Dr. Cristi Ford (00:00):
Welcome to Teach & Learn, a podcast for curious educators, brought to you by D2L. I’m your host, Dr. Cristi Ford, VP of Academic Affairs at D2L. Every two weeks I get candid with some of the sharpest minds in the K through 20 space. We break down trending educational topics, discuss teaching strategies, and have frank conversations about the issues plaguing our schools and higher education institutions today, whether it’s ed tech, personalized learning, virtual classrooms, or diversity inclusion, we’re going to cover it all. Sharpen your pencils, class is about to begin.
So, thank you listeners for joining us for a new episode of Teach & Learn. We are really excited about our guests today and our topic. If you have been like me, as an educator, who’s been following the news for the last several months, you see that ChatGPT is everywhere, in the news and commentary columns. But in case you’ve missed digging in, let me just offer a little background. GPT is focused around an AI language processing model that was developed by open AI and it really has the potential to generate human-like text and can be used in a variety of applications. This thing was trained on over 570 gigabytes of data. So, if you don’t know anything about generative AI, the type of AI that’s used in ChatGPT, it is in its infancy. And so open AI released ChatGPT in November but will be releasing another tool called ChatGPT-4, which is claiming to even have better opportunities to generate text.
And so, if you’ve heard a little bit about this generative conversation and we’ve talked a lot about the ways in which AI is infringing on our industry or educational industry, you knew that we had to come and talk to you about it. So before we jump in, listeners, today, I want to just take a moment to introduce both my guests. I want to start with you Dr. Bettyjo.
Dr. Bettyjo Bouchey is Associate Professor and Vice Provost of Digital Strategy and Operations at National US University. She holds a BA in Psychology from the University of Albany, an MBA in Entrepreneurship from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a MicroMasters in Instructional Design and Technology from the University of Maryland Global Campus and a Doctorate in Education from Northeastern University.
Dr. Bouchey is also the co-founder of the CORAL Research Collaborative, focused on online learning, leadership and scholarship. Shout out to you Dr. Bouchey in terms of the latest book that you just published. And her personal research interests include the nature and future of organizational structures of online units in institutions of higher education, as well as inventive and high impact pedagogical practices in online. Dr. Bouchey writes and is widely quoted in academic and popular press, and as you may find more about her work, you can go to her website, which is www.drbouchey.com. Dr. Bouchey, really glad to have you today.
Dr. Bettyjo Bouchey (03:07):
Great to be here.
Dr. Cristi Ford (03:09):
All right, I want to move on to my second guest, Dr. Antony Aumann, is the Professor of Philosophy at Northern Michigan University. Dr. Aumann joined the faculty of Northern in the fall of 2010. He’s also held positions at The Ohio State University, St. Olaf College and Fordham University. Dr. Aumann has a BA from Calvin College, an MA and a PhD from Indiana University. At Northern Michigan University he teaches courses in aesthetics, religion, and existentialism, and he coordinates the religious studies minor. His research focuses primarily on the writings of Kierkegaard, as well as issues in contemporary philosophy of art. And in 2023, Dr. Aumann was featured in the New York Times article front page story about the use of ChatGPT on college campuses. Antony, really great to have you, today, with us as well.
Dr. Antony Aumann (04:01):
Thanks so much for having me here, Cristi.
Dr. Cristi Ford (04:03):
So let’s just get right into it. Many of the controversies we are hearing today from educators in the field are from those who are immediately seeing the impacts and the possibilities of ChatGPT. In some instances we know that this is a game changer, and what I want to talk about today is how do we shift our pedagogy, our pedagogical approaches to address this massive shift? Are there new practices that faculty need to put in place? And so Antony, I’m going to start with you. You’ve been all over the media and the most notable New York Times article, and I’m aware you shifted some of your teaching practices. More specifically, the assessment approaches that you use because of ChatGPT. And I want to ask you, for our listeners, how do we respond to this new technology in a way that allows us to reconceptualize the ways that we assess our learners? And is there a need in higher education to update or push the boundaries of the assessment approaches that we’re using today?
Dr. Antony Aumann (05:06):
Thanks, Cristi. Yeah, I think there is a need for a kind of revolution because none of the initial responses that people are trying to ChatGPT, I think, are going to work. So, the old standby way of evaluating students is by having them write an essay, but now the chat can write a really great essay in 30 seconds. So, people are doing a bunch of different things. There’s four main strategies that people are pursuing, and I think none of them are going to work really.
So, the first big strategy is using AI Detectors, like Edward Tian’s software GPTZero, but the checkers are unreliable and it’s too easy to get around them. The second strategy is oral exams, which seems very promising, but doesn’t work in really large classes. The third strategy is going medieval and having students write exams with paper and pencil again. But frankly, that doesn’t work for this generation. None of my students can write very quickly or legibly for any period of time. The fourth strategy that people are trying is to focus on recent texts. So ChatGPT hasn’t been trained on anything since 2021, so it doesn’t have a lot to say about those things, but try using that strategy in a class on Plato and Aristotle. So we need some kind of revolution and, frankly, I’m not quite sure what the answer is.
Dr. Cristi Ford (06:29):
Interesting. So I want to ask you a follow-up question. I appreciate how eloquently you laid out the four different models. As you talk about in the article, what has been your approach to working in your classrooms and the work that you’re doing with philosophy? There’s a lot of argument and reasoning, and to your point, just asking students to write an article or write an essay may not be the right approach, but what are some of the things that you’re finding that you’ve had to mitigate for?
Dr. Antony Aumann (06:59):
So, what’s funny is that the chat is surprisingly good at doing philosophy. It’s not great with factual based disciplines. I think we’re going to talk about a little bit later, that it tends to make up facts, but disciplines that are largely based on reasoning and logic like philosophy, the chat is excellent at. So, one of the things that I’ve been doing is bringing the chat into the classroom, like ordinary discussion is just me and the students hashing it out about some ethical or religious issue. But now we’re also going to ask the chat, this thing that’s been trained on how many gigabytes did you say?
Dr. Cristi Ford (07:35):
Dr. Antony Aumann (07:37):
Yeah, and it often has really interesting things to say, not that we’re going to trust it totally, but as another partner in our dialogues.
Dr. Cristi Ford (07:46):
I appreciate that framing and I’m going to jump to Bettyjo now, because one of the things that I appreciate, I’d love to get your thoughts on. You wrote about how exciting ChatGPT could be in benefiting higher education, in LinkedIn piece that you published in December. And what I appreciated about your framing is, you mentioned specifically that it could improve online learning, offering personalized tutoring experiences, improving grading. And so can you just share with our listeners a little bit more about these topics?
Dr. Bettyjo Bouchey (08:16):
Sure, I’d be happy to. I think it sounds like Antony and I share a similar philosophy, pun intended, around sort of embracing the opportunity here. If I think about some of the things that we tend to spend a lot of time on in online teaching, it’s a lot of back and forth between us and our students, whether that’s through email, or discussion forums, or text messaging, or all of these different mediums that we might receive inquiries from our students, from and through. One of the cool things that we could be doing is training chatbots and, or, training a ChatGPT on our course and our subject matter so that students, particularly neurodivergent learners, could spend more time on a topic and, or, ask questions and receive answers in a slightly different way. Sort of similar to what we might think about for our teenagers when they hear it from someone else, it really resonates. Right?
So this could be a really nice opportunity for learners to hear it in a different way, hear it again, hear it sort of remixed in a way that finally has that light bulb sort of coming off for them. So I think that’s one application from a learning perspective that I find really compelling. The other piece is thinking about, again, back to that time management piece and online teaching that we all really sort of struggle with sometimes is, could we be using ChatGPT to help us provide more substantive and individualized grading feedback?
I think we’ve all been in that space where we have maybe 20, 30 papers to grade on a weekly basis thinking, “My goodness, how am I going to really spend that half an hour or so on each of these papers and still have a life outside of this course?” I took a paper that I had previously graded for a student and asked ChatGPT to provide some feedback on it, and I have to say it was much better than what I had provided to that student. So just a couple of examples there that I’ve really been chewing on lately that I feel really excited about.
Dr. Cristi Ford (10:46):
Yeah, I really appreciate hearing that you’re using it in those ways around the feedback. I guess I’d like to ask a little bit of a follow-up question because when you talk about, especially in the online realm for courses that are eight weeks or five weeks, the time commitment and how you’re using ChatGPT, can you just illuminate a little bit more on the kinds of feedback that were different and varied and what you saw in that paper example you shared?
Dr. Bettyjo Bouchey (11:13):
Sure. So what I found most striking about it, one was the accuracy of the feedback in terms of the alignment to what I would have said or what I did say in my grading feedback for that student. But it also took it to a next level and caught a couple of things that maybe I might have overlooked. One thing I will say, is that it’s not necessary to provide feedback on every single thing, that every student does, every time they do it. So I’m sort of thinking about the cognitive load of some of the feedback we might be providing, but again, I think there’s this real opportunity to have more of that actionable feedback that we’re providing to our students in perhaps even a more timely fashion than a human doing it, so that our students are really getting the benefit of that feedback perhaps faster, but also much more textured for them individually to make improvements for the following week.
So, if you do think about these accelerated formats that we tend to be really excited about in online six and eight week courses, if you’re spending a whole week grading all of those papers and discussions and everything else for a week, students have already attempted that next assignment. So if we could expedite that, they’ll get that feedback that much faster and be able to, hopefully, incorporate that for the following.
Dr. Cristi Ford (12:45):
I appreciate that.
Dr. Antony Aumann (12:46):
I have a follow-up for Bettyjo actually.
Dr. Cristi Ford (12:48):
Oh, go ahead.
Dr. Antony Aumann (12:50):
Because I’m really sympathetic to what you’re saying here in terms of the individualized nature of the feedback that the chat can provide and how rapidly. We know that feedback that’s given immediately after the attempt is much more valuable than whatever we provide a couple of weeks down the road. But when you say that the chat can do this, I hear the years of administrators peeking up and they’re going to be really excited that maybe the chat can do a lot of the work that faculty can do. So are you worried about, I guess I’m a little bit worried about the replaceability of my job if the chat’s going to do all the grading for me?
Dr. Bettyjo Bouchey (13:24):
Yeah. I love that perspective and the reason I love it is because I think it just generates a lot of really interesting dialogue around using tools like this as a first pass. And I tend to think about that not only potentially for faculty, but also for students. You still need the human beings with the real informed foundational knowledge to come in and say, “Is this right? Yes or no? What should I refine here? What’s appropriate?” Going back to that cognitive load piece around grading feedback, we don’t have to pick out every single thing that a student might need to improve every single week. Perhaps I got that feedback before and they’re still incorporating it.
So, I think to the extent that I understand the sort of fear that seems to be rooted in that concern, and I’m not saying you have that fear Antony, but just the global sort of conversation, I would say that what is cool about potentially offloading some of these first past kinds of tasks in teaching, is that it really frees faculty up for that one-on-one, individualized student conversation. So let’s find a way to, as much as possible, offload some of that heavy overhead, for lack of better words, in teaching. So we really free up our educators to do what they do best, which is establish relationships, put a safe learning environment in place, help these students move to that next level on an individual basis. So I guess that would just be my thought around that, Antony, I’m so glad you brought it up.
Dr. Cristi Ford (15:15):
Yeah, I wholeheartedly agree. Bettyjo, as you were talking, I thought about in my times of being an administrator or I think about a doctor or dentist that goes into the profession to help patients. They don’t go into that profession to spend time on billing and coding and dealing with insurance companies, right? They’re go into the professions for a very different reason. And I think that as our teaching and learning profession has shifted and changed in the requirements that students are asking of teachers, and institutions are asking of teachers, has shifted, I wholeheartedly agree that this gives us the opportunity to think about giving faculty the opportunity to have those rich engagement opportunities to really be able to support students holistically in ways that you just can’t do when you have a 200 course that you have, TAs, and all of the administrative load that comes with that. And so I would agree completely on that.
So, I’m going to move us along a little bit. I was doing a little research, really great conversation around thinking about ChatGPT being synonymous to when programmable calculators came to be. And how initially with the invention of these handhold calculators, they were banned across classrooms, specifically in the sector of K-12 and into higher education. And that this one device that was once seen as malicious or sinister, is now commonplace. You can go take any ACT or SAT course or go to any placement exam, you’ll see programmable calculators everywhere. Is this the new version of that? And just would love to hear from either one of you, your thoughts on this.
Dr. Antony Aumann (17:03):
Yeah, I can lay the foundation and then I’m really interested to hear what Bettyjo has to say here. I guess there’s one obvious parallel between the programmable calculator and ChatGPT, which is that the calculator is supposed to do quickly what we can already do slowly, and that happens like writing emails, I use it, I could write that email, it would take me a half an hour, the chat can write it in 30 seconds. So there’s that element to it.
But there’s two big differences that I think we need to worry about. The first is that the chat can do way more. It can write the essay, it can also give feedback on that essay, you can engage with it in dialogue, you can clarify individual points along the way. So it’s functionality far outstrips the calculator. The second thing, which is maybe much more worrisome, is about reliability. The calculator doesn’t give us wrong answers. The chat, it’s interested in predicting what the next word is likely to be for an English speaker or any speaker of whatever language, but that’s not necessarily the true word, and it often hallucinates facts or sources and citations. So that’s something that is very different from the calculator.
Dr. Bettyjo Bouchey (18:13):
Yeah, I would absolutely agree with everything that you said there, that chief difference being, it can do a heck of a lot more than a calculator can. What I find also interesting about this part of the conversation is that we know that our students are using Google all day long in their learning. So to me, there’s not a significant difference between using ChatGPT for research, versus using Google, except to say, potentially Google might be slightly more accurate than ChatGPT, just given the percentage of information it was indexed on and that 2021 stopping point. So I think that piece is fairly similar to our status quo, but then you get into this sort of generative space and that’s where things start to get significantly different, and that’s the part that we need to spend more time on.
What does it mean that students have access to something that could write a paper for them? And what does it mean that it could be completely biased, it could be inaccurate, and certainly, perhaps most importantly, not in their own words? Are we okay with that? Are we not okay with that? That’s the whole dialogue for us to have. And what I am also excited about when we start having these conversations like we are today, is that perhaps other disruptions that we’ve seen in education, we have such a grand opportunity to get ahead of this narrative, get ahead of these uses and shape it and hopefully direct it in a way that still provides that space for deep and immersive learning, but also utilizes tools that are readily available, but also knowing that our students are going to get out into the workplace fairly soon and likely be using some type of AI. So there’s this piece around career readiness that I tend to also think about.
Dr. Cristi Ford (20:38):
So Antony and Bettyjo, as you talked about that there are a lot of things that came up for me that I wanted to respond to. One, I agree that it’s different and vastly more generative in terms of what it can do, but Bettyjo, as you were talking about Google and use of Google, I’m going to date myself a bit. I remember taking typing class in the 12th grade because the advent of the internet was not available. And so I feel like academic plagiarism and Turnitin and things like that have been created to be able to help us as faculty or as administrators to be able to understand where students are taking original text or texts from the internet. So this is slightly different, but I also believe, Antony, when you talked about assessment approaches earlier, I think that this is where authentic assessment becomes so critical.
So, if I’m asking you to create a parallel between your lived experience of being the oldest of five siblings and X, Y, and Z to a text, that’s not something that you can do as easily and have as rich of an output in working with that. So, as I listened to both of you talk, I do think we’re still very early stages, but I just wonder how can we continue to harness the possibilities but also just be thoughtful about mitigating some of the risks?
So, thank you for both of your comments on that. And so, I want to go a little bit deeper, and there’s so much controversy here. I want to talk about your thoughts on what we’ve been seeing in the headlines. Some schools and universities are starting to ban ChatGPT, and one of the most notable cases we’ve seen was New York Cities Education Department, announcing a shared decision to ban both teachers and students using it out of concern for safety and accuracy. And so, what are your thoughts on this? Is this something that we’re going to see more of, for more institutions making a stance? Is this the right way to handle this technology? Love to hear from either of you on that.
Dr. Bettyjo Bouchey (22:50):
How about I get us started on this one? It’s one of my favorite questions that you told us you might ask us. So, I first want to start off by saying I don’t envy our peers in K through 12 these days, or any day for that matter. Those of us in higher ed, we really have the benefit of not being compulsory. So the decisions that we make are perhaps less risky from that perspective. So disclaimer in that regard. I’ll date myself with this analogy even further, Cristi, and say, back when we were kids, you could go to a gumball machine and you could get these little capsule things, and when you popped them in water, a sponge animal would appear, right? And there’s absolutely no scenario by which you can stick that sponge animal back into that capsule once it expands. And that’s kind of how I feel about ChatGPT and AI in general, and this idea of banning its use, we cannot legislate human behavior.
We’ve tried it. It’s failed. There’s so many use cases out in the world where we’ve seen this trend where we try to moderate everyone’s actions, and this is one of them where we cannot control, nor can we actually detect reliably when someone is using it. It’s akin to saying, “You can’t cheat.” “Okay, we know that.” And we know that the way that we mitigate that is if you’re caught. I’m not advocating that students and faculty cheat using ChatGPT, but I also know that we are where we are with this. And again, back to that idea that we have a real opportunity to steer what happens now, and we have an opportunity to also really equip our learners with this new skillset that will so likely be a part of their future career trajectories.
Dr. Cristi Ford (25:18):
I love that analogy. And I remember those little animals that came out of the capsule.
Dr. Bettyjo Bouchey (25:22):
Right? They were fantastic.
Dr. Cristi Ford (25:24):
They were. They were. Antony, what are your thoughts on this?
Dr. Antony Aumann (25:31):
Yeah, I also remember the animals. I agree with the gist of what Bettyjo is saying, that we can’t stick our heads in the sand on this one. This tool is out there. The students are going to be using it whether we like it or not. Plus, if we ban it, that’s just furthering the gap between school and the real world. The second they leave our classes, the second they graduate from our institutions, they’re going to be using it. There’s this point about career readiness that Bettyjo made earlier, which is that in their future jobs, their employers are going to be asking them to use this. So we have some kind of obligation to teach them how to use it wisely.
The problem is that, as Bettyjo said, there’s really no way to determine, to assess reliably whether someone is using this or not, to detect whether someone is cheating or being authentic in their writing. And so it used to be hard to cheat, you had to find someone who writes the paper for you, but now the chat can do it in 30 seconds, and if we can’t tell who’s doing it and who’s not doing it, I’m worried about some kind of wild, wild west scenario where there’s not going to be any law anymore about it.
Dr. Cristi Ford (26:30):
Yeah, yeah, I hear those complaints and I hear those concerns. I think we have so far to go on this index, in terms of AI more generally, but also ChatGPT. And as you talk about those pieces, I think it really is going to require us as educators to be a lot more sophisticated in the kinds of work products, to your earlier point and to both of your points, around the workforce that we’re asking students to be able to generate and to be able to understand. I also wonder if it becomes less about products in certain spaces and more about process?
Dr. Antony Aumann (27:11):
Yeah, Cristi, I guess I wanted to ask you a little bit more about that because you had suggested in one of your earlier comments that asking students to perform the right kind of assignment would force them to be authentic rather than to use the chat. And your example was to ask them to apply the ideas in a text or the message of a text to their own life. But in my experience, the students are really great at finding ways to get the chat to do that too. They’ll just ask the chat to come up with a fictional story about someone who has five siblings growing up in the Bronx or something like that, and now you’re off to the races. So I guess I’m just not sanguine about the possibility of coming up with really clever assignments that the chat can’t do.
Dr. Cristi Ford (27:51):
Yeah, no, I hear you. I hear you and there definitely is, it’s not a full proof model. But I will say, I’m going to date me myself a little bit saying this in terms of teaching a social psych course and doing a whole study on the bystander effect, having the students watch What Would You Do by John Quiñones, and then based on that episode, then come back and generate some assignments. And so to your earlier point around current events, opportunities to be able to think about what’s happening in our world, what are the ways in which we can challenge our students to really be able to have that process, that critical thinking process happen, I think is where we’re going to find the most opportunities for growth and opportunity. And I think we’re going to have to continue to come together as an industry and educators come together. And to your point earlier, not bury our heads in the sand, but really figure out how can we create this platform in a space that helps students to be successful in utilizing it for good?
Because you’re right, we are not going to be able to solve all of those issues. And so that’s why I think that this conversation is so critical. I will segue into the next point that I would love to hear from both of you about. I always am concerned about equity. If we’re talking about the pandemic and equity and access around infrastructure to technology, to thinking about access to devices. And so, one of the things that ChatGPT raises is an issue around equity and access. And so in this past January ChatGPT announced they would be start charging for a faster model. Not like it’s fast enough, but if you want it to be even faster, it’s going to cost. And so that’s not going to be easy for everyone to be able to gain access to. And as I think about systems that are continuing to grow in those ways and the companies that will acquire those systems and most likely charge for those systems, I just wonder your thoughts around the equity and access issue as we think about ChatGPT?
Dr. Antony Aumann (29:57):
I can hop in a little bit on this one because it’s something that I’ve worried a great deal about with my own students. Most of my students come from extremely impoverished backgrounds and they’re working one, two, and sometimes three jobs to pay for their education. And I’ve gotten the paid model because it is faster and it’s not offline as much. And it’s not just the pay thing, it’s that there continues to be a wait list for getting an account. So, students who weren’t early adopters are kind of sunk. So, one thing that might happen going forward is something that my university has done with laptops. As part of enrolling at NMU, you get a laptop provided by Lenovo, and if you’re in the art school, you get access to the Adobe suite of programs. And so maybe one of the things we’re going to provide for our students as part of the tuition is access to ChatGPT, because it’s just going to be such a crucial tool for all of our classes. But I’m absolutely worried, Cristi, about the point that you made.
Dr. Bettyjo Bouchey (30:55):
Yeah, Antony, that that’s a wonderful idea and there’s so many parallels to the tools that we equip our students with, and this does seem to fall into those categories. I think that’s awesome. I hadn’t really thought about that yet, so I’m excited to see if that takes shape at some institutions, particularly the ones that are really, really engaged in this dialogue right now. The other piece I tend to think about to the point around equity, Cristi, is from my perspective, yes, this will likely widen the chasm. Just being completely frank in that I think that this is one of those disruptions that will tend to separate those that have more from perhaps those that have less. If I then zoom out and say, “What is the bigger conversation here and what could it look like?”
I think our universities, our K through 12 system and our government, quite frankly, this is the time to take action, to really have a dialogue around keeping these opensource. The parallel is, could Google have charged us to use their search engine? The short answer is yes, right? There were mechanisms put in place back then to perhaps prevent that and or make that not the best solution. And I think we might be in a space for that now. What I worry about is that I’m not hearing those conversations as much from a political perspective right now as I would hope, and I’m not hearing them in such an assertive way that maybe we’re getting to the point of going to these providers saying, “Hey, just a second here. Let’s walk through this and really think about what does this mean for our society and culture in the United States and what do we want to collectively do about it?”
Dr. Cristi Ford (33:13):
Really, really good point. I think that when you talk about the policy arena… I even think about in the days of when the US Department of Education started to look at physical presence, think about how long online education had been thriving and growing before we got to that point. And so I also wonder how do we as educators do a better job to elevate the importance of these kinds of conversations to our policymakers? Because it may be years before we really start to have this conversation. To your point, at that point, it may be too late, it may be too late.
Dr. Bettyjo Bouchey (33:54):
Absolutely. I mean, we’re still talking about seat time and online for God’s sake.
Dr. Cristi Ford (34:00):
We are, we’re still using the good old Carnegie Class Classification System in terms of how we think about the ways in which we design learning. You both give me some really good points.
I want to move to the flip side, though. Earlier you talked a little bit, specifically you Bettyjo, about neurodiversity of our learners. And so I want to, from this perspective of the positive, Antony, hearing that your university is going to consider making ChatGPT available to all students at the institution is a wonderful opportunity around access and making sure that it is equitable. But are there other examples of how ChatGPT can be used positively in education that we haven’t explored?
Dr. Bettyjo Bouchey (34:50):
I would probably just amplify the piece around neurodivergent learners just one more time, Cristi. If that is okay?
Dr. Cristi Ford (34:58):
Dr. Bettyjo Bouchey (34:59):
I think this is a really interesting opportunity for learners who need to hear it more and in different ways and from different perspectives. This is something that we tend to struggle with in higher ed and I believe in K through 12 as well, is not thinking about multi-modality when we’re designing learning and, or, providing feedback. And it’s hard to do, frankly. If we set an intention to be 100% multimodal in the way that we’re designing learning, you can really imagine how difficult that would be and also how expensive. So, I really love that particular application of this.
And then if I look just to the right of that, thinking about students who really struggle with perfectionism. I think about one of my doc students in particular who really struggles with getting all of her thoughts out on paper to get those chapters written. She spends a lot of time worrying about what she’s going to write versus writing it. And I see this as a wonderful application to get her started, to put some of her thoughts that she has as inputs into ChatGPT and say, “Tell me what an outline might look like for this chapter.” As a way to unblock her or learners like her. And I think that that’s such an interesting thing to think about.
We’ve all encountered that moment where we just didn’t know how to get started. And I think this is a really nice way to shift that ground a little bit. And then if we think about these accelerated learning models that we have in online, what a lovely way to help our learners accelerate with us. These accelerated paths that we tend to really love, and online are our paths. So when we say we’re going to do this in six or eight weeks, that’s what we are going to do. The reality is some of our learners need a heck of a lot more time because of some of these things that we’re talking about here where ChatGPT, or other tools like it, could help them stay on pace.
Dr. Cristi Ford (37:31):
Yeah, I agree there. Antony, what about you? In terms of tutoring or personalized learning, are there other things that we should really be thinking about strategizing and scaffolding ChatGPT as an option around?
Dr. Antony Aumann (37:45):
So as always, Bettyjo says everything that I want to say-
Dr. Bettyjo Bouchey (37:47):
Dr. Antony Aumann (37:51):
… and very eloquently. I would have two things to add. The first is to move a little bit beyond ChatGPT, which is just a text creator, to AI text to voice capacities. So, Bettyjo was talking about the importance of multimodal learning. And so, one of the things that other AI programs can do is get really good at speaking the texts that the chat puts out, but in a way that sounds natural and comprehensible. So, there’s that out there. The other thing that I would say, that Bettyjo didn’t mention, is students for whom English is not their primary language.
So, Bettyjo is talking about the front end of the writing process. The people who have writer’s block, they have ideas, they just can’t figure out how to start articulating them. But the chat is also really useful at the backend of the writing process. I have a lot of students, who are foreign students, who have not mastered the English language completely. They have really good ideas and they can start to articulate them, but it’s just not put in excellent English and the chat is excellent there. They can put their somewhat imperfect English into it and ask the chat to write a better version of it, and it comes out really great.
Dr. Bettyjo Bouchey (38:59):
Antony, I love that application. Thank you for bringing that up. And actually as you started talking about your first example, Cristi, can I provide another application here?
Dr. Cristi Ford (39:13):
Dr. Bettyjo Bouchey (39:14):
Okay. One of the things I’m really excited about is the student support piece that AI can help us with. Particularly when I think about online learning, which is my area of expertise and domain. So, we know that as students are learning in an online environment and, frankly, when they’re learning on campus too, but if I stick to my original example, their digital footprint is expanding by the second. They’re interacting in our learning management system. We may have information in our student success system, student information system, CRMs, you name it, right? We’ve got all these data about our students that could tell us something.
We have many institutions that have huge business intelligence departments now that are mining these data, doing visualizations, helping us understand what we should be looking at and listening for, and what if we also used AI, not just in that ChatGPT domain, because this language processing and generative space is great, but there’s also a lot of opportunity in the machine learning arena around AI to say, “Let’s go look for all of these things and set up these agents that get some of this work done for us,” so the folks working in our student services departments can really just, like I said around faculty, can really focus on individualized student support, while all of these other things are getting done. We could get so much smarter around these predictive models of attrition, of potential risk and be able to really remediate and mitigate those things so much earlier or so early that they aren’t risks anymore. I’m really excited about that too.
Dr. Cristi Ford (41:14):
Yeah, I appreciate you bringing that to the forefront. It makes me think about, from both of your comments, that sometimes institutions of higher learning have not always been the most inclusive. And so, both of your examples around students that English is not their first language or students that have neurodiversity needs, that we’re providing opportunities to level the playing field or provide a different level of support, then we could figure out on our own. And so, I just want to ask you both a question that I didn’t preface and put out there before today, but if you think about our work in education and where we might be in three years, as it relates to ChatGPT and AI, what are some considerations that you hope that we figure out and where do you hope that we find ourselves?
Dr. Antony Aumann (42:10):
This seems like a Bettyjo wheelhouse question, so I’m going to defer to her to first getting started.
Dr. Bettyjo Bouchey (42:17):
You’re really kind, Antony. So if I were to zoom out five years from now, let’s say, and we know that AI didn’t go away in that time, I think that reality has settled in. What I would really want for us, and what I just remain so excited about, is let’s use the technology, let’s use the computers and the tools and the software to do the things that are on the lower taxonomies. All of that really task-oriented kind of work, that we tend to have humans do in higher ed right now, and let’s free up these wonderful human beings that gravitated to education because they love students and they love education and they love the light bulbs.
Let’s free them up to do that work. Because if you really, again, I don’t want to get crazy and pollyannish here, but bear with me for one second. If we could full sale focus on teaching and learning in its original form, we could transform our learners to these excited digital citizens that are so excited to learn that they don’t want to use AI to cheat, because they are so excited about their learning, they are so excited about their futures, that we wouldn’t have to worry about cheating, or plagiarism, or using ChatGPT for the bad.
We would just have learners that were super excited about what we were talking about and they would use it for good. So I know that that is pie in the sky, but I just wonder if we were able to get everyone excited about education again because our humans were doing what they love and do best, that maybe we wouldn’t be having all these conversations about trying to detect cheating.
Dr. Antony Aumann (44:40):
I share some of Bettyjo’s utopian vision. We spent a lot of time today talking about how the chat might save faculty members and maybe administrators from doing this taxing, lower level, onerous work, like grading in the simple way thousands of papers. But I wonder whether the same thing holds true for the students, that so much of education these days seems to be, at least from the student’s perspective, mindless hoop jumping. Things that they just have to do in order to get their grade, that they find not very helpful to their actual education.
But now with the chat being able to do all of these mindless hoop jumping exercises very quickly, maybe we’ll do away with all of that, and education will return to the kind of thing that Bettyjo is talking about, like learning for the sake of loving learning. And I don’t know exactly what that looks like, but it might mean moving to a society that’s a little bit of a post writing society, society where, or at least education, where we spend more time just having discussions with each other as humans in the classroom and less time just, “Hey, let’s take these mindless tests or write these mindless papers.”
Dr. Cristi Ford (45:44):
I agree with that, Antony. And I think as I listen to both of your views on the vision of where we’re going, I think that AI is here to stay, but it can’t do the learning for us. It reminds me of Emilie Wapnick that did a really great Ted Talk several years ago, 2015, and she talks about multi potentialites and that there are people out here that enjoy just the benefit and passion of learning. And so they have all these varied skills and opportunities. And so, right-on to that, Antony. I really think that that’s really where we need to go, to really get back to the passion of learning, get back to the passion of teaching.
And so, I want to thank you both, Bettyjo Bouchey and Antony, for being with us today. It’s been really great to have this conversation. I’ve been so looking forward to this episode. I will tell you, we’re going to do a part two and talk with colleagues that have more expertise on the technical side, architecture side, around this conversation of AI and ChatGPT, but you will have just positioned us so well for the conversations to come. So thank you for your time today.
Dr. Antony Aumann (46:51):
Thank you for having me, Cristi. I appreciate it.
Dr. Bettyjo Bouchey (46:53):
And thank you for having me as well. This was a blast.
Dr. Cristi Ford (46:59):
You’ve been listening to Teach & Learn, a podcast for curious educators. This episode was produced by D2L, a global learning innovation company, helping organizations reshape the future of educational work. To learn more about our solutions for both K through 20 and corporate institutions, please visit www.d2l.com. You can also find us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram, and remember to hit that subscribe button so you can stay up to date with all new episodes. Thanks for joining us, and until next time, school’s out.