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How Generative AI Is Changing College Classes

12/10/2023

How Generative AI Is Changing College Classes Four Berklee professors explore the educational opportunities and concerns raised by new AI tools like OpenAIs ChatGPT and GitHub Copilot.

By

John Mirisola

October 11, 2023

Image generated with AI, using the prompt, digital art of an algorithm flowing out of the laptop screens of every student sitting in a college classroom.

Theres a tidal shift underway in classrooms everywhere this fall. With the ability to generate believable, human-seeming writing and verbal reasoning-not to mention functional lines of complex code-artificial intelligence (AI) tools like ChatGPT and GitHub Copilot are disrupting age-old models of instruction, assignments, and assessment.

This flood of new technology is raising questions about how teachers should be preparing their students for a future in which using AI will likely unlock significant gains in creative productivity and offer a competitive career advantage, but it could also pose an existential threat to the value of the arts and truth itself. Of course, its impossible to untangle all of these issues at this moment-time will tell. However, the pedagogical shifts educators make in the early days of this AI revolution could have a significant impact on how their students learn to live-and hopefully thrive-with these new tools.

With all this in mind, we spoke to four Berklee professors about how they were thinking about the role of AI in their classrooms, how its changing what and how they teach, and how their students are responding to the new technologies.

Flipping the Classroom

Akito van Troyer

Image by Kelly Davidson

Akito van Troyer, an Electronic Production and Design Department faculty member, teaches courses in creative coding for musicians at Berklee. He says that the coding capabilities of these AI tools have significantly shifted his approach to his assignments. Any problem set I give to students, ChatGPT will be able to instantly solve it at this point, he says, so Im not counting on that. This means hes decided to take a flipped classroom approach.

A flipped classroom, as Berklee cultural studies professor Lori Landay explains, means doing in class what can only be done when were together in class and keeping presentation of material for homework. Students might watch a recorded lecture and review lesson materials for outside of class, and then spend class time applying what theyve learned.

Van Troyer is actively incorporating AI into this approach: Outside of class, they use AI tools to learn to teach the topic to others, he says. Then they come to class and really have to understand the topic to teach to other students. In the flipped classroom model, the instructor is a facilitator, available to provide help, clarification, and expertise, but students take an active role in both learning and teaching the material.

AI can really help with that in every single step. Definitely for getting the concepts right, but also for preparing the teaching materials, from the presentation to the exercise you can share with students to work on in class, van Troyer explains.

Any problem set I give to students, ChatGPT will be able to instantly solve it at this point.

- Akito van Troyer, Associate Professor, Electronic Production and Design

A Boring Student

Lori Landay

Landay, who teaches in Berklees Liberal Arts and Sciences Department, intends to introduce a similar approach in her media studies classes, as a way to foreground the thinking and synthesis skills that are applied working in class on tasks that are implied in the writing assignments. However, she continues to stress the importance of high-level conceptual thinking and ideation for her students.

If they want to use generative AI, she says, they need to bring their ideas to it, rather than relying on it to give them ideas. This is partly because these are important skills for college students and artists. But its also because-for now, at least-ChatGPTs not as good a writer as Landays average Berklee student.

During my sabbatical, she says, I had the time to put all my assignments into ChatGPT to see what it would generate. Mostly it generated boring work below the capabilities of my students.

A Loyal AssistantWhat AI tools can do, however, is serve as valuable creative aids, helping students (and their instructors) dispense with some of the more tedious tasks associated with writing, or coding, or learning, or teaching, the way calculators have done with, say, long division and square roots in mathematics.

Stephanie Kellar

Stephanie Kellar, an associate professor in the Music Business/Management Department, says that shes allowed students to use AI in her marketing classes to help generate an initial list of product names and taglines. She also cites students in her class who use AI to help compose songs for a music production course, since they are concerned with developing production skills, not composing skills, or who use it to help them compose professional emails, or who run their essays through Grammarly [an AI writing assistant], which shows them how to actually improve their writing skills.

Songwriting professor Sherry Li says ChatGPT 3.5 has been her loyal assistant since it came out last winter.

I use it for all sorts of random tasks, Li says-pairing up my students for cowriting, giving me prompts for song briefs, or helping me search for song titles that fit specific criteria, [for example]: Give me 20 hit songs that use a single adjective as the title. It is a great help for making slides. She also says its a good research supplement for Google, though some of its facts need to be checked-it can definitely fabricate truths. She encourages her students to look into how they can use the technology as well, from proofreading their r sum [and] writing their artist bios to getting synonyms and rhyme ideas.

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LINK: https://www.berklee.edu/berklee-now/news/how-generative-ai-is-changing...
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