02 March 2023 Volume :11 Issue :5

To Embrace ChatGPT or Not: That is the Question!

To Embrace ChatGPT or Not: That is the Question!
Panelists (clockwise from left): Mr Abdulbaqi Badru, Dr Jin Kuwata, Mr Melikhaya Noqamza, Dr Upasana Singh, and Dr Reginald Govender.

UKZN’s Teaching and Learning Office (UTLO) hosted a panel discussion to discuss the latest disruptive artificial intelligence (AI) tool ChatGPT, which is able to mimic human conversations and write computer programmes, music, poetry, jokes… and even students’ essays!

The panel for the event - titled Let’s Chat about ChatGPT: Opportunities and Perils - comprised a senior lecturer from Columbia University in the United States, Dr Jin Kuwata; UKZN academic leader and senior lecturer Dr Upasana Singh; UKZN senior lecturer Dr Reginald Govender; and an Instructional Designer at UKZN Mr Melikhaya Noqamza. The gathering was chaired by Mr Abdulbaqi Badru, a Technology Consultant in UKZN’s Teaching and Learning Division.

Sharing some fun facts about the tool, Badru noted how ChatGPT was created by OpenAI (co-funded by Elon Musk) and launched in November 2022. Available free of charge, ChatGPT has already broken records by becoming the first online service to reach one million users in five days.

Evaluating AI as software that learns, Kuwata highlighted the principle of machine learning involving training algorithms that recognise patterns in data through supervised or unsupervised reinforcement, enabling it to make predictions and decisions resulting in a learned algorithm or model. Kuwata commented on how ChatGPT allowed the user to give it prompts, broken down into tokens which pass through the learned algorithm or model and return a response, resulting in the tool talking back.

Alluding to examples of the kind of answers ChatGPT can generate, Kuwata noted: ‘ChatGPT is pretty smart, but it does not signal the end all for human intelligence. It will still require a significant injection of domain knowledge to produce good responses. Opportunity exists in exploring this application with our students to gain a deeper understanding. This is because the skills required to be proficient at something are the same skills we need to use ChatGPT effectively in the kind of things we want to engage in.’

He added how ChatGPT should be embraced as an assistant in learning, shifting mentalities from a tool a person can learn from to a tool an individual can learn with.

Govender reflected on how similar AI tools had been used in the past to publish research papers with no substance and commented on ChatGPT’s failure to encompass human emotions via text through personal reflections. Examining notable headlines that have called for ChatGPT to be banned in various Higher Education Institutions around the world, he evaluated how universities could embrace the tool through transparency, coursework integration and establishing suitable means to assess it.

Singh focused on the fears associated with the platform as a new tool that students can use to potentially plagiarise work when doing assignments and essays. She highlighted how ChatGPT had caused a disruption in the education system with educators asking themselves if they were still relevant - as the tool is able to evaluate student papers providing detailed, useful information in a faster turn-around time.

Questioning whether the tool should be banned or accepted, Singh called on ChatGPT to be embraced and implemented thoughtfully in conjunction with in-depth class discussions. She said the tool could be used as a teaching aid offering personalised lesson plans and tutoring; an aid to improve the academic writing of students; an assessment and lecture tool to help educators prepare for classes, and for students to become effective digital citizens equipped for a world of work that encompasses AI systems.

Singh also encouraged educators to focus less on policing the use of the ChatGPT platform and to instead prioritise designing the right type of assessments for their students.

Noqamza reflected on the features found in AI programmes namely calculating, evaluating, curating and the disruptive feature of creating. He reviewed discriminative text-to-text programmes such as Grammarly, and focused on the numerous generative AI applications that have transformed curriculum consumption and dissemination via text-to-text through ChatGPT and CoPilot (for coding); text-to-audio through Muse Net; audio-to-audio through Voice Mod; text-to-image through Dall-E; image-to-image through Lensa; and text-to-video through Synthesia and Tome.

Wrapping up discussions on whether ChatGPT should be embraced or not, Badru said: ‘This is perhaps an erroneous question, since academics should be reluctant to embrace anything without first subjecting it to rigorous empirical scrutiny.’

He added, ‘While some are celebrating its advent, others are fiercely skeptical. Whatever ideological position we adopt, we have an obligation to engage with ChatGPT first before embracing it, because of its potential to fundamentally change conventional conceptions of knowledge and knowledge production.’

To view the discussion, click here: https://youtu.be/lrZgLV-aiZs.

Words: Hlengiwe Khwela

Image: Supplied

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