5 Things To Know About ChatGPT

Generative AI Tools and Resources at UT-Austin

ChatGPT is one of many generative AI tools now being used in educational contexts. We expect that new tools designed for specific purposes and applicable to different disciplinary contexts will be rapidly emerging in the near future. To that end, this resource, focused on ChatGPT, is designed to be adapted to fit different tools and pedagogical approaches. The CTL will continue to update our site with links to UT resources, News articles focusing on generative AI tools, and outlines of suggested approaches to adopting these tools. 

The following is a list of existing UT resources. We will continue to add to this list as new resources are developed. 

While questions about the impact of artificial intelligence in higher education are not new, the emergence of a new tool called ChatGPT that uses increasingly popular chatbot technology to generate human-like, long-form writing has opened the door to new curiosities and concerns.

This document provides suggestions for instructors who wonder how this tool may affect their course design and teaching. The content has been generated by our team, our campus community, and nationally/internationally recognized teaching and learning professionals. Please note this is a rapidly evolving issue with new perspectives, articles, and resources emerging regularly. CTL will continue to monitor developments and share them with the campus community as we are able, as well as create new resources and opportunities for interactions to guide our collective thinking.

1. What is ChatGPT? How does it work?

ChatGPT is a type of artificial intelligence model trained to generate coherent, human-like pieces of writing on a given topic. “ChatGPT was optimized for dialogue,” (1) which means users interact with a chatbot in a conversational context, and the chatbot will compose text based upon the user’s prompts. The bot is capable of generating text on a variety of topics and in a variety of styles, “you simply type in a question or give it a command and it generates text for you.” (2)

You may be interested in experimenting with the tool to learn more: https://chat.openai.com  Please be aware that ChatGPT is “free” because it collects information from its users (e.g., when and how users interact with the tool, users’ IP address, browser type, time zone, type of device, operating system, and country) and may share information with third-party vendors and affiliates (3). For those reasons, we suggest you avoid submitting any sensitive or personal information. In addition, we suggest you review the privacy policy and terms of service with students as a learning exercise.

For more information about ChatGPT, our colleague from the Office of Academic Technology Dr. Juile Schell created this brief video on what ChatGPT is, how to sign up for it, and how it works.

Another helpful resource to learn more about Chat GPT is this presentation developed by Dr. Torrey Trust (U Mass Amherst) that includes a variety of previously submitted prompts and completed output. (4)

2. Why is ChatGPT significant?

Students can enter an assignment prompt and receive a product they can turn in as their work. The text generated by the chatbot could be a well-composed and accurate response depending on the complexity of the assignment and the student’s skill in creating effective prompts. Many higher education instructors and scholars testing the tool report mixed responses, including: 

  • ChatGPT-generated papers received B+ to A- minus grades according to a set rubric. 
  • A ChatCPT-generated paper did not flag the Turnitin plagiarism detector tool (i.e., no plagiarism was detected).
  • ChatGPT chatbot produced grammatically well-written papers relevant to the topic, but struggled with creating detailed responses that demonstrate deep understanding
  • ChatGPT was able to do everything asked, including using APA formatting and correct citation; for Nursing content, it was accurate and specific.

In addition, many higher education scholars and practitioners have noted that the tool might be appealing for students in large courses where it can be a challenge to integrate personal approaches to teaching writing and providing in-depth feedback.

3. What are the downsides?

  • Submitting personal information to the OpenAI website without an awareness of how the data will be used by OpenAI
  • Students not mastering skills needed to succeed, such as audience design, global organization, and researching a topic
  • Ethical violations, a lack of integrity
  • Uncritical use of digital technologies

At the same time, there is also a downside to banning this technology and neglecting to understand why it was created and the problems it is attempting to solve.

4. Where is ChatGPT going?

The applications of artificial intelligence technology will continue to evolve in ways that currently may not be clear, requiring ongoing conversations focused on ethics, instructional values, and effective pedagogy.

5. What are the implications for UT Austin instructors?

As a first step, learning about this tool will help instructors gain awareness and know to seek assistance when issues related to ChatGPT arise. In addition, the release of ChatGPT encourages us to revisit the best ways to assess student learning in a variety of instructional contexts (5). It invites us to ask important questions, such as:

  • Why and how do we best equip students as strong writers?
  • What other ways can students demonstrate learning in addition to written papers? 
  • What is the best way to solicit student writing that is meaningful and authentic?
  • If students rely on ChatGPT as a source of information to answer factual questions, how will that affect their development of research skills?

This focus on the relationship between students and instructors and the educational mission of the university fits with broader efforts underway to reinforce the importance of the process of learning, including making and correcting mistakes. The university is in the process of refreshing our honor code and honor code affirmation to renew our commitment to supporting students in their journey to master complex knowledge and skills. 

With these types of questions and issues in mind, we have gathered a variety of suggestions you can pick and choose to incorporate in your teaching practice if students’ use of ChatGPT is relevant for you.

Incorporating one or two of the following approaches may help ease concerns and challenges that could arise with the introduction of the ChatGPT tool:

Preparing for the Semester

As you get ready to begin your class by preparing course documents and resources, make sure that you address appropriate or inappropriate uses of generative AI tools such as ChatGPT in a section of your syllabus. You may choose to place it within or near statements address academic integrity. Please explore the Provost's "Your Syllabus at UT Austin" website as well as UT's Student Conduct and Academic Integrity site for additional options and resources.  

As you craft your syllabus statements, you may wish to adopt one of the following three models and use them as templates: 

"The use of artificial intelligence tools (such as ChatGPT) in this class:

  • …is strictly prohibited. This includes using AI to generate ideas, to outline an approach, to answer questions, to solve problems, or to create original language. All work in this course must be your own or created in group work, where allowed).
  • …shall be permitted on a limited basis. You will be informed as to the assignments for which AI may be utilized. You are also welcome to seek my prior-approval to use AI writing tools on any assignment. In either instance, AI writing tools should be used with caution and proper citation, as the use of AI should be properly attributed. Using AI writing tools without my permission or authorization, or failing to properly cite AI even where permitted, shall constitute a violation of UT Austin’s Institutional Rules on academic integrity.
  • …is permitted for students who wish to use them, provided the content generated by AI is properly cited.

If you are considering the use of AI writing tools but are unsure if you are allowed or the extent to which they may be utilized appropriately, please ask."

For additional suggested syllabi statements, please visit our CTL webpage that contains a range of different statements that you may use and adapt.

Beginning of the Semester
  • Be clear on what you want your students to know and be able to do or demonstrate by the end of the course and why that knowledge is valuable to their lives. (See this resource for assistance in developing learning outcomes for your course.) Help students see that the ways you are assessing their learning are key to understanding what they are gaining from the course and where they may need extra coaching and support. (6)
  • Talk to your students about how relying heavily on this tool may interfere with achieving the learning outcomes you hope they will achieve in this course (e.g., problem solving, developing an authentic writing voice, etc.).
    • In particular, “If you can explain to students the value of writing, and convince them that you are genuinely interested in their ideas, they are less likely to reach for the workaround.” (7)
  • Have an open discussion with your students about the ethical implications of ChatGPT and the value of authentic learning for students’ lifelong development as learners. This may include having conversations around digital literacy and bias in research and scholarship, as AI writing tools like ChatGPT are limited to the public source material they have access to on the internet. Don’t feel you have to have all of the answers, as this is a continually evolving issue. (6)
Assignment Design
  • Ask students to reference and/or cite class materials, notes, and sources (particularly sources that are normally behind paywalls but available through the UT Libraries subscription databases and journals.) in their written assignments. This instruction is valuable because ChatGPT draws on text models from public websites.
  • “Require students to reflect more deeply and critically on course topics. This tip is always a good assessment strategy and ChatGPT currently performs better on more superficial and less detailed responses.” (8)
  • Use in-class time for students to demonstrate knowledge and understanding in a variety of ways through low-tech, low stakes in-person activities like freewriting and live presentations.
  • Craft an assignment where you generate a ChatGPT output based on a prompt and ask your students to critique the response, indicating where it did a good job of articulating key points and what nuances it missed. (For 10 other ways to creatively use ChatGPT in course assignments, see “Update your course syllabus for ChatGPT”; keep in mind that asking students to engage with ChatGPT may generate privacy concerns, so it may be better practice to provide them with a copy of ChatGPT responses that they can use.)
  • Focus on critical skills that artificial intelligence struggles with. NPR education correspondent Anya Kamanetz describes three of these areas as:
    • Give a hug: empathy, collaboration, communication, and leadership skills;
    • Solve a mystery: generating questions and problem finding; and
    • Tell a story: finding what's relevant in a sea of data or applying values, ethics, morals, or aesthetic principles to a situation. (9)
  • Carefully scaffold assignments with time and space for students to complete each step along the way, and consider whether the number of time-intensive tasks might require more bandwidth than students have to spend. Students are more likely to utilize a tool like ChatGPT when they are short on time. (6)
  • Treat ChatGPT as a tool that some students may want to use to help get started writing. For example, students who have difficulty starting writing assignments might be encouraged to generate a paragraph with ChatGPT as a stub that enables them to continue writing. As long as the student ultimately adds significant new material and thoroughly edits or ultimately eliminates the output from ChatGPT, they are producing a document that reflects their own work.
Classroom Climate

One way to help encourage students to make better decisions about using tools such as ChatGPT is to design your classroom climate to engender mastery approaches to learning, which involve a focus on deeply understanding the knowledge and skills rather than simply achieving a particular score on an assessment. In a mastery-oriented classroom, students are more likely to engage in strategies that will help them truly learn the material rather than for the goal of performing a task and receiving a grade for their work.

Three simple tips for encouraging mastery approaches in higher education classrooms include:

  1. offering flexible evaluation design: consider providing opportunities for students to revise and redo specific portions of assignments; 
  2. focusing feedback on process and effort: offer feedback oriented toward student effort and their learning processes rather than on high grades and performance relative to others. When possible offer elaborative feedback rather than feedback based simply on correctness.
  3. building a sense of belonging: discuss, emphasize, and model that making errors and mistakes is part of everyone's learning processes rather than something that only poor performers or people who "don't get it" do.

Larger, Ongoing Issues for UT Austin & Higher Education

UT Austin is putting in place a structure to respond to new developments such as ChatGPT. The Academic Affairs team consists of experts in teaching and learning, assessment, and academic technology. The team also engages with faculty from across campus and welcomes your participation in our activities. This portfolio will convene campus conversations to evaluate investments in tools, technologies, and instructional practices that help us accomplish the objectives articulated in the strategic plan. Excellence in these areas of work can be achieved through strong partnerships and collaborative vision. 

Next Steps for CTL 

  • Continue to learn about the tool and stay updated on new developments
  • Convene campus conversations to hear from multiple perspectives
  • Create resources to support the teaching community
  • Identify policies and practices that advance authentic assessment in courses


The content of this document is inspired by the format from the Educause “7 Things You Should Know About” series.

In addition, many of the perspectives and strategies shared in this document were formed through conversation with our colleagues on campus who support teaching and learning at UT, including Brandon Campitelli, Mary Crawford, Linda Neavel Dickens, Rachelle (Shelly) Furness, Mario Guerra, Jeannette Herman, Kristie Loescher, Art Markman, Michele Ostrow, Julie Schell, George Schorn, and Sean White. We are grateful for this growing network of partners that help us respond to rapid changes affecting higher education.