As the use of artificial intelligence becomes increasingly prevalent in education worldwide, the LSU college of humanities and social sciences is embracing the new technology by offering AI-engaged classrooms as soon as next semester.
Beginning with the spring 2024 semester, the college will offer an array of courses to establish an understanding of AI and the ways it transforms our world.
“The main thing is that AI is here and this particular production of text that it can do now is here, so we don’t want to stick our heads in the sand and pretend that it’s not,” said LSU department of English chair Susan Weinstein. “It presents a number of challenges, and it also perhaps presents some opportunities, and so we just want to be in the conversation.”
The AI-engaged classrooms involved in the college of humanities and social sciences initiative will include introductory, intermediate and advanced classes offered by more than 30 faculty members across eight departments.
“Our faculty continue to teach our students to be independent thinkers and writers,” Troy Blanchard, college of humanities and social sciences dean, said in a prepared statement. “AI technologies add research capabilities, and our faculty are offering courses that provide students opportunities to think about how they can best use those technologies to advance learning and discovery.”
Faculty members within the college of humanities and social sciences will be utilizing AI to fit the specific learning demands of the department’s curriculum.
In the English department, Weinstein showed interest in using AI to create writing that students can critique. Even before next semester, Weinstein said, AI is already playing a role in how she teaches.
“Right now, one of the things we’re doing is looking at policy statements or working papers that are coming out about AI and especially the relationship between AI and writing,” Weinstein said. “So we’re reading those together and then discussing the risks, benefits and potential ways to move forward.”
Jon Cogburn, professor and chair of the department of philosophy and religious studies at LSU, said he plans to use AI by having students deal with problems of ethical theory.
“It’s really going to focus on the role of bias in language models but also training people to use these tools to figure out how to cope with it to use them better,” he said.
Over time, as more jobs use or require proficiency with AI, Cogburn said having courses that teach students to use it critically could help them once they transition into the workforce.
“We can do this in a way where we are helping students with job skills in society,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be a conflict between learning non-transferable skills that the humanities gets you but also learning some cool technology that’s going to help you with a job right out of the gate.”
While AI has the ability to positively change the way students learn, some educators have raised concerns that students will use tools like ChatGPT to generate written assignments instead of doing the work themselves.
In a statement in March, LSU warned students to be careful with how they use artificial intelligence tools.
“At LSU, our professors and students are empowered to use technology for learning and pursuing the highest standards of academic integrity,” the statement said. “However, using AI to produce work that a student then represents as one’s own could result in a charge of academic misconduct, as outlined in the Code of Student Conduct.”
LSU’s Code of Student Conduct does not specifically address artificial intelligence, but it does prohibit plagiarism, which it defines as the “lack of appropriate citation, or the unacknowledged inclusion of someone else’s words, structure, ideas, or data; failure to identify a source, or the submission of essentially the same work for two assignments without permission of the instructor.”
As for educators within the college of humanities and social sciences, several said adapting to AI and using it in classroom settings is the best way for students to avoid taking advantage of it.
“There’s worry about students not writing their papers and just having AI write their papers, but we’re having them write their papers about AI,” Cogburn said. “We’re having them use the AI and then critically engage with that use to learn to use it better.”
‘A better society’
Some students, like LSU junior political science major Mackenzie Miller, shared frustration with having to be the “guinea pigs” for AI and its guidelines within the university’s code of conduct.
“I just feel like it could lead down a road that may not be great in terms of academic integrity,” she said. “I want to go to law school, and so I’m dealing with how they’re going to incorporate AI into higher education like that and how it’s going to affect the whole professional world. Our generation is the guinea pig for all of it, which is a little frustrating.”
LSU senior Claire Hill, an international trade and finance major with a minor in the college of humanities and social sciences’ French department, said she uses AI frequently and sees introduction of the technology as the logical next step in advancement at the university.
“I think LSU is definitely going in the right direction in trying to turn AI into more of a tool as opposed to a weapon they must destroy like it’s nuclear energy or something,” Hill said. “I think they’re innovative and they’re doing the best they can with what they have, I think that’s pretty much what everyone’s going to do eventually.”
Weinstein, for her part, agreed.
“Intellectually, I think it’s the responsible thing to do to engage,” she said. “Engage with the question, to engage in challenges and to not expect to come up with any easy answers but use our intellectual abilities, our research skills, our existing knowledge and invite our students to co-explore with us.”
As AI gets introduced to classes of all levels across the college of humanities and social sciences next semester, Blanchard shared his excitement to embrace a technology that could alter the future of academia and the world.
“What excites us about these courses is that we are helping our students shape the world’s future,” Blanchard wrote in a statement. “The biggest challenges facing our world today need human-centered solutions, and these courses will position our students to take a leadership role in ensuring that AI technologies lead to a better society.”