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AI in the classroom

As we grapple with the idea that Generative AI will become a permanent part of teaching and learning experiences in higher education, instructors are faced with the challenge of how to use it appropriately and effectively in their classrooms, or alternatively, to create assignments that purposefully constrain AI-integration. The following list provides quick suggestions for some of the common uses instructors may wish to consider for their courses.

This is not an exhaustive resource, but one that will grow and evolve over time as the Boston University community expands its knowledge and use of the many different forms of artificial intelligence.

The following suggestions for creating assignments that either integrate or constrain AI use are adapted from The AI Classroom: The Ultimate Guide to Artificial Intelligence in Education (Fitzpatrick, Fox & Weinstein, 2023) and from Montclair State University’s Teaching with ChatGPT: Assignment Design Tips & Ideas.

Using Generative AI in Assignments

Collaborative work

  • Incorporate the use of AI as a research, editing, or creative prompt tool that students develop together in group projects. Allow students to use AI as a tool in the project, with clear guidelines for how they should report the use of AI through relevant acknowledgment and citation.
  •  Modified Think-Pair-Share, using AI: provide students with an assignment or problem and then ask them individually to create a prompt for generative AI. Before using the prompt, students exchange their ideas with each other and then try each other’s prompts with the AI tool. Allow students to observe the results and then discuss with each other ways to edit and improve each other’s prompts. This modified version of a think-pair-share active learning strategy incorporates generative AI and encourages prompt engineering skills.

Opportunities for multi-modal learning

  • Encourage students to use generative AI tools to create multimedia presentations such as podcasts, videos, or transcripts. Include instructions on how to properly engineer prompts that are inquisitive, appropriate, and best aligned with the assignment goal. (Providing a solid foundation in prompt engineering will become more and more important in college courses as it is a critical skill that many students will need to apply for the workplace.)

Harnessing the iterative learning processes of AI

  • Ask students to use generative AI to produce an initial answer to a question; they should then analyze the AI-generated answer for strengths and weaknesses, identify and correct any inaccuracies, and revise and augment the answer. Both the AI-generated answer and their own revision can then be submitted, with a critical reflection on the substantive and stylistic differences.
  • Ask students to use generative AI to produce an answer to a question; they should then contextualize the answer with verified references.
  • Ask students to iteratively improve an answer to a question through AI; they will then submit their chat history, accompanied by a critical reflection on the steps that improved their answer.

Designing assignments that limit AI-use

Faculty concerned with the use of AI tools in their courses can consider how creative assignment design can circumscribe current capabilities of generative AI.  .

Connect to personal, current, and real-world contexts

  • Add a reflective component to assignments or classroom activities by asking students to assess their learning on a particular activity and to create their own learning goals to build on what they have learned.
  • Create assignments (or components of the assignment) that ask students to connect to a current event or community-related activity; generative AI may not yet have appropriate answers to such recent or localized events.
  • Incorporate questions that connect students’ personal experiences with specific class materials. For example, prompts such as “describe the relevance of this topic in the context of your everyday life” or a question such as “How does this topic affect your day-to-day life?” will not easily be answered through AI use.
  • Ask students to reference materials that are specific to your class, such as points made in lectures, discussions, or in course-specific materials.

Process and variety

  • Create long term assignments that require interactive processes with edits, such as multiple rough drafts, peer review, or peer editing with feedback. 
  • Use active learning strategies that require students to engage with the content in multiple ways that are not computer-based.
  • For assignments that highlight writing and research, require the use of scholarly subscription resources (readily available through the BU Libraries resources). Generative AI platforms will not have access to those resources since they are behind paywalls and not readily accessible. If instructors have further questions about these resources, please reach out to “Ask a Librarian” at https://askalibrarian.bu.edu/

We would love to showcase BU approaches to using AI in the classroom, so please consider adding your examples to CTL’s collection!

Last updated: August 22, 2023