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The Implications of ChatGPT and AI on Distance Education mobile hero image

The Implications of ChatGPT and AI on Distance Education

In late 2022, the Microsoft-affiliated company OpenAI released a revolutionary artificial intelligence (AI) tool called ChatGPT. This “chatbot” can simulate human conversation, provide detailed answers to questions, translate languages, write code, and even write authoritative papers on any number of topics in just seconds. The implications for education and society as a whole are considerable. A major point of concern, especially in education, is that not all of these implications are positive.

Will students have AI write their research papers?

Will students learn anything when a seemingly all-knowing AI program can do a very believable job of completing their assignments for them?

While there are risks inherent in the technology—and some educational institutions are even banning AI out of concern over academic dishonesty—the growing consensus is that AI tools such as ChatGPT should be harnessed to automate some processes and enhance others, improving the learning experience for students and educators alike. Let’s examine some of the potential benefits for all involved.

Potential Benefits of AI In Online Education and Beyond

Here are a few examples of how AI tools such as ChatGPT can be used to foster greater efficiency and more favorable learning outcomes in education:

  • AI is already being used to grade essays and is on the cusp of being able to generate original test questions. This can save professors a tremendous amount of time and better enable them to focus on instruction.
  • Stealth assessment, the practice of embedding testing into the learning environment so that students aren’t even aware they’re being tested, can be conducted through AI. This takes test-associated pressure off of students while giving educators an accurate glimpse of students’ abilities.
  • AI-driven intelligent tutoring systems (ITS) can empower professors and even students to create virtual tutors that provide detailed answers to their questions on an unlimited number of topics.
  • ChatGPT sources its information from the internet, as do human students. The tool could be used to help students gather information—a virtual research assistant of sorts—and enable students to complete term papers or other assignments more effectively.
  • In using AI tools, an academic institution demonstrates that it embraces emerging technologies and finds innovative ways to apply them. Offering distance education programs isn’t enough. Many students, especially first-time college students, are early AI adopters and may not choose a school that isn’t using the latest technology.
  • With the ability to adjust to an individual student’s proficiency level, interests, learning speed, and other criteria, AI can deliver a tailored approach to learning.

Overcoming Potential Downsides to AI

ChatGPT is freely available, powerful, and relatively new, and society has some adjustments to make in its wake. As previously noted, AI can generate a written work that looks like a human authored it. It can help in decision-making processes. But what it offers in logical thinking, AI lacks in empathy. It does not yet employ ethical considerations in its data-based actions. It may plagiarize, as the chatbot draws from multiple existing works—possibly including misleading or unvetted sources—to create content. It can perform tasks that may replace human employees. It may not safeguard the privacy of its users. For these and other reasons, some are calling for government regulations to be imposed on the technology.

Reserving AI for limited uses is one way to address these concerns. Another approach is to wait for the technology to advance to a stage in which these concerns are addressed or severely diminished before broader implementation, though that is unlikely to happen. Regardless of our eventual approach, AI already has robust, beneficial applications in education that we would be wise to harness right now.

Apollidon Learning Leads on AI

A leading online program manager, Apollidon is already effectively using select features of AI tools including ChatGPT in various capacities. These efforts share a common goal of helping us deliver a higher quality of service and better results to our university partners. They also position us to introduce the benefits of AI to our university partners, based on our experience. We can help you develop the faith and confidence in AI technology that you need to move forward.

See how we can help your institution boost enrollment for your distance education programs using intelligent tools and a highly skilled and experienced human staff. Contact us today for details.


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