Assessment Design in an Era of Generative AI

In the March edition of Edubytes, our guest editor is Professor of Teaching in UBC’s Department of Philosophy and Academic Director of the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology on the UBC Vancouver campus Dr. Christina Hendricks. She shares a new resource developed by staff at the CTLT, which provides considerations and suggestions around designing assessments in response to the growing prevalence of artificial intelligence tools that can generate text, such as ChatGPT and Bing AI.

At the end of November 2022, ChatGPT was released; an automated text generator that users can interact with in a conversational way. ChatGPT is built on top of a large language model, which chooses the next word in a sentence based on statistical probability of what has come before, developed through training on very large amounts of text. Other chatbots also exist, including some connected to the Internet, such as Microsoft’s Bing Chat, YouChat, and Google’s Bard (not yet available in Canada).

Tools such as these (often referred to as “generative AI” tools) can generate essays on academic topics, answer questions that might be asked on exams, generate code that could be used for assignments, and the like, leading to significant concerns about student learning and academic integrity. Suggestions on how to navigate teaching and learning in this new landscape must continually change as the technology rapidly advances. For example, just in the last few weeks, Open AI has released GPT-4, a more powerful model that can generate text based on images as well as textual inputs (not yet available to the public). They have also started a very limited release of plugins for ChatGPT, one of which allows it to connect to the Internet. It is difficult to keep up with the pace of change.

At the CTLT, we have spent the last few months learning about and discussing the capabilities, limitations, ethical concerns, and other considerations around generative AI tools, and talking with a few faculty members about how they are approaching them. We’re happy to share the first version of a resource on generative AI tools that we know we will need to continually update. Please see below for more information on the various sections of the resource.

We are also looking for more examples on how UBC instructors are redesigning activities and assessments given the development of such tools. Please get in touch if you’re willing to share!


Privacy and other ethical considerations

As with any technology platform, it’s important to consider the data collected by the company, for what purposes, and who will have access. Unlike UBC-supported tools such as Canvas or iClicker, ChatGPT and other generative AI tools have not undergone a Privacy Impact Assessment to thoroughly review privacy and security considerations and ensure implementation in a way that supports these. If you wish to involve students in using such tools, please note that they should be provided the option whether or not to sign up for an account and share any identifying information.

It's important also to consider whether students have equitable access to generative AI tools. Some are available free of cost for a time, or have free tiers with lesser functionality than paid tiers. Consider whether asking students to use such tools in courses might mean that those who can afford to pay have a disproportionate advantage over those who cannot.

Finally, note that there are well-documented concerns about biased and other harmful content in AI-generated outputs. It is important to be aware of this possibility, and plan for how you will manage these if you are using such tools in teaching. Talking with students about them could be productive as well.

See privacy concerns


Academic Integrity

Provost’s Offices at both UBCV and UBCO have created a list of questions and answers about ChatGPT and academic integrity on the UBC Academic Integrity website, including a question around the potential efficacy of tools designed to detect the probability of a text having been written by an AI. This is a rapidly changing space, with many new and existing organizations working on such detectors. Currently their efficacy, and the potential to evade them, are also rapidly co-evolving.

Learn about academic integrity


Communicating with students about generative AI

Given the rapid growth in availability of generative AI tools, and the different approaches instructors may take to them, it is helpful to talk with students about these tools, their benefits and drawbacks, whether students can use them for course activities or assignments, and why/why not. Discuss with students how such tools may be helpful or harmful for their learning and for achieving the learning goals of the course.

It is important to include specific guidelines, such as on syllabi, to indicate whether/how AI tools can be used in activities or assignments. If applicable, let students know how they should attribute the use of such tools in their submitted work.

Discuss with students


Designing assignments to mitigate the use of AI writing tools

Some instructors may wish to design assessments that can help mitigate use of generative AI, to promote fairness and help ensure assessments reflect students' own knowledge and skills. Some assessment strategies that are designed to promote academic integrity more broadly may also be effective for helping to reduce students’ ability to use generative AI on assignments.

Design assessments


Incorporating the use of AI tools into assignments

Some faculty may wish to allow or promote the use of generative AI tools by students, to help them learn about such tools, understand their strengths and weaknesses, or to use them productively to improve critical thinking and writing skills. Similar to how researchers use other tools like NVIVO to code data and explain their methodology in research reports, students can use generative AI and explain its use as part of their method in writing assignments.

Incorporate AI tools

Enjoyed reading about assessment design in an era of generative AI? Learn about other topics we covered in the March 2023 edition by reading the complete Edubytes newsletter. To view past issues, visit the Edubytes archive.

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