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A Look Into the Usage of AI on Campus

From streamlining administrative tasks to revolutionizing classroom dynamics, the seamless integration of AI technologies is reshaping the very fabric of higher education, prompting a profound reevaluation of traditional learning paradigms and sparking a spirited debate on the implications of this digital transformation.

This lede was written by AI. 

As artificial intelligence grows in popularity and functionality, the Talon wanted to explore its impact on the campus of Oklahoma Christian University. 

Nathan Shank, Associate Professor of English, opened the AI conversation by describing the academic community’s current mindset toward the subject. 

“I spend a lot of my life going to webinars about AI right now because the academic community is still in crisis mode. We need to embrace it, because I believe people are using it in the workforce,” Shank said.

Provost Brian Starr said AI seems to be following the familiar pattern of academia responding to new technologies in a “crisis mode” fashion before ultimately adopting them. 

“The most intellectually honest answer I can give is this: it’s the same thing we did with the calculator and the same thing we did with the iPhone. We’re going to professionally outsource some of the work we used to do on our heads to Chat GPT and other AI,” Starr said. “My job as an educator is to prepare students for the world they will encounter, not the world that existed five years ago. We need to be leveraging the use of AI, allowing students to use it as the start of their intellectual inquiry, not as the finishing point.”

The North Institute plays a vital role in helping faculty navigate the proper uses of AI for their students. The team helps faculty shape their assignments to ensure they will cause students to think critically, an element many fear will be lost if AI is used too heavily. 

“What my team is doing is helping faculty think about what’s the purpose of their assignment. We can help determine if this is a good assignment or if the professor was just throwing homework at the student,” Wendy James, Director of the North Institute for Teaching & Learning, said.

James discussed the heart behind approaching AI with caution. 

“There’s a time and a place and a usefulness for AI as a productive part of society. Sometimes, faculty are giving writing assignments where the whole purpose is an exercise for a student to think,” James said. “If you have AI doing all the thinking, even if they were to adapt the document, they didn’t do all the thinking. When you’re writing, you want to argue with yourself.  What I can tell for most faculty, they want to help students learn how to use it, and then learn how to avoid it.”

Shank explained how he has integrated the use of AI into his teaching this semester. 

“In technical writing, I’ve allowed students to write some of their technical documents with it, and then they have to modify them because it doesn’t do a perfect job, of course. I’m also making the students justify the decisions that it made in front of the class and in writing,” Shank said, “There’s a lot of accountability for the students still owning the writing they may have not written word for word.” 

James shared her observations from Shank’s technical writing students who presented  work aided by AI. 

“Sometimes, when you just put two heads together, AI is your second head to get the ball rolling. While I was there for the presentations, I saw how none of them felt like it actually sped up the process. That’s part of the learning process, right? Giving permission to experience and to kind of decide on this is not always a cup of tea,” James said. 

Starr promoted this type of usage for AI. 

“The ultimate goal is technology makes us even better thinkers. It challenges us to think even more deeply. We outsource the easy thinking stuff we can do very well with almost intellectual laziness,” Starr said. “Then we devote our brainpower to the highest level tasks, the most highly critical thinking tasks and to the tasks of how do I present this in the clearest way to my reader.”

At the start of its study, the Talon reached out to a sophmore girl who responded to our Instagram poll and said she uses AI on homework assignments. 

“Once I have a topic chosen, I don’t really know the best way to form my thoughts on paper, so I will use chat GBT for ideas,” the girl said. 

She also said AI has helped her see other points of view she is not as familiar with. 

“I’m writing an argumentative essay right now, and I’m very strong in one side of the views, but I didn’t really know how to talk about the other side’s point of view,” she said. “I would put in the other side’s point of view, and Chat GBT would help me get a feel for how to word my essay if I was on that side. I don’t always use it word for word, but I’m like, okay, I can see how this applies.”

Starr commented on how AI can raise the standard for quality work in academia. 

“You’ve got the tools to turn in a good paper, but that’s not going to get a very good grade because the standards are higher now. Now, we expect an outstanding paper,” Starr said, “You can use the tool to save you two hours worth of work, but use that two hours you were going to use to create the rough draft to go deeper and add your own personal touch.” 

Starr emphasized that while AI can aid an academic, it will never outvalue the human touch.

“There’s a lesson there for Christian universities; even if we’re able one day to let the machines do all of the work for us, there’s this emotional component, the spiritual component, that we simply can’t outsource to a machine that we need to do for each other,” Starr said.

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