IOWA CITY — For the first time in his 45 years as a professor, Iowa State University’s Michael Bugeja — like many of his peers — included new language in a syllabus this fall for his “media ethics” course addressing head-on an issue threatening to infiltrate all corners of higher education.
“We will not be monitoring the use of ChatGPT,” distinguished journalism professor Bugeja wrote. “But you should know that your instructor’s expertise is technical in nature, and he is quick to identify (artificial intelligence) hallucinations.”
AI hallucinations — which are artificial intelligence-generated untruths and fabricated information — are what worry Bugeja most about generative-AI tools like ChatGPT, a “large language model chatbot” capable of producing high-level writing, code and other content based on prompts and questions.
“Language models generate false information that is easy to fact-check,” Bugeja warned incoming students. “That said, if you use ChatGPT to help you write a discussion-board response, you will be cheating yourself of the critical thinking that is a hallmark of this class. Chatbots can inspire you. That is fine. But you should write the content.”
Bugeja’s concern about false information is one of many AI-related worries facing instructors and professors as students return to campus this fall. Others include plagiarism, misrepresentation and technology-aided shortcuts that students might employ — depriving themselves of material learning and tricking instructors into thinking they produced or wrote content they didn’t.
Of course, artificial intelligence can be helpful, too — supporting students and faculty alike by improving efficiency, reducing tedium, exemplifying effective writing, generating ideas and unclogging creative blocks.
“There's a balance that needs to happen as we think about the impact of the large language models,” according to University of Iowa business analytics professor Barry Thomas, who serves as senior associate dean in the Tippie College of Business. “It’s not all negative with something like ChatGPT.”