Aarhus University Seal

Using ChatGPT in teaching requires adjustment and subject matter knowledge

In this article, Associate Professor Keld Pedersen shares his experiences with using ChatGPT as an integrated and intended part of his teaching. He explains how it is a useful tool for improving students’ workflows but emphasises the importance of using it in the right contexts.

Keld Pedersen, who is an associate professor at the Department of Management, shares his experiences with using ChatGPT as an integrated and intended part of his teaching Photo: Lars Kruse, AU Foto
Foto af Keld
Keld Pedersen is associate professor at the Department of Management, and in the autumn semester of 2023 he used ChatGPT in several of his courses. Photo: AU Foto

Keld Pedersen is an associate professor at the Department of Management. In the autumn semester of 2023, he started using ChatGPT in two of his courses: ‘Digital Fundamentals for Emergent Technologies’ in the Master's programme in business administration and 'Software Development' in the Master's programme in IT, Communication, and Organisation (ITKO).

The way in which he implemented ChatGPT in his courses was very different. In the ‘Software Development’ course, ChatGPT was intended to be used as a kind of supplementary instructor teaching. In ‘Digital Fundamentals for Emergent Technologies,’ the use of ChatGPT was more extensive and integrated into the teaching.

ChatGPT as an integrated part of the teaching

In the course ‘Digital Fundamentals for Emergent Technologies,’ ChatGPT was used both as part of the teaching and permitted to be used as part of the exam:

“It was a goal in itself that the students should use ChatGPT during the exam in the same way as it had been an integral part of the teaching," Keld Pedersen says.

In the ‘Digital Fundamentals for Emergent Technologies’ course, students are taught the theory behind various emerging technologies and how to implement these technologies in organisations. In addition, the students also test out the technologies themselves, for example, to generate programming code, find errors in code, or define specific quality specifications for a program.

According to Keld Pedersen, one of the major benefits of using ChatGPT as an integral part of teaching is that the tool can help students improve their work processes, such as the way they develop a program. It is not just a tool that can be used to generate the finished product.

He emphasises that using ChatGPT in teaching is not something that saves time when students are doing their assignments. But it changes what they spend their time on:

“Simply put, they will need to spend more time defining relevant content requirements, such as which theory to use, the language requirements, such as who the target audience is, and the structural requirements, such as how a text should be organised. Less time producing text and more time evaluating the text in collaboration with ChatGPT,” Keld Pedersen explains.

Not a skill that comes naturally

“AI is already so integrated into the programming technology and software packages we use that we can no longer avoid it. Hence, it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell students that they are not allowed to use it," Keld Pedersen says.

However, the amount of experience students have with the technology varies. Therefore, Keld Pedersen has some tips for other teachers who want to start using ChatGPT in their teaching. Among other things, he recommends setting aside time to teach students how to use AI to ensure that all of them are well prepared for the task:

“You cannot take it for granted that students know how to use ChatGPT in connection with their studies. Therefore, you should set aside a session to teach them both how answers are generated and how to ask the right questions – in other words, ‘prompt engineering.’ You cannot assume that they will immediately be able to use and enjoy the tool.”

Therefore, Keld Pedersen also recommends that you – if you wish to use ChatGPT or other AI tools in your teaching – further develop your teaching material so it is suitable to use with ChatGPT. You cannot use the same assignments as usual.

“For example, you can ask students to create different solutions to an assignment using ChatGPT and then ask them to evaluate the quality of the different solutions – such an assignment should also define the quality specifications. In this way, they learn to assess what is quality and what is not," Keld Pedersen suggests.

He also has excellent experiences with having students work together to create a prompt catalogue – a document where they collect great ways to use ChatGPT.

Not a shortcut to straight twelves

The ‘Digital Fundamentals for Emergent Technologies’ course was wrapped up with a 48-hour written exam:

“I was excited to see how the students would do. Maybe everyone would get 12!?" Keld Pedersen laughs.

“But you could not tell from the average grade that the students had used ChatGPT. The average grade was comparable to the averages in similar courses. I was a little disappointed about that. I had hoped it would have had a greater effect," Keld Pedersen says.

“To put it simply, when you use ChatGPT, your role changes from being someone who produces things to someone who sets requirements. And if the students do not know the academic fundamentals, they cannot set the right demands for ChatGPT. If you are familiar with the material and skilled, you can get a lot out of the tool," Keld Pedersen says.

He also points out that a major danger of this is that it can increase the academic gap between students. The strong students will get help to become even better while those who struggle a bit more do not have the same opportunity to improve their competencies with the help of the tool.

Best for specialised courses

On his other course - the software development course in the ITKO Master's programme - Keld Pedersen found that ChatGPT could not step into the role of student instructor:

“I expected that it would not be necessary to use instructors on the course. That the students could just use ChatGPT instead. However, that was not how things worked out. The students did not get much out of using the tool on their own,” Keld Pedersen says and elaborates:

“So far, I would say that ChatGPT makes the most sense in programmes that are relatively narrow and specialised, and where the material has been continuously learned over several semesters. It can be difficult to use it in programmes that are very broad, like ITKO, where students almost start from zero in every course. You can always use it as a text editing tool, but if you are at a relatively low academic level, it is difficult to utilise the tool to the fullest," Keld Pedersen concludes.

Learn more

At AU Educate, you can find inspiration on how to experiment with the use of chatbots and GAI in your own teaching. On the site, you can also find cases from other teachers who have used generative artificial intelligence in their teaching in the menu item ‘Teaching cases.’