LaGuardia Faculty Members are Diving into the Opportunities and Challenges of Generative Artificial Intelligence
LONG ISLAND CITY, NY (September 19, 2023) — LaGuardia Community College/CUNY faculty members track advancements that have the potential to impact their academic fields and classrooms—adjusting curriculum to ensure that the latest developments are reflected in course material and learning modules. This is one of the many ways that LaGuardia faculty members provide high-quality education for students. A major advancement currently being investigated is generative Artificial Intelligence (generative AI). Specifically, generative AI writing tools like ChatGPT.
“AI is a broad term that encompasses any artificial algorithm or machine that can complete tasks that have traditionally required an intelligent being,” says Dr. Roman Senkov, professor of physics. “It has the potential to impact nearly every sector of our economy and society.”
ChatGPT (Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer) uses a type of AI known as machine learning to analyze common patterns and arrangements in large sets of data to create new, convincing outputs. It is one of several so-called generative text chatbots—able to produce responses to user queries in a conversational manner.
“When it first came out in late 2022, the need to explore ChatGPT and find out what we’re dealing with was immediately apparent; it’s a writing tool,” says Dr. Ximena Gallardo, professor of English. “Initially, many educators began freaking out about plagiarism and cheating. Would students use it to do assignments? How should we address it in our classrooms? Could we use ChatGPT to support our curriculum? I conferred with our department chair, Dr. Irwin Leopando, and we created the English Department’s Task Force on Generative AI and Writing.”
Dr. Gallardo heads the Task Force, which currently has nine members. “There are now more generative AI tools like ChatGPT on the market. We’re looking at as many of these chatbots as possible. Our goal is to gather information and distill what we learn for our colleagues so they can each decide which road to take. Some will have a zero-tolerance policy for generative text tools, some will say only professors themselves can use it, while some maverick professors will say use it without mediating it. There’s a lot to discuss and figure out together. We need multidisciplinary groups looking into this topic.”
Dr. Robin Kietlinski, professor of history, and Dr. Lilla Tőke, associate professor of English, are leading a faculty seminar about AI this fall. An interdisciplinary cohort of 15 faculty members are attending the seminar, titled, “Keeping the Human in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Science: Innovative Pedagogies in an Era of Artificial Intelligence,” hosted by the Center for Teaching and Learning.
CUNY is devoting its 22nd annual IT Conference to the topic of generative Artificial Intelligence. The conference will be held at John Jay College of Criminal Justice on November 30 and December 1.
Dr. Kietlinski, Dr. Tőke, and Dr. Gallardo expect that with information and training, fear of generative AI will shift to understanding.
As the education sector continues to examine the challenges and benefits of AI, businesses like Amazon are adapting generative AI into their workflows. “They’re leveraging the power of chatbots for programming, writing, proofreading, summarizing, intelligent systems integration, customer support, and more,” says Dr. Senkov. “The scope of such integration is vast and is sure to expand as AI systems become more intelligent in the coming years.”
Some LaGuardia faculty have already started incorporating generative AI into their classes.
“The New Media Technology program is in full force embracing generative AI for art, design, and careers in emerging tech,” says Sarada Rauch, associate professor and director of the New Media Technology program. “This past Spring, many class discussions turned to AI in our line of work as artists and designers working with technology. This semester, I’m teaching with AI in a video class and am developing a proposal for a generative AI art class.”
Dr. Gallardo uses generative AI to teach students about the importance of verifying work. “A major issue is a lack of accuracy and reliability. Generative AI chatbots routinely make up information that’s not real. In my ‘Mastering Digital Literacy’ course, I ask students to read an article and summarize it. I then anonymize their summaries and add one produced by a chatbot, and have students review them in groups and rate them. So far, the chatbot summaries haven’t bested student-produced summaries, with students getting frustrated by their tendency to make up information that isn’t there.”
Early concerns from faculty about cheating and plagiarism with generative AI seem to have been overblown, according to some LaGuardia faculty members.
“Most of our students want to learn. Our students are adults; they can make choices for themselves,” says Dr. Gallardo. “Generative AI has become a new tool in helping us teach students essential critical thinking skills. Just because something looks good doesn’t mean it is good.”
Dr. Gallardo believes librarians will be essential to helping to harness generative AI. “We’re bringing in librarians to help students use these tools the right way. Librarians are helping to teach students how to verify material produced by generative AI, how to find reference sources, and more.”
Ann Matsuuchi, instructional technology librarian and professor, agrees, “Generative AI chatbots can operate like scammers—asserting misinformation/disinformation with a deceptive certainty. This heightens the need for verification skills and the library/archival resources that serve to validate the information received.”
Overall, LaGuardia faculty say there are many opportunities and risks associated with generative AI, which will change as technology evolves and grows smarter.
“Depending on how it’s used in higher education, generative AI both raises the stakes and levels the playing field,” says Dr. Gallardo. “As professors, we have a responsibility to mediate this tool. We will be ready to answer students’ questions and provide guidance—when and how should they these tools, what are the risks, and what ethics are involved.”
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LaGuardia Community College (LAGCC), a Hispanic-Serving Institution, located in Long Island City, Queens offers more than 50 degrees and certificates, and more than 65 continuing education programs to educate New Yorkers seeking new skills and careers. As an institution of the City University of New York (CUNY), the College reflects the legacy of our namesake, Fiorello H. LaGuardia, the former NYC mayor beloved for his advocacy of underserved populations. Since 1971, LaGuardia’s academic programs and support services have advanced the socioeconomic mobility of students while providing them with access to a high quality, affordable college education.