Student Panel Discusses Implications of Artificial Intelligence at Colgate

Student Panel Discusses Implications of Artificial Intelligence at Colgate

The Center for Learning, Teaching, and Research (CLTR) held a panel called “Student Perspectives on A.I. / ChatGPT,” on April 25 in Lawrence Hall. Five student panelists, including seniors Will Lam, Rivka Dai, and Josiah Paintsil, alongside sophomores Andrew Audus and Sarah Cryan, shared their opinions on the ethics and usage of ChatGPT and artificial intelligence tools as they have become more pervasive on college campuses. All members of the community were welcome to engage and share concerns about the use of these tools in an educational setting.

The talk was moderated by the Director of the Writing and Speaking Center, Jennifer Lutman, and Director of Learning and Applied Innovation, Jeff Nugent. The event was a collaboration between CLTR and the Writing and Speaking Center.

“In early September 2022, my colleague Jeff Nugent, Director of Learning and Applied Innovation, suggested that we begin attending closely to A.I. and its implications for teaching and learning,” Lutman said. “Since then, Jeff and I have had many conversations about A.I., and at his suggestion, we collaborated to host an event for faculty in February of this year. That event was well attended, and it was clear that there is great interest on campus in sustained conversations on the topic. Earlier this semester, Jeff reached out to discuss the possibility of a student panel, and I agreed that the student perspective would be highly valued.”  

Lutman asked her students to see who would be interested in being on the panel, according to Cryan. 

“Professor Lutman sent a Google Form asking if anyone in our course (WRIT 210: The Rhetoric of Style) was interested in being on the panel, and I responded yes,” Cryan said. “On the Friday before the event, the other panelists, Jenn, Jeff and I met in the Writing Center where we discussed potential questions and responses.”

First, student panelists were asked what their experiences with ChatGPT on campus were. They agreed that ChatGPT can be used to summarize text and for idea generation, and that the way professors talk about ChatGPT is important — namely whether or not they acknowledge it. The students also touched on how writing style specifically is morphed when using ChatGPT.

 “I think the panel was put on because AI is a very new space that could dramatically change education,” Cryan said. “More specifically, it is challenging many of the skills taught at university such as writing and critical thinking. We need to figure out how higher education institutions are going to respond.”

Nugent agreed that a potential use of ChatGPT could be idea generation, rather than a substitution for their own writing. 

“Another idea students seemed to share was the potential value of AI as an assistant or thinking partner to help with brainstorming topics, getting started with an idea, generating example code or creating outlines [and] summaries of topics,” Nugent said. “The idea of AI being able to provide learning support or tutoring might be helpful for learners at some point in the future.”

Secondly, Nugent and Lutman asked how ChatGPT could be integrated into course assignments. The student panelists agreed that ChatGPT gives students definitive answers, but doesn’t provide insight into how those answers were reached. Panelists agreed that this undermines the value of education, which is the ability to think critically.  

“Here are a couple of ideas that stood out for me…for one, students are looking for guidance from faculty about how to use these AI tools in meaningful ways that can support their learning,” Nugent said. “The students seemed to share a healthy skepticism of using AI for the purpose of writing academic papers […] clearly this emergent issue and something that we’ll need to continue having conversations about as AI evolves.” 

The panelists discussed the value of original writing as a personal process, and how a big part of learning is how it relates to your own life. 

“I am aware that a lot of faculty are worrying about the impact of ChatGPT, especially on the likelihood of plagiarism from the students and the effectiveness of tests and assignments for our learning,” Senior Rivka Dai said. “I also sense that students and faculty need more conversations so as to form a reasonable set of guidelines on the permitted and prohibited ways of using ChatGPT.” 

Lutman, Nugent and audience members also asked what types of feedback or support students could need to utilize ChatGPT effectively, as well as how the platform may affect critical thinking and collaboration.

 “Overall, their comments focused less on threats to academic honesty and more on how A.I. might make certain learning experiences more clear or efficient,” Lutman said. “I also heard agreement among the panelists that they will appreciate professors’ explicit policies regarding A.I., and also that they hope more professors will explore and discuss the technologies openly in their classes.

The conversation ended with a brief discussion of what the potential punishments should be for using ChatGPT in an academic setting. 

“I took away that the faculty really cares about students’ learning, and that the major concern might still be around the risk of impairing the learning experience including the growth of critical thinking and the practice of creativity,” Dai said. “The faculty would feel really hurt or would have no ideas what to do if they faced cases where the student’s work suggested a high prospect of plagiarism. So a guideline is very important not just for students and for professors as well. I also was informed of the possibility to use ChatGPT in some practical and positive ways without impairing my learning. It’s great that I got to hear the faculty’s perspectives and other students’ ideas.”