AI software like ChatGPT could be used to replace some university textbooks, transforming higher education and demanding a greater focus on critical thinking, a college professor told Fox News.
“Certainly for an introductory undergraduate course, ChatGPT could be used to produce excellent course materials,” said Terence Day, a geography professor at Okanagan College in British Columbia. “Essentially, it could substitute for a textbook.”
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AI chatbots could make curricula less rigid and drive down college costs, since students wouldn’t have to shell out hefty sums for textbooks, according to Day. The professor also believes some schools may soon prioritize training students to analyze AI-generated texts — such as spotting errors in ChatGPT’s content — over essay writing.
“Textbooks are expensive to buy, but they’re also expensive to produce,” Day told Fox News. “Instead of spending 100 bucks on a textbook, [students are] able to just download something from their learning management system.”
Students would likewise benefit from AI-written course materials, he said.
“If you’re producing course materials using ChatGPT, you can afford to maybe change things up a bit, move things around,” Day told Fox News. “That certainly … provides an opportunity for innovation, I think, within the classroom.”
Errors in the results ChatGPT generates also provide professors with a novel teaching tool, according to Day. He said he’d used an inaccurate ChatGPT response as part of a recent class midterm, asking students to pinpoint the geography-related text’s flaw.
“It really does promote the idea of critical thinking in students,” Day said. “The opportunity is to employ those critical thinking skills in terms of figuring out whether or not this stuff is true.”
“In my case, I identified a glaring error, which was a really significant error,” he added. “But the students were also able to identify a couple of small errors, which I completely missed.”
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Day, who’s also an adjunct geography professor at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, said he believed AI may force universities to prioritize analysis-driven work.
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“As time goes on, the idea of sitting down and writing something from scratch is going to be less and less likely as a task that anyone is going to be assigned,” he told Fox News. “I think, increasingly, the task is going to be evaluating what is available to you.”
“And this task of evaluation, I think, is something that we really do need to be training students for, educating students for, over the course of the next few decades,” Day said.
To watch the full interview, click here.