Posted on: January 29, 2023 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Graphic by Aidan McGuire

By Aidan McGuire, News Editor, and JRN 111 Students

There’s a new student at Moraine Valley. Someone who completes their work in mere seconds. A student that could alter higher education as we know it.

Since the semester began, professors and students alike have been discussing the new kid, an AI chatbot named ChatGPT, and how to assimilate it into the Moraine Valley community and higher education as a whole.

Designed by the company OpenAI and based upon their GPT-3 AI protocol, ChatGPT allows for open, conversational communication and can create complex code, explain scientific theories, and even write entire essays out of a single text prompt submitted by the user.

“[ChatGPT] causes us to wonder what it means to write and generate ideas as a human,” said Moraine communications professor Sheryl Bundy.

Assistant dean for student success Emmanuel Esperanza focuses on the inevitable circumstances that could come along with ChatGPT: “It’s a promising software that may open up a Pandora’s box of uncertainties.”

Inside the box is a set of problems for faculty, including how to ensure students are actually doing their own work. But the box also may contain hope in the form of new ways to use the technology to enhance learning.

Photo by Aidan McGuire
The ChatGPT Interface allows users to interact with the AI through a text message-like interface.

Ben Mendez, a 19-year-old computer science major, is uneasy about the current state of AI and how it has advanced.

“It’s crazy,” Mendez said. “It’s frightening… If you make everything more artificial, I feel like you become more unhinged.”

But Vanessa Romo, 17, who is studying to become a radiology technician, believes this development is simply a natural part of AI’s life cycle: “I feel like it’s kind of a given that tech would evolve.” 

Communications and creative writing professor Erika Deiters said she took a while to come to terms with the new technology.

“My initial thought was panic and questioning the whole purpose of my career,” Deiters said. “But after sitting on it and playing around with it for a couple of weeks and talking about it more and reading about it more, I have chilled out quite a bit.”

Deiters was among a group of MV communications professors who met Thursday afternoon in D132 to discuss the implications of the chatbot and explore the potential use of this technology in their courses.

“I think when we start doing revision, we might do some comparative work,” Deiters said after the meeting. “Looking at their own writing versus what ChatGPT creates.”

While some see it as a tool for possible plagiarism, other professors and students recognize its possible learning benefits.

“I may use it in my poetry class,” said Bundy. “I’ve been messing around with it a bit trying to see what kind of poems it generates, especially metaphor poetry. I think it could be a useful tool to help my students understand how metaphor works.” 

Some international students saw the potential benefits of the technology to help them learn.

“I came here from Bangladesh,” said Amit Saha, 35. “I would use it for support and to answer questions.” 

Abdulla Mamun, 27, said, “I will use it for studying for sure.” 

My initial thought was panic and questioning the whole purpose of my career.”

MV Creative Writing Professor Erika Deiters

Despite the benefits, ChatGPT has several drawbacks as well. 

Ken Potocki, 25, a staff member in the student success office, says he’s not a fan of anything AI: “People take advantage of programs like ChatGPT and use it as an excuse to be lazy.”

It may not be too farfetched to imagine a scenario in which a robot is writing an essay and another robot is grading it–removing both the student and the teacher from the equation.

“Access to this software may encourage students to use it as a cheating mechanism,” Esperanza said. “However, I did see someone create a system that will detect if an essay was written by ChatGPT, so there’s always another mechanism that will counteract it.”

Some students feel they would only be hurting themselves if they used the chatbot.

“I would not use it because I would not be learning anything,” said business major Ahmad Zeidan, 18. “What is the point of taking the class just to cheat and not learn anything from the class?”

Freshman computer science major Jenny Suarez, 19, emphasizes her uncertainty towards ChatGPT, but says it can help with the stress of everyday life. 

“On one hand, it’s a form of cheating and a way for students to get the easy way out without putting in any work; that won’t benefit them,” Suarez said. “But on the other hand, many students have a lot on their plate and don’t always have the time to write a paper, so desperate times call for desperate measures.”

Where ChatGPT will end up in education remains to be seen. New York has taken the most drastic of steps by completely banning it statewide. An article in the New York Times explains some teachers have been using it to grade papers, while others have been teaching students with it. And here at Moraine, some professors have added a clause into their syllabi warning against its use, while others are meeting to discuss the potential use of this technology in their classrooms. 

“Many people create things for the better, but sometimes we don’t know the unintended consequences of it,” Esperanza said. “Only time will tell.”

JRN 111 students Isabelle Deane, Jackson Edwards, Ahmad Hasan, Abby Hobbs, Abigail Niedospial, and Thalia Rivera contributed to this report.