s mind.

"He said if AI is a continent, North America, and all of us are a few people on the beach playing with some pebbles trying to understand the larger implications or what can be anticipated is one of the most revolutionary moments in human history."

So Brandt spent the summer crafting a policy that is now included in syllabi across MCAD. Cautiously embracing AI, future artists here are basically not allowed to use it, unless their professor makes an exception.

"Our initial concern was to reiterate we are trying to help you develop a voice we need to see evidence of your voice through your work," Brandt said. "Therefore, if you are generating work that is not your own, but claiming to be your own – that’s a no-zone. However, if there is an opportunity, sanctioned, and approved by a professor, or being explored through a class, then of course it’s going to be appropriate."

At the University of Minnesota, instructors have new guidance that is not one size fits all. 

Faculty are to make it clear in their syllabi whether ChatGPT or similar sites are allowed, limited, or prohibited. In all cases, students are to make it clear if they use it.

"It’s like any other source, it needs to be cited," says Katie Koopmeiners, Associate Director of the U of M’s Office for Community Standards.

Last year, the office received 460 cases of academic dishonesty with 107 stemming from online, some of which involved AI.

As of July 1, U of M is specifically tracking faculty reports of AI used inappropriately. 

"There are websites out there that offer AI detection, but those sites are not perfect," Koopmeiners said. "We never recommend professors to use one method of verification, but it’s kinda big picture."

Still, Schultz has no plans of changing his tolerance for students caught cheating in any way.

"If someone plagiarizes with me… I have a simple policy – you automatically fail the whole course. Not the assignment, I don’t want you in the class... you are out, and you fail," Schultz said.

Students we talked to seemed to appreciate the lesson, on how to use AI appropriately.

"I think it’s better we are using it… Rather than something we are not supposed to talk about or touch," says one student from Hamline.

"You definitely wouldn’t want to use it as your only source without double-checking it," says another student.

Hodo Mohamed, a senior studying political science and health at Hamline, was most surprised ChatGPT was being taught by an instructor at all.

"Even when I’m not using it for school… just loading in Chat GPT makes me feel like someone is watching and I’m not even doing anything and I’m doing something wrong," Mohamed said.

Schultz says the surprises teaching has brought him through the years is sometimes the best part

"I don’t know what I’m going to get. I have no idea what the results are going to be – good, bad, ugly, or how it’s going to pan out… Three or four different classes using it in three to four different ways. Let’s see what happens," Schultz said. "Nearly every workplace in America now is going to be thinking about this for the future, I want to give them some experience with it now."