education

Generative AI has had an uneasy relationship with the education sector since OpenAI in November 2022 first introduced its ChatGPT chatbot, which put the technology’s capabilities within reach of the majority of people.

The potential to enhance learning collided with worries about students using the tool to write their papers and generative AI’s capabilities for plagiarism, misinformation, and “hallucinations,” or false statements. Some schools put rigid guidelines around ChatGPT’s use; others outright banned it.

Fourteen months later, with the rapid mainstreaming of generative AI into essentially all parts of business and society, OpenAI announced a partnership with Arizona State University, its first collaboration with an institution of higher education.

The partnership will bring OpenAI’s ChatGPT Enterprise to ASU and its faculty, students and researchers. The company introduced ChatGPT Enterprise in August 2023 in response to growing demand from organizations to deploy the technology within their businesses. It does everything that ChatGPT can do, but puts a greater emphasis security, user privacy, and analytics, important feature for enterprises.

Calling All Ideas

Starting in February, the university swill begin calling for submissions from faculty and staff to pitch ideas for ways to use ChatGPT Enterprise to enhance students’ learning, create new possibilities for research on campus and streamline processes for running the school; bringing generative AI technology into the school at a time when the business world is rapidly adopting it, according to university officials.

“ASU recognizes that augmented and artificial intelligence systems are here to stay, and we are optimistic about their ability to become incredible tools that help students to learn, learn more quickly and understand subjects more thoroughly,” ASU President Michael Crow said in a statement. “Our collaboration with OpenAI reflects our philosophy and our commitment to participating directly to the responsible evolution of AI learning technologies.”

ASU CIO Lev Gonick noted that almost two-thirds of organization already are working to integrate AI into their processes.

“By providing access to advanced AI capabilities, these tools are leveling the playing field, allowing individuals and organizations – regardless of size or resources – to harness the power of AI for creative and innovative endeavors,” Gonick said. “The goal is to leverage our knowledge core here at ASU to develop AI-driven projects aimed at revolutionizing educational techniques, aiding scholarly research and boosting administrative efficiency.”

Students Put on Hold

On its website page for its use of AI, ASU states that generative AI is a way to enhance human intelligence rather than replace it and that, given the rapid widespread adoption of the technology, it’s the school’s responsibility to help students how to use it responsibly and ethically.

But while OpenAI’s product is coming to the school, students will have to wait before they can use it. ASU initially will prioritize the use of ChatGPT Enterprise by the university’s faculty, staff and researchers, with access that “will be initially limited to support the responsible growth of generative AI tools for the university. Student accounts are not available at this time. Timelines for student requests will be shared in future communications.”

That said, students who work with faculty, staff or researchers will get access through their jobs, the school said.

ASU officials see bringing ChatGPT Enterprise to the school will show other universities how they can use the technology to improve learning and student outcomes while still being innovative and responsible with how technology is used.

Trying to Map a Future with AI

The education field is still getting its arms around generative AI even as students race to use the technology. The e-zine Intelligent.com surveyed 1,223 undergraduate and graduate students in May 2023 and found that 30% used ChatGPT for schoolwork during the 2022-2023 academic year, with 46% of those saying they frequently used it to do their homework.

In addition, three of four ChatGPT users said they were likely to recommend the tool to another student.

The non-profit Teach For America in August 2023 weighed the pros and cons of AI in K-12 education, stressing the need to educate all students about AI so they use it in school and later in their careers. AI also should be used by educators as a teaching aid in the classroom and to save time on administrative tasks.

AI also can be used to open up opportunities for more teachers and to reinvent how schools operate. However, there also are challenges, from some models generating biased and harmful content and spreading inaccuracies to worries about data security, privacy and discerning between what a student has created and what was done via AI.

This will all take time, though, according to the organization. Generative AI is still in its infancy. Even 15 years later, society is still coming to terms with the changes brought by smartphones, it said, adding that the impact of AI will be even greater.

“That said, while technological change can feel inevitable, how we use technology and how it shapes our day-to-day is anything but predetermined,” the nonprofit wrote. “All of us – educators, students, and parents – have a role to play in shaping how AI is designed and adopted by our teachers, students, and educational systems.”