What are Artificial Intelligence (AI) writing tools?

AI writing tools such as ChatGPT create text responses that are meant to simulate human responses in a variety of styles and formats. They work by sifting through terabytes of available data and using algorithms to pull words to create responses. ChatGPT is currently the most well-known, but Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, and more are all working on or have already released similar AI programs.

Positive Uses of AI Programs

Though AI writing and data is not always accurate and has limitations, you and your students may find ways to use it that can positively support your work:

It can help students get started on an assignment by providing ideas for how to structure their writing.

It can help you get a jump start on research by listing sources that you can then explore more thoroughly.

For those learning English, these tools can provide language that they can adapt to express their ideas.

You can use AI to help with tasks such as writing syllabi and assignment prompts.

Some faculty have created assignments that ask students to use AI writing tools and critically review the output. This is a great opportunity to have them review these tools and discover their limitations as well as how they can be helpful. Teaching with ChatGPT: Assignment Design Tips & Ideas and Incorporating ChatGPT into Your Assignments both provide thoughtful guidance and examples for how to create these assignments.

Concerns About AI Programs

You may be concerned about the use of these AI tools and what it means for academic integrity within your course. Here are some ways that you can proactively address this in your class:

Discuss Academic Dishonesty

  • At the beginning of the quarter, carve out time for robust discussions about academic honesty, integrity, and ethics; such discussions will 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.
  • Update your syllabus policies
  • Be very clear about your expectations regarding students’ work. Consider syllabus statements indicating whether and how AI tools can be used. Review Dr. Joel Gladd’s Policies Related to ChatGPT and Other AI Tools and the Classroom Policies for AI Generative Tools document for sample policies across disciplines and institutions.
  • We’ve added a section to our Sample Syllabus Statements page about AI tools with local examples. Have one you’d like to share? Email it to otl@du.edu.

Think about your course and assignment structure

  • Provide multiple incentives for active learning throughout the course. Instead of relying exclusively on a final project, such as a term paper, assess student learning throughout the course through using formative approaches in addition to summative ones.
  • As much as is possible given class size, get to know your students’ writing styles. For instance, you could ask them to produce a reflection, submitted via Canvas, at the beginning of the quarter that asks them to discuss their familiarity with the subject matter of your course, as well as their goals or concerns. Canvas discussion boards or low-stakes, in-class writing prompts are other ways to learn about your students’ writing styles.
  • Write specific prompts that asks students to synthesize knowledge and make connections among various ideas, sources, disciplines, etc. ChatGPT struggles with details and making connections among ideas.

If you do suspect academic dishonesty

  • Don’t rely on AI checking software to confirm your suspicions. Although Turnitin and other companies have programs that check for AI-generated writing, many of these programs are, at best, in their earliest stages, or at worse, unreliable.
  • Instead of assuming the worst and demonizing the student, take the time to have a conversation. If AI tools are banned in your class, consider requesting that the student visit you in office hours (this is a tactic that you may already implement with other forms of academic dishonesty which would also work for violating an AI policy). Ask the student about their writing process; get a sense of how the student developed their ideas. Then, you can ask the direct question about the use of AI. Depending on how the student responds, you can decide how to proceed based on your course and/or department/program policies. Also, visit the Student Rights and Responsibilities (SRR) Faculty and Staff Academic Integrity Resources webpage for further information on DU processes related to academic misconduct.
  • If you suspect that more than one student has used an AI tool to complete an assignment, use class time to have a broader discussion about the uses and misuses of AI tools; reiterate your course and department policies as well as the guidelines of the DU Honor code. webpage

Additional Resources


Dr. Kerstin Haring, Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science, reflects on these AI tools, how they work, and how we might be able to use them to our advantage in two faculty guest blogs:

OTL and ChatGPT Webinar

Resources from Across Campus

Resources from Outside DU

Need Support with AI Resources?

Contact the OTL or schedule a 1:1 appointment with one of our Instructional Designers for support