Designing Courses in the Age of AI

Medford/Somerville (Anna Miller/Tufts University)

The new availability of generative AI adds yet another disruption to established teaching practices. Yet there are ways instructors can address this new challenge with course-design strategies and approaches. 

Large Language Models (LLMs) such as ChatGPT and Bing Chat can now generate written work in a range of writing styles, revise written content, solve particular problems, and respond to prompts and questions. Other types of AI models can write computer code, and generate images on request. These systems do not always create high quality output, and some of the content they generate may include incorrect information, biased content, plagiarized content, and fabricated references. Nonetheless, their capacities are rapidly evolving and becoming more sophisticated.  

Some instructors are asking how these systems change what students need and want to learn, others are exploring ways that AI can enhance students’ learning, and all of us are considering how to adapt our individual courses. Below are suggestions to assist instructors in prioritizing your efforts as you explore the impacts of AI on teaching. 

Communicate with your students about AI policies and expectations in your course 

AI can be used by students as references, tools and even collaborators, but can also be used to avoid doing assigned work.  While some instructors may encourage students to use AI resources, others may forbid their use.  It’s critical, therefore, to be upfront and clear about how you expect students to interact with AI tools in your course. Students are already experienced adapting to a variety of academic integrity policies in each of their courses since expectations for collaboration, citations and tool use vary class by class.   

Tufts’ School of AS&E has a set of Academic Integrity Resources  which can be helpful in thinking through what policies you would like to state explicitly in your class.  You can also begin to engage students in conversations about AI. Some framing questions include: How do they see education evolving in the face of AI? What do they believe are ethical concerns and appropriate uses of AI? 

For more 

Example AI Policy for Syllabus
New advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) have made it easy to use generative systems such as Chat GPT.  In this course, you can use these AI tools, just as you can collaborate with your peers, on writing, brainstorming, giving feedback, revising and editing your work. Be careful to observe the following guidelines:
1. Quote text directly generated by AI.
2. Cite the tools when used, clarifying the manner in which it contributed to your work. 
3. Do not submit any work generated by an AI program as your own.

What is most important in this course is your learning. Any use of AI should facilitate learning, not replace your own ability to analyze ideas and develop your own skills.  If do choose to use AI tools there are some important things to keep in mind: 
AI platforms are trained on a selection of data sources which contain biased content. These sources include news content, journal articles, books, and other online forums. Bias is embedded in the content itself, and in the way that sets of data are selected for any given AI tool. For example, currently ChatGPT’s data set only contains content up through the year 2021. Although biases in AI systems may be subtle and not readily apparent, they can have serious consequences if they are not addressed. 
AI platforms are designed to generate language that has a high probability of being relevant to a given context. They can produce text which closely mimics human knowledge, understanding and even human emotions. However, a AI systems do not understand the way humans do. Therefore, think critically about any information or advice offered by an AI system.  It will create inaccurate information with confidence, invent false references and state facts that are false just as authoritatively as facts that are true. Do not assume any information provided by the system is correct without verifying it through trusted sources.

If you have questions you can view Tufts Academic Integrity resources or ask me via email, in office hours or during class. 

Revise course assignments to minimize the value of outsourcing thinking to an AI

There are three main complementary approaches that can both promote deeper learning experiences for students and dissuade their use of shortcuts such as AI tools in assignments.   

Emphasize process over product 

The first strategy is to emphasize process-oriented tasks (instead of product oriented ones) . Asking students to revise their ideas iteratively, through various stages, can help make explicit important skills such as how to analyze sources of information, revise writing to target different audiences, evaluate their own work and incorporate feedback to improve it.  

Offer choice and personalization 

A second approach targets increasing student motivation through choice and personalization.  Students are less likely to want to use outside tools when able to explore ideas that are personally meaningful to them (for example interviewing a family member), learn things that they believe are important to their future goals, and create products of work that are fun.   

Promote social learning 

The third complementary approach engages students in social learning (e.g., discussing ideas with peers, collaboratively synthesizing information, clarifying misconceptions or working together to solve problems). In these scenarios it’s more difficult for students to employ AI tools to participate on their behalf. 

For more see Thinking about our Assessments in the Age of Artificial Intelligence (AI) from Teaching@Tufts. 

Reflective Prompts for Designing Authentic Learning Experiences

  • What are we learning and why is it important?
  • What background knowledge and skills did I assume students would bring?
  • Have I asked students to reflect on: 1. What am I learning right now? 2. How is it going? 3. Where do I want to go next in my learning?

for more see Metacognitive Prompts (TeachThought)

Become Familiar with Generative AI 

Generative AI tools like ChatGPT, Bing Chat, Midjourney and others create content that has a certain style and voice. Explore the variety of AI Tools that are available right now, and try out a few for yourself keeping in mind not only your course, but also your professional work and broader life. You could begin to play with Chat GPT to learn how to develop better prompts, and engage it in conversation to understand its capacities. For some examples see this teacher’s prompt guide to Chat GPT. You can also ask an AI to revise things you’ve written to make them more concise or to fix grammatical errors.  Experiment with what it would create for an exam question, revise assignment instructors or summarize student survey results.  By the same token, try giving some of your assignments or exam questions to an AI, to see what kind of results it returns. Explore how AI tools (e.g. Elicit, Consensus) suggest research articles and scholarly work. Play with these tools to see if they can enhance or reproduce knowledge and skills you ask students to produce through your assignments. It’s important to pause and ask how might AI change (or not) some of the skills and knowledge students will need in their future careers. 

Consider Ways AI Tools Could Enhance Your Course 

While it’s important to be cautious about the ethics of asking students to create accounts with AI platforms (see e.g., ChatGPT and Good Intentions in Higher Ed), there are a variety of ways these tools can enhance a course.  For example, a generative AI system such as ChatGPT can revise and edit writing (or suggest potential revisions).  AIs can be used for personal tutoring and to answer questions or explain confusing concepts, with the understanding that sometimes the information provided may be inaccurate or biased.  Students can also learn by exploring these tools themselves, looking for factual errors in AI generated responses, considering differences in responses arising from different tools, comparing AI generated works to ones from the literature or their own work. For more ideas see Educator Resources for ChatGPT

The SPACE Framework: Teaching Students to Write with AI 

  • Set directions for how students engage AI systems 
  • Prompt AI to provide specific outputs 
  • Assess the AI output to check for accuracy, bias and writing quality/voice 
  • Curate AI-generated text from multiple sources, combined with human contributions 
  • Edit to integrate AI & human created content 

for more see Teaching Students to Write with AI: The SPACE Framework by Glenn Kleiman

Begin Conversations About What These Tools Might Mean for Tufts and Higher Education 

Engaging around this issue with faculty colleagues, staff and students will enhance the conversation, improve our understanding, and lead to shared approaches for how we think about new AI tools and how we will manage them. Explore CELT’s collection of Artificial Intelligence resources as you consider how to engage in dialogue about the implications of AI at different levels.  

CELT & ETS are also here to support you.  Reach out for an individual consultation to talk about specific concerns and strategies in your courses — 

Where to learn more 

See Also