In Monday’s workshop, eight participants sat around a square table in the atrium of the Community for Learning and Innovation. The workshop was organised by ErasmusX. In the first session, the participants discussed the potential and dangers of ChatGPT.

“I think the chatbot could democratise knowledge. You can ask it anything and it’s an accessible way to gain knowledge”, said lecturer Ana Uribe Sandoval. However, the participants are also worried that students will lose the ability to think critically by using the bot. “Many students ask whether they can use ChatGPT when they’re working on assignments and I really have to explain to them why the answer’s no”, said lecturer Aris Emmanouloudis. “I want them to develop the ability to think critically. I want to read their opinions and analyses in the papers they write, not ready-made ideas generated by ChatGPT.”


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Not just teaching staff

Some participants were not members of teaching staff. Marleen Vaughan-Waalwijk, for example, is a learning and innovation officer at the Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication. Her role focuses on the use of generative artificial intelligence in education at her faculty. “I have mixed feelings about AI. It can be very useful, it can help you work more effectively and you can use it as a sparring partner in a brainstorming session”, she said. “But we still need to be very critical about what AI can and can’t do. Teaching staff are quite right to be concerned. For example, ChatGPT could get in the way of students developing critical-thinking skills. It could make them lazy, stop thinking for themselves, or willing to accept anything ChatGPT generates blindly. The result: lower-quality graduates.”

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The second part of the workshop involved a practical exercise. Participants were given tips on how to enter a good prompt in ChatGPT. Give the bot as much context as possible, that’s the trick. The less specific you are, the more general the answer will be.

“Suppose I’m an experienced education adviser at a university”, lecturer Jay Lee typed into ChatGPT. “How can I use ChatGPT in my lectures without students losing their critical thinking skills?” Within two seconds, ChatGPT suggested ten different ways Lee could use ChatGPT to achieve his goal. For example, the bot said he could get students to use ChatGPT as a tool when writing a paper or reflection piece. “The ideas were interesting but nothing new, unfortunately”, Lee concluded.

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Valuable discussion

The most valuable aspect of the workshop for Lee was the discussion he had with colleagues. “We discussed the advantages and disadvantages that AI could have for education. It was inspiring to hear my colleagues’ opinions. AI will change the way we teach students, so discussions like this give us the opportunity to put our heads together and decide on the approach to take.”