As a student at La Salle University, it is important to understand how to best use artificial intelligence (AI) and large language models (LLMs) as learning and productivity tools, while also navigating the ethical issues that these technologies raise. This guide is designed to provide you with the knowledge and resources to begin your journey.
AI is a branch of computer science focused on building systems capable of mimicking human intelligence. This includes tasks like learning from data, understanding and generating natural language, recognizing patterns, and making decisions. You are probably already interacting with AI without even realizing it. When you ask Siri or Google assistant a question, that’s AI. When Netflix recommends a show you might like, that’s AI. When your bank calls to let you know someone may have used your credit card without your permission, AI figured that out, and probably even messaged or placed a call to you. The spam filter in your email uses AI to identify and remove unwanted messages. These are just a few examples of how AI has become integrated into our daily lives.
The Current AI Landscape
The AI landscape is evolving rapidly, with new tools and technologies being released regularly. Currently, the main LLMs are ChatGPT, Bard, and Claude. Additionally, numerous apps and websites are being built on these models. Further, both Microsoft and Google plan to build AI into their productivity tools (i.e., Word, PowerPoint, Docs, and Slides). Each has its unique features and uses, and it’s important to stay up-to-date with advancements.
LLMs, like ChatGPT, have been trained on vast amounts of text data. They are designed to generate human-like text based on the context provided to them, making them capable of tasks like answering questions, writing essays, generating creative content like poems or stories, summarizing texts, translating languages, and even coding. However, they are not infallible and can produce outputs that seem plausible but may not be accurate or factual, a phenomenon known as “hallucinating”. It is crucial to always verify the outputs from AI tools for accuracy.
AI is not limited to textual tasks. Tools like DALL-E and Midjourney use AI to create images that can rival actual photographs. Furthermore, AI can generate realistic speech and videos, leading to the creation of “deep fakes”, which are deceptively convincing manipulations of audiovisual data. Given the prevalence of such technology, it is essential that you always verify the authenticity of images, audio, or video you encounter on the internet.
How AI Works
LLMs, like ChatGPT, work by analyzing the context of a given input (like a statement or a question) and predicting the most likely subsequent word or phrase. They make these predictions based on patterns observed in the vast quantities of text data they’ve been trained on. They are not conventional software programs, but rather sophisticated text prediction algorithms. When connected to the internet, LLMs can access external information and databases to enhance their outputs, making them significantly more robust.
AI has the potential to revolutionize the way we teach and learn. It can assist with tasks like writing, research, content creation, coding, and even provide personalized tutoring and practice. While these tools offer exciting possibilities for enhancing many aspects of your work as a student, they also present significant challenges. These include (a) understanding how to effectively integrate these tools into your learning, (b) understanding the ethical, privacy, and validity concerns, and (c) using these tools in a way that upholds the academic integrity standards of La Salle University and the broader professional community. It is important to understand these issues and navigate them responsibly.
As with any powerful tool, it is essential to use AI responsibly. When using AI for academic purposes, it is vital to adhere to the academic integrity standards of La Salle University. This includes not using AI to plagiarize, fabricate data, or cheat in any way. To reiterate, is your responsibility to understand your professor’s policy on AI use in each of your classes and abide by it.
To avoid being accused of an academic integrity violation, be sure you understand and follow your professor’s guidelines. In addition, maintain notes and revision histories of your work whether you use AI or not. Be transparent about your use of AI. Retain copies of your prompts (i.e., what you entered into AI) and clear notes about how you made use of AI. If your professor does not give you instructions about how to acknowledge the use of AI, ask them for guidance.
The application of AI and LLMs can vary greatly depending on the field of study, but here are just a few general examples:
Data Privacy and Security
Data privacy and security is a major concern when using AI tools. Never input personally identifiable or sensitive information into AI systems (i.e., real names, email addresses, personal financial information). Most systems continue to train their models on the data we are inputting. Where this data ends up is not clear at this point. While some tools allow you to make use of privacy settings, it is recommended that you use anonymous data when interacting with these tools.
Using AI Tools
To use AI tools, simply begin by typing a prompt or question into the input field. A prompt is an input or instruction given to an AI system. For example, “Can you help me create a plan for preparing for my Math midterm?” Do not stop with one prompt. The more detailed the input, the more likely it is that you’ll receive a satisfactory response. If your prompt is not clear, the AI might not know exactly what you want. Sometimes a single prompt will result in helpful output, but it is often to provide further detail to the AI. The more you engage in a back-and-forth with the AI, the better you can clarify your point or ask the AI to clarify its response. Think of your first prompt as setting the scene. Build your next prompts on this foundation. Multi-step prompts also work, but a back-and-forth interaction usually yields the best results. It is often useful to save chats so that you can return to them and build on the topic. If you need to change topics, begin a new chat. The more you use LLMs, the better you will understand how they behave and what they can and cannot do. It remains critical that all output is verified.
AI is a powerful tool that can significantly enhance your learning experience and future career prospects. However, it is also a tool that must be used responsibly and ethically. As students, you play a crucial role in shaping the future of AI in education and in society. We encourage you to responsibly leverage the power of AI, explore its possibilities, and continue to learn about its implications and potential.
Frequently Asked Questions