Tutorial: How to turn ChatGPT into your new TA

Kavitta Ghai
March 6, 2023

We’ve all seen the buzz around using ChatGPT in the classroom. Some believe that it’s the end of all authentic learning, whereas others have realized that it can be utilized to enhance the teaching and learning experience to a level we never could’ve imagined in our wildest dreams.

Here at Nectir, we’re all about accepting tech in the classroom with open arms in order to give students the modern education they’ve come to expect. Rather than fight against tech and view it as an interruption to learning, what if we were to employ it to our greatest benefit? ChatGPT and similar AI will soon be available in every piece of technology we own, so it’s only right to teach our students and faculty how to use it to their benefit starting today.

Our first order of business is to test out ChatGPT as a teaching aid for faculty. We’ve spent countless hours asking it to write us syllabi, assessments, lectures, and more. While it can’t replace a human TA just yet, it can absolutely streamline your teaching process and give you back hours of course design each week.

Here are a few of our favorite prompts to use to turn ChatGPT into your shiny new TA to help with creating lecture content:

  1. "Can you explain [topic or concept] in simple terms?"
  2. "What are some examples of [topic or concept] in real-world scenarios?"
  3. "Can you provide a definition of [technical term or jargon]?"
  4. "What are some key factors that influence [topic or concept]?"
  5. "Can you provide some historical context for [event or phenomenon]?"
  6. "What are some current debates or controversies related to [topic or concept]?"
  7. "What are some practical applications of [topic or concept]?"
  8. "Can you recommend any additional resources for learning more about [topic or concept]?"

When using ChatGPT as a teaching aid in class, it is important to keep the questions clear and focused on the learning objectives. Its answers can vary based on the amount of information you feed it at first, such as describing your class size or your preferred lecture styles. We’ve found that ChatGPT works most effectively to create a weekly course structure which you can then fill in with your desired content.

When prompted to create the optimal course design that includes active learning techniques, ChatGPT provided us with the following:

Research suggests that incorporating active learning techniques into course design can improve student engagement, learning outcomes, and retention. Here is an example of a research-backed course design for a higher education course that includes active learning techniques:

  1. Pre-Class Preparation: Prior to each class session, students are assigned pre-reading or pre-work assignments. This could include reading a chapter from a textbook, watching a video lecture, or completing an online quiz. The goal of this pre-class preparation is to help students come to class with a basic understanding of the topic.
  2. In-Class Lecture: During the first portion of the class, the faculty member delivers a brief lecture on the topic. The lecture is designed to be engaging and interactive, and includes opportunities for students to ask questions and participate in discussions.
  3. Active Learning Exercises: Following the lecture, the class moves into a series of active learning exercises designed to reinforce the concepts covered in the lecture. These exercises might include:
  • Group Discussions: Students are divided into small groups and tasked with discussing a specific question or topic related to the lecture. This encourages students to engage with each other and share their own perspectives and ideas.
  • Case Studies: Students are presented with a real-world scenario or case study that relates to the lecture topic. They are then tasked with analyzing the case and presenting their findings to the class.
  • Problem-Based Learning: Students are presented with a complex problem or scenario that requires them to apply the concepts covered in the lecture. This encourages critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
  • Backchannel Discussions: Students are given access to a backchannel platform (e.g. a chat room or discussion board) where they can engage in real-time discussions related to the lecture topic. This provides an opportunity for students who may not feel comfortable speaking up in class to participate.
  • Reflection and Assessment: At the end of each class session, students are given time to reflect on what they have learned and how the active learning exercises have helped to reinforce the concepts covered in the lecture. The faculty member also provides formative feedback on student performance and progress.

This course design is based on the principles of active learning and is supported by research showing that incorporating active learning techniques into the classroom can improve student engagement, learning outcomes, and retention. By incorporating a variety of active learning exercises into each class session, students are provided with multiple opportunities to engage with the material and reinforce their learning. Additionally, the use of a backchannel platform provides an inclusive learning environment that accommodates different learning styles and preferences.

Have you tried using ChatGPT in your course design or lecture content creation? If so, let us know what prompts have worked best to elicit the specific information you need.

While using new technologies like AI in the classroom can seem daunting at first, it’s important to realize that all the tech we love and use today initially emerged with the same wildly unfamiliar face. While ChatGPT appears to be the “future of knowledge absorption”, it has quickly become our current reality and will only grow in value from here. Students are using this to their benefit on a daily basis, and so should faculty. This is new frontier of technology that has the power to make us all even better at our roles, rather than replace them entirely. We will always need a teacher at the heart of the classroom, so we owe it to them to make their lives easier than they are today so that they can focus solely on educating and socializing the next generation of innovators.

"Technological progress becomes even more exciting when it enters into the service of the social idea which demands that not only a small elite but humanity at large should profit by it." -Rudolph Christoph Eucken
Kavitta Ghai
March 6, 2023

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