Generative A.I. is the future of learning at Boise State

Illustration by Sydney Smith

With the arrival of Artificial Intelligence, questions are starting to arise about how it can coincide with education.

On Aug. 29, Boise State President, Marlene Tromp, spoke to faculty about the repercussions and opportunities A.I. presents during a presidential address and panel discussion surrounding generative A.I. and the future of higher education.

Society’s fascination with artificial intelligence only continues to expand as our world increasingly grows more digital. The mix of fear, awe, excitement and skepticism of A.I. has translated into the educational sphere with the introduction of ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence chatbot that creates humanlike conversation, writes essays and answers questions in detail. 

ChatGPT was downloaded 500,000 times in the first week of its release, taking the world by storm. To put this in perspective, Instagram only had 100,000 downloads in the first week of its release.

“We know this tool has the power to do great good,” Tromp said during the presidential panel. “We know this tool has the power to do harm. We know our students will consider competency in A.I. critical to their future.” 

The fact is, it already has taken a role in the advancement of digital learning at Boise State. 

Boise State launched the A.I. in Education Taskforce last year, in an effort to support students and faculty in strategies on dealing with A.I. in the classroom. The faculty taskforce was present for the presidential address and panel, including Steven Hyde, assistant professor in the College of Business and Economics, and Sarah Wilson, academic program integrity director for the Office of the Dean of Students.

During the panel discussion Hyde explained his innovative approach to using A.I. for the benefit of his curriculum and as an opportunity to engage with students. 

“Right after ChatGPT came out I adjusted every single one of my activities,” Hyde said.

Hyde went on to describe how he used A.I. to individualize his material to his students to get the main objective of his course across.

“I’m excited how A.I. can be used to customize our courses to our student interests,” Hyde said. 

The dilemma is students can take advantage of these technologies by undermining their learning through cheating. 

Sarah Wilson, the Academic Program Integrity Director, has worked with several students in the past that were caught using ChatGPT to plagiarize in their coursework. Wilson’s approach to this issue is to find the reason why students feel the need to cheat. 

“One of the things we are trying to help students uncover is what need they were trying to serve through the behavior of cheating or plagiarism,” Wilson said. “We understand cheating behaviors as an expression of a need that’s not yet met.” 

Wilson explained that students can use generative A.I. to promote higher level thinking so that they’re developing critical thinking skills and not replacing learning with artificial intelligence.

“Like every tool, it depends on how it’s applied. And right now, we are all learning how can we apply it. It’s an exciting time, and a little experimental,” Wilson said.

The airline industry, healthcare and pharmaceutical organization, and even the food sector uses artificial intelligence to up the quality and efficiency of their services like with chef robots, for example. Retail, e-commerce and financial services use virtual assistants, and that is just the tip of the technological iceberg. 

Education has already incorporated A.I. into intelligent tutoring, automated grading and student data tracking analytics. 

How generative A.I. can enhance education is still a question that remains to be answered, but Boise State is undertaking the challenge of exploring the artificial intelligence frontier.

Leave a Reply