University of Iowa professor embraces ChatGPT in writing classroom

When students head back to class, they'll have more technological power than ever before.
Published: Aug. 15, 2023 at 10:45 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - When students head back to class this fall, they’ll have more technological power than ever before thanks to ChatGPT.

Many in education have raised concerns about online artificial intelligence tool available to anyone. Public school districts in New York City, Los Angeles, and Seattle have all banned it, although some have now reversed that decision.

Amid the controversy, one University of Iowa professor is actually embracing ChatGPT.

“I can’t force them to write,” said Pam Bourjaily, Professor of Business Communication. “If there is this tool, I want to teach how to use this as a writing tool.”

With ChatGPT now a part of the landscape, Bourjaily’s teaching philosophy could be summed up by that old adage: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

“I’m teaching business students. They will be probably having to use generative AI in the workplace. I think it’s our make sure students can use it responsibly, that they can use it ethically,” she said.

This coming semester, she is including the artificial intelligence machine in all her writing assignments.

“People use it for kind of cheating on essays a little, I’ve heard a lot of,” said Will Grant, an incoming freshman.

TV9 stopped two students on the sidewalk to hear if they’ve used ChatGPT or plan to in the future.

“I try to just do my work on my own ‘cause I kind of get worried I’ll get caught cheating if it is considered cheating,” said Grant.

“Some students are just going to fail in certain aspects in life and have to learn to, kind of, you know, ‘Hey, this is a crutch, but not in a good way, this isn’t helping me, this is hurting me. I need to turn away and do other things,’” said Hayley Vierkant, another incoming freshman.

Bourjaily said she is “probably the least tech-oriented person” and that she didn’t even consider herself an early adopter of tech, but in Iowa she’s in the vanguard of those trying to understand how machine learning and classroom learning can co-exist.

“I think most people are still trying to figure out how they might use it,” said Bourjaily.