Frequently Asked Questions About Gen-AI
Guidance for Teaching and Learning in a World with Generative Artificial Intelligence
Faculty and students have been experimenting with ways that new generative artificial intelligence (Gen-AI) tools such as ChatGPT, DALL-E, and others might be used. These FAQs provide guidance about the appropriate uses of these tools in teaching and learning at the University.
Because this technology is new, our understanding of its implications for teaching and learning is still evolving. This guidance may be revised as additional benefits and risks of this technology emerge, as the technology develops further, or as new kinds of Gen-AI tools become available.
Answer: Generative Artificial Intelligence is a category of artificial intelligence systems, such as ChatGPT, that are “trained” to identify patterns in existing datasets and draw on that training to produce content. The Center for Teaching Excellence has posted a helpful introduction to Generative AI, focusing on its implications for teaching.
Answer: The Center for Teaching Excellence has curated a suite of web-based resources with information on teaching and learning with Gen-AI. The Center is also planning talks and workshops on Gen-AI for the fall semester. To stay up to date on these and related events, visit the Center’s events page regularly or subscribe to their newsletter using the form at the bottom of their homepage.
Answer: Yes. Many Gen-AI engines including ChatGPT save the information used to create an account, such as the user’s name, phone number, email, and (for accounts requiring a fee) payment method. In addition, these engines may save your entire conversation, including every prompt you enter, to be used in training the system. Users should not enter sensitive, personal, or proprietary information into any Gen-AI system.
Answer: Incorporating this technology into your teaching can be useful, as many of your students will be experimenting with these Gen-AI tools. It is important that they learn how to use them appropriately and that they understand these tools’ limitations and the ethical issues connected with their use. If you would like your students to use these tools in an assignment, be aware that most Gen-AI tools require users to create an account using a cell phone number or entering other personal information. ((The University is currently investigating the possibility of providing these tools through an institutional license, to address security, privacy, and equity concerns.) For this reason, alternative ways of completing the assignment should be provided; students should not be required to create an account.
Students may have privacy or intellectual property concerns about uploading their original work to a Gen-AI tool, since this will add the work to the tool’s data set. If you design an assignment that involves students uploading their original work into a Gen-AI tool, you must provide alternative ways to complete the assignment.
Answer: It is important for instructors to make explicit in their syllabi and assignment descriptions which uses of Gen-AI are permitted in coursework, if any, and which are prohibited. Using Gen-AI for completing coursework in ways that are prohibited by the course instructor may be a violation of the Honor Code. The Center for Teaching Excellence has compiled resources for talking with your students about Gen-AI, including an interactive syllabus statement drafting tool.
Note that Gen-AI can be used in ways that contribute to learning without providing direct assistance on assignments. For example, these tools can explain concepts at different levels of complexity (“explain protein folding to a high school student”, “… to a college student”, etc). Students can use a prompt like “quiz me on protein folding”, and the tool will deliver a series of questions and provide the student feedback on their responses. Students can also use the tools to create virtual flash cards and other study aids. You may wish to share these uses with your students, and to caution them that responses should always be independently assessed and checked against reliable sources such as the course textbook.
Answer: Students’ original work is (in most cases) their intellectual property, and thus instructors may not enter a student's original work into an AI tool that will add that work to the tool’s data set. AI tools are not effective for grading most kinds of assignments, including writing assignments. However, some AI tools can help to ease the grading process, for example by organizing the work and facilitating the use of rubrics. Faculty wishing to make their grading and assessment processes more efficient and consistent are encouraged to explore Gradescope, iRubric, and other tools provided by the University for this purpose.
Answer: The University discourages instructors from using Gen-AI detectors for the purpose of detecting academic fraud. The task force report notes that “these [detecting] tools are notoriously unreliable and hence using them is usually counterproductive and can be risky.” (p. 6) Most detectors add submitted content to their databases; because students’ original work is (in most cases) their intellectual property, instructors may not upload a student’s original work to those detectors. Guides for students on how to “trick” AI content detectors are widely available.
Answer: A frank, open discussion with your class will help to shape your students’ perspectives on this issue and their approach to their coursework.
The emergence of this technology provides an opportunity to model intellectual curiosity and openness. You might begin the conversation by asking your students for their perspectives on this technology and what role(s) it should (or should not) play in a class like yours.
Talk about the learning objectives for each assignment. This will clarify your rationale for allowing, limiting, or prohibiting the use of AI tools, and will enable students to appreciate what they would miss out on if they didn’t complete the work as assigned.
Point out – or better, demonstrate – these tools’ limitations. Because these tools draw on information published on the internet without regard to its accuracy, their output often includes misleading, biased, or false content. And they often misattribute content or fabricate sources.
Acknowledge that these tools can be used to aid learning, and encourage your students to use them in appropriate ways. This will convey that any restrictions you place on the use of these tools are a thoughtful response to the emergence of this technology rather than simple technophobia. Your recommendations for using these tools will depend on your discipline, pedagogy, and learning objectives, but may include answering simple factual questions, breaking down complex concepts (“explain protein folding to a college student”), checking paper drafts for grammar and readability, or serving as a “Socratic opponent” that raises objections to a submitted piece of argumentation. Students should always critically assess the responses generated by the tools and check factual claims against reliable sources.
Encourage your students to think about their reasons for taking the course and, more broadly, for pursuing their education. Cheating, including the inappropriate use of AI tools, will prevent them from achieving those goals, whether they are intellectual or purely pragmatic. It will deprive them of the opportunity to develop knowledge and skills that will serve them throughout their lives and careers. An analogy can be helpful: cheating is like going to the gym and allowing someone else to do your workout for you.
Answer: There are a range of strategies available. The best strategy will depend on your learning objectives, pedagogy, and topic. Many strategies involve shifting the focus from product to process, which has been shown to be beneficial for learning. Entering an assignment prompt into a Gen-AI tool will reveal how these tools respond to the prompt. Here are some suggestions:
Instead of a few high-stakes assignments, have students complete several lower-stakes assignments. Some of these could be designed to be completed in class. Some could be weekly response papers or questions: e.g., you might ask students to identify what they found most interesting in this week’s reading or lectures and why that interested them; or what they found most challenging, whether they are they still struggling to understand it and, if not, how they achieved clarity; etc.
Break large projects into multiple assignments: e.g., idea development, initial research, preliminary draft(s), and a final paper or project. Ask students to include reflections on their methods at each stage, and to explain how each stage responds to the peer or instructor feedback received at the previous stage.
Design writing prompts around examples not found in Gen-AI data, such as fictional scenarios developed in class, recent local events, or material presented by guest speakers or other students.
Ask students to present their work, individually or in small groups, discussing their methods at each stage of the process and answering questions. These presentations could take place in person or online through a tool such as the Discussions tool on UVACanvas.
Answer: Yes. Many Gen-AI engines including ChatGPT save the information used to create an account, such as the user’s name, phone number, email, and (for accounts requiring a fee) payment method. In addition, these engines may save your entire conversation, including every prompt you enter, to be used for training the system. You should not enter sensitive, personal, or proprietary information into any Gen-AI system.
Answer: Some instructors may permit or even encourage some uses of Gen-AI in your coursework. When in doubt about whether a particular way of using these tools is permissible, talk with your instructor. If you have used AI in completing an assignment, even in ways explicitly permitted by the instructor, you should clearly indicate the tool used, how you used it, the prompts you used, and when appropriate your efforts to fact-check the results. These tools draw on information published on the internet without regard to its accuracy, and their output often includes misleading, biased, or false content. They often deliver inaccurate responses, attribute content to the wrong source, and even invent “sources” that don’t exist. You should always critically assess the responses generated by the tools and check factual claims against reliable sources.
Presenting work produced by Gen-AI as one’s own or using Gen-AI for coursework in ways that are prohibited by the course instructor may be violations of the Honor Code.
Answer: The Modern Language Association sums this up nicely:
cite a generative AI tool whenever you paraphrase, quote, or incorporate into your own work any content (whether text, image, data, or other) that was created by it
acknowledge all functional uses of the tool (like editing your prose or translating words) in a note, your text, or another suitable location
take care to vet the secondary sources it cites...”
You should also acknowledge other functional uses of these tools, including but not limited to generating ideas for an assignment and identifying potential sources for research. When in doubt, acknowledge your use of the tool.
A reminder: these tools draw on information published on the internet without regard to its accuracy, and their output often includes misleading, biased, or false content. They often deliver inaccurate responses, attribute content to the wrong source, and even invent “sources” that don’t exist. You should always critically assess the responses generated by the tools and check factual claims against reliable sources.
Answer: The most important thing is that you make clear exactly how you used the tool. Some instructors will specify a citation style to use when you have quoted, paraphrased, or incorporated AI-generated content in an assignment. Here are guidelines for citing Gen-AI tools in the most common citation styles: MLA style, APA style, Chicago style.
Answer: Yes. Gen-AI can be used in ways that contribute to learning without providing direct assistance on assignments. For example, these tools can explain concepts at different levels of complexity (“explain protein folding to a high school student”, “… to a college student”, etc). You can use a prompt like “quiz me on protein folding”, and the tool will deliver a series of questions; you can then answer those questions and the tool will give you feedback on your responses. You can also use the tools to create virtual flash cards and other study aids. To find other ideas, search the internet for (e.g.) “how to use ChatGPT as a tutor.” Remember that these tools can deliver inaccurate responses, so you should check their responses against reliable sources such as the course textbook.
Answer: Yes, with certain restrictions. Instructors may not require students to create an account with a Gen-AI tool if — as in all or nearly all cases — creating the account requires sharing a phone number or other personal information. (The University does not currently provide these tools through institutional licenses.) Instructors wishing to incorporate Gen-AI into their assignments should design assignments so that they do not require students to have personal accounts and should provide alternative ways of completing any assignment that would require this. For assignments that would require students to upload their original work into a Gen-AI tool, instructors must provide alternatives for students with privacy or intellectual property concerns.
Answer: The University discourages the use of AI tools for grading written work such as essays, and recommends caution when considering the use of these tools for grading other kinds of assignments. Students’ original work is (in most cases) their intellectual property, and thus instructors may not enter a student's original work into an AI tool that will add that work to the tool’s data set.
Answer: Gen-AI detectors have not been shown to be reliable, and the University discourages instructors from using these tools to detect academic fraud. In all cases, an instructor should not upload a student’s work into a software tool that will add that work to the tool’s data set.
Answer: You should talk with your instructor about what uses of Gen-AI, if any, are permitted in the coursework for their class. If you have used this technology for learning, on your own or in other classes, your instructor may want to hear about your experience with it. Your instructor may have tips for – or cautions about – using this technology as a study aid.