Faculty and Staff

PACEspectives: ChatGPT and the Future of Education

April 4, 2023
AI Chatbot ChatGPT providing answer to question about nuclear fusion, on a smartphone device

In late 2022, the artificial intelligence research laboratory OpenAI released ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence chatbot that was noticeably superior to many predecessors given its ability to provide detailed answers across many domains of knowledge and engage in complex and realistic human conversation. The emergence of ChatGPT, its subsequent upgrades, and competitors in the space have created a new "arms race" in this style of artificial intelligence that can potentially radically transform everything from the state of our workforce to how human knowledge is developed, acquired, and maintained.

Given the major impacts these language models can potentially have—and are already starting to have—on higher education, three Pace faculty members weighed in on the potential of this game-changing technology.

Miguel Mosteiro, PhD

Associate Professor, Computer Science
Seidenberg School of CSIS

The precise impact of ChatGPT and similar AI tools is still an open question.

Indeed, such tools are still in their infancy and they are expected to evolve significantly over time. On the other hand, as linguistics experts explained in a recent article (Chomsky, Roberts, Watumull: “The False Promise of ChatGPT”, NY Times, March 8, 2023), machine learning programs differ profoundly from how humans reason and use language. In other words, serious output-quality limitations are innate to such systems.

Nevertheless, it is clear that there will be positive and negative impacts, and we may very well try to use the opportunity to enhance our pedagogical approaches while minimizing the negatives, as we have done in the past with the advent of other technologies. Within computer science at least, one possible approach would be to revise take-home assignments so that the learning-outcomes evaluation require creativity and insight (e.g., running newly-designed experiments) leaving secondary aspects to be completed using AI (even as a requirement). Such approach may be beneficial as the student would spend more time in gaining deep insight rather than learning technicalities.

Bruce Bachenheimer

Clinical Professor of Management and Management Science
Lubin School of Business

Encouraging students to develop skills in critical thinking, logical reasoning, creativity, and effective communication is a challenge, one that can be greatly facilitated or made near impossible by technology such as ChatGPT. Just as students were able to use printed volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica back in 1768, or Wikipedia beginning in 2001, to help prepare academic assignments, ChatGPT can be a powerful resource in expanding the depth and breadth of available knowledge. It can also be used by students as an incredibly powerful tool to avoid having to think or work. It doesn’t just make plagiarism incredibly easy; it can make intelligence artificially optional.

ChatGPT can be a powerful resource in expanding the depth and breadth of available knowledge. It can also be used by students as an incredibly powerful tool to avoid having to think or work.

Dan Farkas, PhD

Professor of Information Technology
Seidenberg School of CSIS

While it’s too early to make predictions, I think the indications are that AI applications and uses, which are already ubiquitous (think digital assistants like Siri, Alexa, or Smart Home devices), will continue expand, if not exponentially as some predict, but incrementally. The surprise and interest in large language models such as ChatGPT comes because of its human-like interactive capability.

From an educator’s perspective, it’s two-sided. On one hand there is the ability of students to use it for assignments and thus requiring the rethinking of pedagogy (not necessarily a bad thing). On the flip side, being able to draw from the practice and experience of others (in its vast data storage) and have solutions articulated in different formats (e.g,. a syllabus, a translation, a computer program) is very powerful. I expect AI, over time, will be transformative across most disciplines in academia as well as a broad spectrum of occupations.

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