ChatGPT and Education

What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence (AI) tool that uses natural language processing techniques to respond to user-generated prompts. The "GPT" initials stand for generative pretrained transformer.

Put simply: You ask ChatGPT a question or provide a prompt, it replies using natural language. The following is a sample ChatGPT prompt and response.

What are you?

How can you tell if a text was written by ChatGPT? The following are two samples. See if you can tell the difference between a human author and ChatGPT.

Write about recess time from the perspective of a fourth grader

Write an essay explaining string theory

What can ChatGPT do?

Write a 10 paragraph essay about the difference between behaviorism and constructivism with APA in text citations and a reference list.

Design a lesson plan to help students write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

Design a syllabus for a class about educational technology.

Write learning objectives for a course about the ethical use of AI in education.

Provide 10 multiple choice questions about the American Revolution.

Write a podcast script about the connection between prohibition and the civil rights movement.

Design a rubric to grade a video project.

Describe the steps for designing an infographic.

Write an email to a student (Lily) who missed class and needs to make it up in 2 weeks by watching the class recording and completing the class activities.

TIP: Do NOT provide a student's full name and associated class grate to ChatGPT to write emails, this is a potential FERPA violation for sharing a student's educational record (with OpenAI) without their permission.

How to iterate through files in a directory using Python?

NOTE: ChatGPT can generate computer programs in many computer programming languages. The code it generates appears indistinguishable from those that a human might write, meaning, the programs are well-structured, well-formatted, use appropriate variable names, and contain meaningful comments.

Also, pressing the “generate another answer” button ChatGPT provides also works for computer programs it writes. It writes an entirely different computer program to solve the same problem.

What else can ChatGPT do?

  • Design (and attempts to solve) math and science word problems.
  • Role play class scenarios.
  • Remix student work.
  • Provide writing examples.
  • Give students feedback on their writing.
  • Provide tips on how to personalize/differentiate learning.
  • Generate discussion prompts for class.
  • Provide one-on-one tutoring or coaching.
  • Write letters to parents (K-12 teachers) or students.

*These ideas and more from this Twitter thread by Robert Petitto, this Twitter thread by Matt Miller, and Ditch That Textbook.

What can ChatGPT NOT do? (Yet)

(e.g., "describe how the content we covered in class last week shifted your thinking about your role as a current/future teacher").

As ChatGPT is not connected to the internet, it does not learn from current events or any content after 2021.

(e.g., "design an infographic, interactive Google Map, TikTok-style video, meme, multimodal timeline").

  • Note: ChatGPT can still help with writing a script for a podcast or video or crafting the text to go in an infographic, meme, poster, timeline, etc...

Design an infographic about computer ergonomics.

Predict who will win the 2024 superbowl

Summarize content from the New York Times article: "Did a Fourth Grader Write This? Or the New Chatbot?"

Draw a connection between this photograph and the Civil Rights movement

What can faculty do?

Before you panic and consider banning technology from your classroom in favor of handwritten essays and oral exams (not that there’s anything wrong with those methods, but they might lead to more student anxiety)…consider how this tool might help you rethink teaching and learning.

Instead, you might...

Update your syllabus.

Sample statement prohibiting use of AI-generated text

All written work submitted for this course must be completed by you, personally. Use of artificial intelligence (AI) to generate text is strictly prohibited. Submission of text generated by AI will be considered a violation of academic integrity, including AI-generated text that you have summarized or edited.

Sample statement providing parameters for use of AI-generated text

You are responsible for the content of any work submitted for this course. Use of artifical intelligence (AI) to generate a first draft of text is permitted, but you must review and revise any AI-generated text before submission. AI text generators can be useful tools but they are often prone to factual errors, incorrect or fabricated citations, and misinterpretations of abstract concepts. Utilize them with caution.

Talk with your students about academic integrity.

  • Students often gloss over the boilerplate “academic integrity” statement in a syllabus. Update it to include AI tools. Update it to be more student-centered (see Zinn 2021 template). Bring it up in class. Talk about why academic integrity is essential to students (Hint: Don’t just focus on extrinsic motivators like their grades).

Redesign your assignments.

Encourage risk-taking, productive struggle, and learning from failure.

  • Students can learn more from failure than success (Ofgang, 2021), but far too often, when students fail, they are not given an opportunity to learn from their failure (e.g., revise and resubmit, retake a quiz).
  • When failure is the end result, rather than part of the learning process, students may be more likely to turn to tools like AI to cheat.

Be transparent about assignments.

Reconsider your approach to grading.

Shift from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation.

  • Students are more likely to cheat when “the class reinforces extrinsic (i.e., grades), not intrinsic (i.e. learning), goals.” (UC San Diego, 2020, para. 6).
  • Consider how you might increase intrinsic motivation by giving students autonomy, independence, freedom, opportunities to learn through play, and/or activities that pique their interest based on their experiences and cultures. Learn more about motivational theories in education from Dr. Jackie Gerstein.

Use ChatGPT as an educational tool.

NOTE: Before you ask students to use ChatGPT for an assignment, re-read the information about privacy and data. The following suggestions are based on the faculty using ChatGPT to generate responses to share with students.

Engage students in critiquing and improving ChatGPT responses.

  • Pre-service teachers might critique how a ChatGPT lesson plan integrates technologies using the Triple E Rubric or examine whether it features learning activities that support diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion. (This will help future teachers learn to critique TPT resources! )
  • Computer science students might identify potential ways to revise ChatGPT generated code to reduce errors and improve output.
  • Students might critically review the feedback ChatGPT provides on their writing and determine what is most helpful to their own learning.
  • Students could analyze, provide feedback on, and even grade text produced by ChatGPT as a way to prepare for peer review of their classmates’ work.

Analyze how ChatGPT generates text for different audiences.

  • Ask ChatGPT to explain a concept for a 5 year old, college student, and expert. Analyze the difference in the way ChatGPT uses language.

Describe a professional learning network to a 5 year old.

Describe a professional learning network.

Help students build their information literacy skills.

  • Ask students to conduct an Internet search to see if they can find the original sources of text used to generate a ChatGPT response.

Have students generate prompts for ChatGPT and compare and contrast the output.

  • Students could even design their own tool to evaluate the ChatGPT responses.

Ask ChatGPT to design a board game or invention related to the course content and then have students build a physical or digital model for the design/invention.

Invent a solution to the global water crisis.

Suggest a model for improving the electrical infrastructure of the United States.

What else do you need to know about ChatGPT?

OpenAI (the company that designed ChatGPT) collects a lot of data from ChatGPT users

  • The privacy policy states that this data can be shared with third-party vendors, law enforcement, affiliates, and other users.
  • While you can request to have your ChatGPT account deleted, the prompts that you input into ChatGPT cannot be deleted. If you, or your students, were to ask ChatGPT about sensitive or controversial topics, this data cannot be removed.

TIP: Before asking your students to use ChatGPT (if you plan to do so), please read over the privacy policy and allow them to opt out if they do not feel comfortable having their data collected and shared as outlined in the policy.

ChatGPT is not always trustworthy

  • ChatGPT was trained using a massive dataset of text written by humans that was pulled from the Internet.
  • Thus, the responses can reflect the biases of the humans who wrote the text used in the training dataset.
  • ChatGPT is not connected to the Internet and the data used to train it was collected prior to 2021.
    • According to the FAQs, ChatGPT “has limited knowledge of world and events after 2021 and may also occasionally produce harmful instructions or biased content” (Natalie, para. 4).

ChatGPT makes stuff up!

EXAMPLE: ChatGPT provided the APA reference list below for a prompt about professional learning networks (PLNs). The first and last citations are NOT real articles (they do not exist!). The middle two are real articles (but not actually related to PLNs).


Boud, D., & Molloy, E. (2013). Personal learning networks: Using social media to support professional learning. In S. Merry, & M. Smith (Eds.), Professional learning through communities of practice (pp. 47-59), Springer.

Bryk, A. S., & Schneider, B. (2002). Trust in schools: A core resource for improvement. Educational Leadership, 60(3), 40-45.

Ertmer, P. A., & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A. T. (2012). Teacher technology change: How knowledge, confidence, beliefs, and culture intersect. Educational Technology Research and Development, 60(6), 623-644.

Veletsianos, G. (2016). Navigating and participating in online professional learning networks. In G. Veletsianos (Ed.), Emerging technologies in distance education (pp. 105-123), Athabasca University Press.

Asking students to use ChatGPT provides free labor to OpenAI

  • ChatGPT is in its infancy. It will continue to become a more intelligent form of artificial intelligence…with the help of users who provide feedback to the responses it generates.
  • Do you really want to ask your students to help train an AI tool as part of their education?
  • Make sure to read: ChatGPT and Good Intentions in Higher Ed by Autumm Caines.

Additional Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

Does SafeAssign detect AI-generated text?
No, at this time SafeAssign does not detect AI-generated text. Anthology and Blackboard are aware that AI presents an academic-integrity concern and are investigating whether and how detection of AI-generated text could be added to SafeAssign. This FAQ will be updated as additional details become available. 
Are there tools available to detect AI-generated text?

Despite how new AI-generated text is, there are already tools available to detect AI-generated content. These are generally open-source tools that may become unavailable at any time. They are also unproven and best used as a guideline and not as definitive proof that a given passage of text was generated by AI. Of course, the development of AI-detection is going to create an arms race of finding ways to outsmart that detection, as well.

Tools to detect AI-generated text, at time of publication:

Is submitting AI-generated text considered cheating?

There is no definitive answer whether AI-generated text is considered cheating; that will differ course by course. Most faculty assume that any written work that a student submits is written personally by that individual. Students may believe that it is acceptable to use text generated by AI that they proofread and revise as they are making a contribution to the end-product through their editing. 

Because this is an area without a clear answer, faculty should set clear guidelines for whether AI-generated text is acceptable in their course. See the section in the ChatGPT and Education guide on What can faculty do? for examples and resources on updating your syllabus and discussing academic integrity with your students.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Originally developed and shared by Torrey Trust, associate professor of Learning Technology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and modified by the NIU Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning.

Panel Discussion

Watch the recordings of the faculty and staff panel discussions on artificial intelligence in education:

AI in Education
(February 13, 2023)

AI in Education: Looking Ahead
(March 24, 2023)

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