On Friday, September 15, Notre Dame University-Louaize’s (NDU) Lifelong Learning Center (LLC) in collaboration with the Artificial Intelligence Ad-Hoc Committee held a workshop at the Main Campus’ Issam Fares Conference Hall titled, “Generative Al: The Fundamentals of ChatGPT,” designed for educators to maximize ChatGPT’s features in order to write effective prompts and guide the program through advanced tasks. Among the attendees were NDU President, Fr. Bechara Khoury, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Michel El Hayek, Vice President for University Advancement, Dr. Antoine Farhat, Secretary General of Catholic Schools in Lebanon, Fr. Youssef Nasr, faculty members, staff, students, teachers from various schools across Lebanon and different disciplines, religious figures, media representatives, as well as other distinguished guests.
The Director of Public Affairs and Protocol, Mr. Majed Bou Hadir, greeted the audience and introduced the Father President for the opening speech. Fr. Khoury’s address was a bright picture of the bridge that technology has built and continues to build in creating opportunities, facilitating progress, and innovating the means of communication and sharing of knowledge between individuals and cultures. The workshop is an initiative to “ensure that we stay ahead of change, helping others to grow, guiding the new generation of students—who in many ways have already surpassed their teachers—as they navigate these technological advances to serve the wider community and be at the forefront of intellectual development.” Moreover, referring to NDU, the Father President asserted that the University is not an island, “but a space connected to a wide network, forming young minds beyond their present studies and setting them up for success in the job market.”
NDU is the basis of the students’ educational formation, its quality and caliber demonstrated by its various global accreditations. Fr. Khoury considered this workshop to be an opportunity to link the present with the future, one of the many endeavors that NDU will take in this direction.
The workshop commenced with the Director of the LLC and the Director of E-Learning at the Office of Information Technology, Dr. Dany Azzi, who outlined the sessions and gave an overview of what to expect over the course of the event. First, he informed the audience that though they may think AI is a novel tool, the fact of the matter is that AI has already been embedded into daily life, giving the examples of Siri and sentence auto-complete in Microsoft Outlook. “AI is the broad concept of machines being able to carry out tasks in an intelligent manner,” said Azzi, “and it has the potential to address some of the biggest challenges in education today.” He explained that ChatGPT is an example of a natural language processor (NLP), an artificial intelligence that sources its information from the internet’s existing database. NLPs are able to perform tasks, including text preprocessing, tokenization, and semantic analysis in response to an inputted prompt.
ChatGPT particularly operates as a chatbot and virtual assistant that helps in areas such as translation, sentiment analysis, content creation, personalization (such as for students with special needs), language learning, healthcare, and text classification. Currently, ChatGPT 3.5 is the latest version in use, with ChatGPT 4.0 being the program’s premium version, the main differences being that the latter is paid, has a faster response speed, and provides browsing features, plugins, and advanced data analysis.
Before delving into the instructional use of ChatGPT, Azzi addressed the primary ethical concerns of AI integration in education, notably data privacy, replacing the role of the teacher, over-reliance on tech and reduced human interaction, costs and accessibility, increased screen time, quality of education and accuracy of AI, biased information, and plagiarism. Though these concerns are valid, Azzi explained that, with the present state of AI, the consensus is that undesired results can be mitigated by critically discerning if a situation warrants the involvement of AI at all. “Using AI must be, above all else, contingent on if the desired results should be factual,” he said. In this scenario, the expertise of the individual is needed to be able to verify the accuracy of responses, proactively cross-referencing all output for the reliability and validity of information. In terms of detecting AI-generated written content, particularly for educators concerned with plagiarism, programs to interpret if a text has been produced by artificial intelligence have already been developed and are easily accessible online.
Azzi then gave a live demonstration of each feature on ChatGPT, with an emphasis on how to construct effective prompts so that the generated output directly corresponds to each portion of the request. The basic strategies to increase AI response accuracy are (1) to be specific and clear with your request, (2) provide all relevant context, background, and information, and (3) avoid ambiguous terms or phrases. Prompts have shown to be more effective when providing examples. The user can also specify the format of the output, such as in the form of a concluding paragraph or a table. Follow-up questions additionally expand the responses and provide clarification. Moreover, Azzi presented the ease with which a prompt can be edited to create new output; users can toggle between new and previous prompts and save the chats for future reference. Chats can also be shared with others by generating a shareable link that another user can build upon, though collaborative chats as of yet are not available.
As AI tools are always being updated, features may change from one day to the next, thus requiring consistent training to stay updated on advanced functions, particularly as AI becomes increasingly sophisticated and capable of complex tasks. The workshop ended with a lively Q&A where educators expressed their various perspectives and offered their professional insight on using AI in the classroom and the changing climate of teaching strategies.