We have an opportunity to enhance our teaching methods and increase our effectiveness and productivity by responsibly leaning into the capabilities of ChatGPT and other generative AI – Thomas Payne

Cookeville – Artificial Intelligence (AI) is spreading throughout cyberspace and beyond.

As defined by Britannica, AI is the “ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings.” But this isn’t a sci-fi novel or something out of an old movie (the Schwarzenegger classic Terminator comes to mind). AI and chatbots have formed a presence in business across the world with creative software leading the charge.

Recently, Tennessee Tech’s University’s Dean of the College of Business, Thomas Payne, Ph.D. spoke with the Nashville Business Journal about those questions and more as the adoption of AI in higher education is becoming more prevalent. Read the Nashville Business Journal’s entire interview HERE

Payne says growth of ChatGPT and other generative AI software changed the way educators leverage technology.

“Our usage increased with the sophistication of the tools and the increased demand for graduates with higher-order skills,” said Payne. “In fact, we even came up with a name for it in the College of Business at Tennessee Tech, Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL).” 

The school of business now faces new challenges.

“Today’s challenge is how to appropriately and effectively apply the next level of technology, generative AI, to building knowledge and developing these important skill sets, all while ensuring academic integrity,” said Payne.

He says the five-year goal is to slide into a rhythm with the revolutionary technology.

“It’s going to be revolutionary and, quite frankly, it needs to be … In education, we have an opportunity enhance our teaching methods and increase our effectiveness and productivity by responsibly leaning into the capabilities of ChatGPT and other generative AI,” said Payne. 

As with self-improvement, understanding a lack of understanding is paramount.

“Not unlike our first experiences with Google, asking the right questions will require students to have sufficient contextual knowledge,” he said. “And even though the new AI tools are much more powerful, users, including students, cannot be completely naïve about the subject matter or the problems they are trying to solve. To come up with the right questions and arrive at the best solutions, learners will need to have a basic knowledge of the issues at hand.”

Correct questions are a part of the process. Payne takes that a step further when adapting to change. He says questions “coupled with the need to ensure academic integrity” allow classrooms to be more interactive as students use AI to share ideas. AI is not exactly a trend. 

According to Payne it is a tool, not a replacement for the curious mind.

“I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is a trend yet, but the application of AI in a profound way to aid in the decision-making process is a development to watch,” he said. “In the Business College at Tech, we have a Department of Decision Sciences and Management. Going forward we will be much more focused on just that: the science of decision-making. The way we go about making decisions and framing problems by first asking the right questions will be the most challenging aspect of this.”

Some universities have prohibited the use of AI. Are they on the right track? 

“I think the ’embracers’ are ultimately on the right track,” said Payne, “but I understand those who are more apt to keep some of it at arms-length, at least for the time being. There is a need to get our heads around this and figure out exactly how we want to approach the application of generative AI. …”

The next level of AI technology may benefit society economically and societally, but those “well grounded in foundational knowledge” with a “contextual view” will have an advantage when using AI, according to Payne. The idea of mingling human complexity with Artificial thought may keep us ahead of the curve when it comes to AI in the classroom.

Future leaders and advanced AI can work together.

“I think the losers, relatively speaking, will be those who do not have or do not take the opportunity to ground themselves with the foundational knowledge ….”

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Photo courtesy of Tennessee Tech.

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