Weber State professor finds positive uses for ChatGPT in education
OGDEN, Utah – Weber State associate professor Alex Lawrence isn’t afraid of artificial intelligence in the classroom.
Lawrence, who teaches in the professional sales department, introduced ChatGPT and other new AI tools in three classes this semester. ChatGPT is an advanced language model that generates human-like responses to a wide range of topics.
The first time he used ChatGPT, Lawrence said he was struck with two thoughts: “One, this is going to change everything, and two, this is the greatest cheating tool I've ever seen.”
Since launching in November 2022, ChatGPT has caused a stir in educational circles and spurred worries about academic honesty and cheating. ChatGPT has passed exams for law and business programs at the University of Minnesota and University of Pennsylvania. Parent company OpenAI has rolled out an anti-cheating tool that educators can use to spot AI-generated text.
After consulting with his peers in professional sales, Lawrence received full support to integrate AI into his spring curriculum.
“I want to prepare students to use the tech that I know they're going to see in the workforce,” he said. “We're not only embracing it in my classes, we are working hard to help them become early experts in how to leverage the latest technologies available. I think it’s my duty to do that as a teacher.”
For their assignments, Lawrence’s students create a slide presentation showing which AI tools they used, what prompts and other information they submit to get their results, and then narrate bullet points to show the knowledge they’ve gained.
Lawrence said he’s already been surprised by how quickly they’ve picked up on things that typically don’t happen until later in the semester.
“The quality of what they’ve presented and learned in the presentation process is well ahead of any prior semester result I have seen,” he said. “It’s blown me away.”
Aldan Bailey, a senior majoring in professional sales who is taking one of Lawrence’s classes, was initially taken aback when he learned they’d be using AI. But he’s come to embrace the tool to help with assignments.
“ChatGPT offers tools and resources that, when used ethically and for the right purpose, will set you much further ahead in the world of business and sales,” Bailey said. “It has saved me time and is making me work smarter, not harder.”
In the business realm, Lawrence foresees his students using AI to write emails, generate presentations, come up with marketing plans or proposal outlines, and to save time while on deadlines or when they lack inspiration.
Though he’s embracing the new technology, Lawrence shares many people’s concerns about the ways AI could influence education and learning in the future.
“Depending on the discipline and the classes, the level of concern may vary, but AI is not going away, and the tools are only going to get better and smarter,” he said. “What I'm suggesting my students do, in a nutshell, is this: you’ve got a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be first with a world-changing business technology. Become experts in it and leave college with advantages no students before you had.’”
Jessica Kokesh, social media editor
Bryan Magaña, public relations director