Love it or hate it, generative AI is not going away

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rep ai amy chatham 492pxAmy Chatham, Ph.D., director of the UAB Center for Teaching and Learning, is introducing a series of workshops on teaching with AI in the spring 2024 semester.Two short stories capture the generative AI experience for Amy Chatham, Ph.D.

Chatham, director of the UAB Center for Teaching and Learning, has been thinking a lot about the technology behind ChatGPT and other AI models, which can smoothly produce coherent essays in minutes. Specifically, given her job, Chatham is most interested in engaging faculty in conversations around this impressive, disturbing, disruptive technology.

“People are really starting to understand that the time has passed when we can pretend it doesn’t exist,” Chatham said.

Driving to an out-of-town symposium with a group of students recently, Chatham asked about their experiences with AI models like ChatGPT. “One of them confessed to using it, and I use the word ‘confessed’ on purpose,” Chatham said. The others admitted that, if they showed they knew how to use it, faculty might think they were cheating. “I guess I ought to try it, but I haven’t,” one said.

Soon after she began her role with CTL this fall, Chatham began meeting with groups of faculty in UAB schools, starting with Optometry and Nursing. Her aim is to explain the basics of generative AI technology and walk her audiences through UAB policy on AI use. (See the policy here and find more AI resources from CTL here.) Chatham is just as interested in encouraging faculty to think about how AI could help them teach. When she asks if any of the assembled faculty have used generative AI, roughly half tend to raise their hands. But what happens next brings down the house.

“I actually demonstrate it for them live,” Chatham said. “I ask ChatGPT to design a course related to the school I am visiting, including a specific number of modules and relevant readings and assessment tools. It spits out an entire course in 20 seconds, and you can see the jaws drop around the room. They can’t believe it.”

Chatham is quick to point out that this is no substitute for the real work of course design. “You wouldn’t now go teach this class,” she tells her audiences, “but it could be a starting place.”

In October, Chatham gathered several UAB faculty on the cutting edge of using generative AI in the classroom for a panel discussion at the CTL. (Learn more about their experiences in subsequent articles in this series.) “I’m excited by the early adopters,” Chatham said, “but we also need people who are just willing to give it a try.”

Using AI in the Classroom workshops

Starting in January 2024, Chatham will launch a series of Using AI in the Classroom workshops for the spring semester. The first session tackles the real concerns and professional sensitivities that generative AI brings head-on. Titled “Engage in the Conversation,” the panel discussion will include faculty “who are very against it and very for it talking together,” Chatham said.

Other sessions in the Using AI in the Classroom series will cover academic integrity and offer practical guidance on redesigning assignments — or an entire course — to incorporate generative AI. (See a full list below.)

“We don’t need to think about being displaced by this technology,” Chatham said. “There is opportunity here. AI is just the next iteration of big-scale tech. I’m old enough to remember coming to the basement of Lister Hill Library, hoping that the journal I needed for my assignment was there. Now you can find it instantly online. That is better for students.”

Chatham begins her presentations by showing photos of a slide rule and a calculator. “I ask people to imagine how difficult that transition must have been for statisticians,” she said. “You replaced something that took training and skill to use with something that anyone could just pick up and use right away. But the world is still full of statisticians.”

Using Generative AI can be unsettling, Chatham acknowledges, and she often does not want to use it herself. But “I force myself to use it at least once every week,” she said. “Recently, I presented to Faculty Senate, and after I had created my three-slide presentation, I asked ChatGPT to give me a distinctive format for a 10-minute talk that is informative and engaging. Based on what it generated, I adjusted my talk from there.”

Love it or hate it, “my expectation is that all of our students are going to be expected to use it at some point while they are in the workforce,” Chatham concluded. “Right now, we have an opportunity to train on this issue, rather than ignore it.”

UAB Center for Teaching and Learning Spring 2024

Using AI in the Classroom Workshops

  • 11:30 a.m. Jan. 26: Engage in the Conversation (register here)
  • 9:30 a.m. Feb. 16: Academic Integrity (register here)
  • 11:30 a.m. March 1: Experiment with the Tools (register here)
  • 9:30 a.m. March 26: Experiences of Three Teaching Faculty (register here)
  • 11:30 a.m. March 29: Redesign Your Assignments/Your Course (register here)

Register and find all CTL events at