ChatGPT, Friend or Foe in the Classroom?

ChatGPT, Friend or Foe in the Classroom?

By Dr. Stephen Riley, Director of Academic Assessment, and Dr. Leslie Cramblet Alvarez, Director of the Office of Teaching and Learning

The movie M3GAN (2023) is a tale about an artificially intelligent (AI) humanoid that learns from interactions and, ultimately, becomes a killer.  The movie stands in a long line of films that highlight our collective fear that machine learning will eventually replace or destroy us.  It is interesting that this movie was released only weeks after ChatGPT, an AI program, gained popularity in the media for its own learning abilities.

ChatGPT is a self-described state-of-the-art language generation model developed by OpenAI. When the technology was asked, “what is ChatGPT”, the response it formulated in a matter of seconds was,

GPT-3 can generate human-like text in a variety of styles and formats, including chat. It can be used to create chatbots, automated content generators, and other language processing applications. GPT-3 is trained on a large dataset of human-generated text and uses machine learning algorithms to generate new text that is similar in style and content to the training data. It is one of the most advanced language models currently available and has been used to create a wide range of language-based applications.

In the last month, AI writing tools has exploded in social media and the popular press, bringing a storm of reactions from schools and institutions across the country. One school district has already banned ChatGPT and there are those who believe it is the end of certain forms of higher education. For example, Stephen Marche, has written about the death of the college essay (Marche, 2022) as a result of ChatGPT, while others have discussed how plagiarism will increase (Mitchell et al., 2022), in addition to claims that AI tools could bring the end of homework (Thompson, 2022) as we know it. Although these concerns are certainly valid, others have seen opportunities with this technology. Some think it will help students write better (Lametti, 2022), much like Grammarly and other products. Still others suggest that AI writing tools will necessitate reassessing how we engage in meaningful thinking about student learning (Warner, 2023).

While a particularly helpful discussion (What Might ChatGPT Mean for Higher Education?) was led online by educational futurist, Bryan Alexander, with input from around the world, the discussion among university educators falls into two primary categories: 1. Policing Cheating and 2. Innovation.

In the innovative ideas category, recommendations across a variety of sources have included:

  • Instructors could use ChatGPT to improve their own productivity, such as using it to help with research and even write syllabi.
  • Instructors may need to consider the way in which assignment prompts are written. It is best to be more specific since Chat-GPT answers in generalities.
  • Assignments could be created that helped students engage with Chat-GPT in ways that promote critical thinking, especially since the bot gets information incorrect in several cases.
  • If you want more ideas, here is an article by Lucinda McKnight at the Times Higher Education with eight suggestions (McKnight, 2022). And more suggestions here (Spencer, 2022) and here (Georgetown University, 2023).

On the other hand, despite some of the promises, there are concerns about what this technology means for education.  Some themes surrounding combating and addressing academic integrity violations with ChatGPT are:

  • Have robust discussions about academic honesty, integrity, and ethics that help students understand the importance of their own work in response to course engagement. Make sure they are familiar with the University of Denver Honor Code.
  • Consider syllabus statements indicating whether and how AI tools can be used.
  • Provide multiple incentives for active learning throughout the course. Instead of using a final project, such as a term paper, assess student learning throughout the course through various models of high impact learning.
  • Move written assignments within class by flipping your class and having students spend time in class responding to prompts that help them reflect on their learning.
  • Consider whether you want to engage in detection of AI generated writing. Because AI creates novel content, it poses a challenge for anti-plagiarism platforms, (though Turnitin has claimed to have “cracked the code”, Deloya, 2023), meanwhile there has been a proliferation of newer technology designed to detect AI writing (Bowman, 2023).

Though it has captured and is dominating the current higher education discussion, it is important to note that ChatGPT is neither the first AI chatbot nor is it the first way students have endeavored to bypass submitting their own work.  A good practice approach might be to understand the technology and find ways to help students engage with it using critical thinking skills that are a hallmark of the liberal arts education. 

The OTL will continue to engage with this topic throughout the term, so look for more blogs and professional development opportunities in the near future. If you want to have a longer conversation about how to best engage with AI technology, please reach out to the Office of Teaching and Learning.  We are always interested in being thought partners with you regarding good practice.

If you would like to see a full listing of information related to ChatGPT, see this Zotero library

Selected resources

Open Source Slide Deck, ChatGPT & Education Trust, T. University of Massachusets. Great basic overview of the technology including recommendations and food for thought for educators.

Chronicle of Higher Education senior writer, Beth McMurtie has two excellent pieces:

Will ChatGPT change the way you teach?

AI and the future of academic writing: Teaching experts are concerned, but not for the reasons you think

Great quick-read with recommendations from Oregon State University professor, Inara Scott on Linkedin,  Quick responses to ChatGPT


Bowman, Emma. “A College Student Created an App That Can Tell Whether AI Wrote an Essay.” NPR, 9 Jan. 2023. NPR,

Deloya, S. (January 11, 2023). Turnitin is the go-to software to catch students cheating. Now it’s in a cat and mouse game with OpenAI’s new ChatGPT chatbot. Business Insider.

Lametti, Daniel. “A.I. Could Be Great for College Essays.” Slate, 7 Dec. 2022.,

Marche, Stephen. “The College Essay Is Dead.” The Atlantic, 6 Dec. 2022,

McKnight, Lucinda. “Eight Ways to Engage with AI Writers in Higher Education.” THE Campus Learn, Share, Connect, 14 Oct. 2022,

Mills, Anna. “How Do We Prevent Learning Loss Due to AI Text Generators?” Google Docs, Accessed 9 Jan. 2023.

Mitchell, Alex, et al. Students Using ChatGPT to Cheat, Professor Warns. 26 Dec. 2022,

Spencer, John. “Human Skills in a World of Artificial Intelligence.” John Spencer, 9 Dec. 2022,

Thompson, Ben. “AI Homework.” Stratechery by Ben Thompson, 5 Dec. 2022,

Warner, John. How About We Put Learning at the Center? | Inside Higher Ed. Accessed 9 Jan. 2023.

What Might ChatGPT Mean for Higher Education? Directed by Bryan Alexander., Accessed 9 Jan. 2023.