Artificial intelligence chatbot ChatGPT stunned users with its ability to write like a human.
Some fear college students will use it to cheat, but these professors say they're not too worried.
One even thinks it might make education fairer — especially for non-native speakers of English.
An updated version of artificial intelligence chatbot ChatGPT was launched by OpenAI on November 30. Its ability to write in an intelligent and human-like manner left users impressed — and also a little bit frightened.
"We're witnessing the death of the college essay in realtime," said one user on Twitter.
But some college professors aren't that concerned.
"I'm not a huge fan of the gloom and doom," said Professor Stuart Selber, who teaches English at Pennsylvania State University. "Every year or two, there's something that's ostensibly going to take down higher education as we know it. So far, that hasn't happened."
Selber told Insider he's "no more worried" about ChatGPT than any other development in the history of literary technologies. "You can go back a couple decades and find similar alarm over Word, Wikipedia, and the Internet in general," said Selber.
While ChatGPT's writing might seem "quite good in an abstract way", Selber thinks it struggles to address precise or local issues, generate an original argument, or interrogate other arguments rather than just citing them. These are all key aspects of effective essay-writing in his opinion.
That's why Selber ultimately doesn't think essays written entirely by ChatGPT have any hope of scoring high grades.
He's not alone in this assessment. Dr Jacqueline Antonovich, an Assistant Professor at Muhlenberg College, wrote on Twitter that she put a question from her midterm essays into ChatGPT and the paper it produced "would earn an F. Probably an F- if that's possible."
ChatGPT won't replace original writing, said Selber, but it might help college students refine their work. Indeed, he thinks it might offer a shortcut for some of the more arduous tasks of essay-writing, like preparing a literature review — a summary of the existing research in a student's topic area.
Dr Leah Henrickson, a lecturer at the University of Leeds, thinks that artificial intelligence, if used carefully, might even make education fairer.
Henrickson told Insider: "I think there's a lot of potential for helping people express themselves in ways that they hadn't necessarily thought about. This could be particularly useful for students who speak English as a second language, or for students who aren't used to the academic writing style."
Artificial intelligence tools like Grammarly, which analyzes and improves written sentences, are already widely used by college students. In Henrickson's view, ChatGPT is just the next step — and these tools aren't going away.
"Our students know that these tools exist," she said. "Our job is to help them use them critically."
According to Henrickson, the University of Leeds is already looking at modifying its assessments in reaction to the rise in artificial intelligence. It hopes to focus more on critical analysis and judgement — a human skill — rather than straightforward information retention, which a chatbot like ChatGPT can easily replicate.
Henrickson told Insider: "I'm optimistic. I think these tools, when used mindfully, can really help our students see the world in new ways."
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