UI professor says students should embrace AI

IOWA CITY — Some schools and colleges are trying to ban students from using artificial intelligence in their coursework, but a University of Iowa instructor is encouraging her students to embrace AI in all of her writing classes. Professor Pamela Bourjaily, in the UI’s Tippie College of Business, says she thinks it’s a smart move to “share the classroom” with Chat-GPT as a teaching tool.

“Because I think you’ll be sharing it anyway,” Bourjaily says. “Students have access to these tools and will be using them, so I think it’s my responsibility as an instructor of business communication to teach students how to use that writing tool effectively.” Bourjaily says she’s teaching students that they’re responsible for the output they get from the A-I and how it’s important that they check for content and bias.

She notes, it’s not necessarily less work to use AI. “If you are creating prompts like framing what questions to ask it so that you get more specific information,” she says, “it can take kind of an ongoing dialogue with the chatbot to get more relevant information.” When Chat-GPT first appeared last fall, Bourjaily says she could quickly spot if a student had used the ‘bot versus writing something original themselves. Now, however, that’s changed.

“With the advances in technology, and with asking more targeted questions to the chatbot, you can get effective, good writing,” Bourjaily says. “So, I don’t know that I could detect student, totally human-produced writing versus chatbot writing.” She says one of her goals is to teach students to organize information and to be able to communicate that information fluently. “One way to do that is to write it yourself,” Bourjaily says. “Another way to do that may be to prompt the generative AI to produce that writing for you, and then you edit it, and it could be ongoing so that you edit it to get the best content possible.”

When Chat-GPT is used to produce documents like letters of recommendation, she says it can strip out the personal aspects. Instead, Bourjaily says collaboration and using AI as a tool makes sure the humanity is kept in the writing.