Gilson Hall Commons College

Student Consultants on ChatGPT

This semester, I am teaching a living-learning course at Commons College. One thing I wanted to do in my role as CITA Director, is to create spaces for students to share their perspectives on life at St. Lawrence. Over the course of the semester, we plan to focus on issues related to student engagement on campus, but we started this semester focusing on ChatGPT because it was something everyone was talking about.

The main theme that emerged from our conversations is that students viewed ChatGPT as a tool that they wanted to get familiar with, not so that they could cheat, but so that they could realize its strengths and limitations as a tool.

Their main concern, when thinking about how to approach this tool at SLU, was creating spaces to understand the ethics of using ChatGPT. And to this end, they thought the first-year program would be a place for faculty to engage in experiential learning with and about this new tool.

In the course of this experimental learning, questions they’d want to see addressed are: How can the tool help start the process of writing or completing an assignment in ways that don’t run afoul of our academic honesty policies? How could a student learn the limitations of the tool by seeing what good writing looks like when measured against bot-generated writing? How might students understand the meaning of integrity in a world where a future employer might expect them to regularly use this tool for work? What issues around equity might emerge when some students are proficient users of the tool, while others are not? Might there be implications for DEI around this tool that we aren’t considering?

Students want to make the most of their St. Lawrence education and realize that cheating with ChatGPT is wasting their time and money. This doesn’t mean that students won’t be tempted to cheat and that conversations about making it harder for students to cheat using this new tool are unnecessary. But it is to suggest that conversations about ChatGPT shouldn’t just be about cheating.

Instead, what I’ve learned from conversations with students in Commons is that they want to talk openly about this new tool as a tool, and they want to think together about ethical issues that arise because of this tool. Like us, they are excited to test the potential of ChatGPT, and they are worried about the ability of bots to undermine the pursuit of critical and creative thinking. Students want us to show them why learning how to create original work matters, by giving them opportunities to create original work that matters.

As mentioned in an earlier post, students resent what they perceive to be busy work. When they think they are being asked to think like a bot, they may be more inclined to turn to a bot to complete work. Please reach out if you’d like ideas for how to create assignments that motivate students, or if you’d like to talk together about the ethics of ChatGPT. As well, if you have questions or issues for Commons students, just let me know.