Generative AI in higher education Adam Maksl | Amaksl@iu.edu | 2023 CTL Resource Fair


Introduction to generative AI

What is generative AI?

The tool most people have been talking about lately is ChatGPT, a product from OpenAI. It’s part of a subset of artificial intelligence referred to as “generative AI.” Generative AI can create new data – like text and images – based on patterns it has learned from the large sets of existing data on which it is trained. ChatGPT is a chatbot tool intended to generate text in response to requests and input from users. Tools have also been developed to generate other types of data, such as OpenAI’s DALL-E 2, which can produce images based on short strings of text provided by users. Similar technologies are starting to be applied to other media, such as sound and video.

Google, Microsoft and other companies are beginning to integrate generative AI into products, including search and productivity tools. For example, Microsoft now has integrated OpenAI's GPT system into its Bing search [use the "Chat" mode in Bing in the Microsoft Edge browser] and is now working on integrating generative AI tools into its productivity software, such as Word and Powerpoint. Google recently made its Bard AI chatbot openly available and is planning to soon launch AI-powered tools in products like Gmail and Google Docs.

What are the implications for teaching and learning, and for higher ed (or even more generally)?

There are probably more questions than answers, not just about what this technology is and how it works, but also about appropriate use and its possible effects on creative expression and information ecosystems (including the problem of creating and spreading misinformation). Some questions include:

  • Whether AI-generated output can be passed off as human generated, and how we can address this is our learning outcomes, activities, and assessments.
  • Whether the content produced can be trusted, and the likelihood for it to produce biased output.
  • Whether these tools can aid in teaching and learning, including in expanding the ability for faculty to emphasize relationships, community, and application in what they teach.
  • How AI tools may impact our own disciplines, and what we can do to help prepare students for a world where skills in using AI will be of tremendous value.
  • And many more.

Exploring applied uses of ChatGPT in teaching and learning

It's all in the prompt. I'll share a few strategies for using ChatGPT (and other text generative AI tools in higher education). Many of these I've adapted from Ethan Mollick, a UPenn Wharton School professor who has written quite a bit in recent months about generative AI. In particular, you may want to check out his posts "Using AI to make teaching easier & more impactful" and "How to use AI to do practical stuff: A new guide." More recently, he's written about how assignments can be designed to challenge students to learn the technology.

Create formative assessments

I adapted one of Mollick's prompts to use in one of my classes to create low-stakes formative assessments to add to course videos via PlayPosit. This is what I asked ChatGPT to do:

You are a quiz creator of highly diagnostic quizzes. You will make good low-stakes tests and diagnostics. These quizzes will be based on a transcript of a video that you will ask me to provide. The quizzes should be geared toward an undergrad-level communications law class. Once you have the transcript you will construct several multiple choice questions to quiz the audience on that topic. The questions should be highly relevant and go beyond just facts. Multiple choice questions should include plausible, competitive alternate responses and should not include an "all of the above option." At the end of the quiz, you will provide an answer key and explain feedback that can be provided to the student for each possible answer. Please also provide the questions in the order the topics appear in the video transcript.

After providing the video transcript, I had to ask some follow-up questions/give some follow-up requests, but what I got was a series of multiple-choice questions with feedback for each correct and each incorrect answer.

Create hypotheticals, examples, and question variations

In many of my classes, I use hypothetical examples to ask students to apply course concepts. Those examples can be time-consuming and difficult to develop. This is also the case when I want to create multiple version of a question. I've experimented with ChatGPT as an assistant to help create these.

Mollick has a similar use. Here's his prompt:

I would like you to act as an example generator for students. When confronted with new and complex concepts, adding many and varied examples helps students better understand those concepts. I would like you to ask what concept I would like examples of, and what level of students I am teaching. You will provide me with four different and varied accurate examples of the concept in action.

You can also provide existing test questions and ask it to create variations. And keep tweaking until it's to your liking.

Write, revise, and edit

Generative AI tools can be used to write, or help you write. I've heard people describe it as a draft creator, or as a tool to break writers' block.

For example, you can ask these tools to revise writing to make it more concise. Or to adapt tone for another kind of audience.

Tools like ChatGPT can also be used to come up with ideas, a lot of them, quickly. Mostly, some OK, but maybe there is a diamond in there. Sometimes seeing a large set of ideas can also help with sparking our own creativity.

It'll take a little work, but these can be incredibly useful in writing or other creative processes.


There is much being written about these tools, including its role in teaching and learning. I've curated a few items below.

The following are articles, resources, etc. about this emerging technology, curated by IU's own Emily Oakes and shared with other universities that are members of Unizin (Unizin is a multi-university consortium IU of which IU is a founding member.)

Additional articles