Short Overview of ChatGPT for University Faculty

This article is part of the work we are doing at MSU to better understand AI tools and their impacts on teaching and learning. To learn more about our work and to see some presentations on the topic please visit the website for our 2023 Symposium on AI in Education and Writing,

Much has been made recently over the release of a new, powerful, free a.i. chatbot called ChatGPT. There are significant implications surrounding how this technology might affect education.  

What is ChatGPT?  

I asked ChatGPT what it is and how it works, and this is what it told me: “Chat GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) is a type of natural language processing (NLP) model that is specifically designed for conversational AI applications. It is a deep learning-based model that is pre-trained on large amounts of conversational text data. Chat GPT is able to generate natural-sounding conversations from input text and can be used for a variety of applications such as question answering, summarization, and dialogue generation. It works by taking in text as input and using an encoder-decoder architecture to generate a response. The encoder takes in the input, creates an embedding of the text, and then passes it to the decoder. The decoder then uses the embedding to generate a response.” 

If you would like to read more about ChatGPT, there is a lengthy, growing bibliography on the subject here on Zotero

What can ChatGPT do? 

I have been using ChatGPT daily, and it has so far written me custom Python code, told me how to prepare a stuffed Cornish game hen (the recipe was delicious), written a sonnet about roses, and provided a 1000-word essay comparing the philosophical positions of Kant and Descartes with a 5-source annotated bibliography. While its poetry is a bit pedestrian and the cited sources are sometimes questionable, I can attest that the tool is powerful and the content it produces could easily be passed off as the work of an undergraduate.  

What does this mean for classes with written work? 

It is important that teachers know that this technology exists, that it is free, and that students are very likely to use it. Some content produced by ChatGPT might be caught by anti-plagiarism software, but that is not a certainty. 

There will be multiple conversations surrounding this technology on campus next semester, including a workshop that is tentatively scheduled for the first week of February. Ideally, we would come to a place where this technology can be integrated into our instruction in meaningful ways, in the same way, that over time math teachers integrated calculators into their teaching. But with next semester so close at hand, those types of intentional deployments of a.i. in the classroom are a tall order. In the interim, it is probably wise to include some language in your syllabus about the use of this technology and to consider some modifications to your instruction that might help prevent the misuse of ChatGPT.


  • Emphasizing presentation or verbal communication rather than written responses 
  • Returning to in-class writing as appropriate 
  • Returning to hand-written writing as appropriate 
  • Focusing more on the writing process (e.g. drafting, feedback, and revision) rather than a single final product 
  • Emphasizing multimedia presentation rather than solely the written word 
  • Communicating openly with your students about a.i. and its appropriate and ethical uses (with regards to writing, coding, or any other domain) 

As far as Syllabus language, you might use something like this: 

“The policy of this class is that you must be the creator of all work you submit for a grade. The use of others’ work, or the use of intelligent agents, chatbots, or a.i. engines to create your work is a violation of this policy and will be addressed as per MSU and Broad College codes of conduct.” (I wrote that one, I promise.)

Or, you might consider this, which I asked ChatGPT to write for me: 

“Sample Policy Language: Students should not use ChatGPT to complete course assignments or for any other academic activities. ChatGPT should be used as a supplemental resource and should not replace traditional academic activities.” 

Or this much longer version, also written by ChatGPT: 

“The following course policy statement prohibits the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the completion of assignments and activities during the duration of the course. At the Broad College, we strive to create an academic environment where learning is the foremost priority. We strongly believe that learning is best achieved through the hard work and dedication of our students. As such, we prohibit the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the completion of assignments and activities during the course.  

Our policy is in line with our commitment to providing a fair and equitable learning environment for all students. We believe that AI should not be used to substitute human effort, as it defeats the purpose of our educational goals, which are to encourage critical thinking and problem-solving.  

We understand that AI can be a useful tool in many contexts, and we do not discourage its use in other courses. However, in this course, we will not accept assignments or activities that have been completed through the use of AI. We expect our students to be honest and to complete their work independently.  

We will be monitoring student work closely to ensure compliance with this policy. Violations of this policy will be met with disciplinary sanctions. All students are expected to adhere to this policy and to abide by the standards of the University.” 


I know this was long. If you’re still reading, here’s a Holiday-themed poem about artificial intelligence in the style of Yates, by ChatGPT: 

In the days of holiday cheer  
When AI is drawing near  
We must remember the future  
That it is sure to bring  

It has the potential to save us  
And to give us something new  
But the implications of this tech  
We must be mindful and true  

For those with great power  
Must take great care  
That technology’s used in the right way  
Not to cause harm or despair  

So as we celebrate this season  
Let us be kind and wise  
By using artificial intelligence 
In ways that will help us rise 

This essay was initially written as an email to the Broad College of Business Faculty in late 2022 to bring awareness to the growing importance of being aware of AI tools and their impact on teaching and learning at MSU.

Source: Auto Draft

Jeremy Van Hof

Dr. Jeremy Van Hof is Director of Learning Technology and Development at the Eli Broad College of Business at Michigan State University. Before joining the Broad College he worked at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as the Assistant Director of Academic Technologies and as a public high school English teacher. Dr. Van Hof provides expertise in student engagement, assessment, & educational technology for the EDLI team.