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Generative AI tools and the Impact on Teaching and Learning

Generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools have become increasingly accessible and will impact teaching and learning in numerous ways. AI technologies such as ChatGPT offer new ways to engage students in critical thinking, writing and analysis. AI also can serve as a tool for instructors in the creation of course material. To effectively use these technologies, instructors will want to understand how generative AI tools work and how they are reshaping our disciplines and workplaces. It also will be important to provide policies for students with explicit information on expectations for disclosing use of AI technologies.

Northwestern is committed to providing instructors with teaching and learning support related to generative AI as these technologies evolve.

This webpage provides information on upcoming events, answers to frequently asked questions, and additional resources for faculty.


Schools and units from around Northwestern are hosting workshops and individual consultations that address the use of generative AI technologies, including ChatGPT, in the classroom.

  • Office of the Provost Faculty Webinar, March 8, 2023: Provost Kathleen Hagerty and faculty experts discuss AI technology, including ChatGPT. View the recording.
  • Navigating the Legal Landscape of ChatGPT in Medicine, March 15, 2023, 12:30 p.m.: Join the Institute for Augmented Intelligence in Medicine for a panel discussion.
  • The Generative AI Learning & Teaching Lab, March 17, 2023, noon: Join the Searle Center for an online “maker’s space” experience to develop or modify your Spring Quarter assignments and class activities using generative AI tools.
  • Request a one-on-one consultation with Northwestern IT Teaching and Learning Technology
  • Additionally, several schools are hosting events for faculty. Check with your school for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence (AI) large language model application that users currently can access online for free. It has impressive language understanding and generation capabilities. Users ask the ChatGPT chatbot questions, to which it will provide written answers; as users refine the question, ChatGPT can produce a modified response.

How does it work?

ChatGPT is a language model that was trained on a large corpus of material; as it was developed, humans interacted with the model, ranking answers it gave so that it could learn which were better responses. Essentially, this model can recognize, summarize, and predict text based on giant data sets. For more information on how ChatGPT works and some of its limitations, see the ChatGPT blog.

Is ChatGPT factually accurate?

ChatGPT’s factual accuracy is uneven and it should not be considered a reliable source of accurate information. The tool was given a large corpus of varied material from which to identify patterns, which can produce quite uneven results.

Can I try ChatGPT?

Yes. You can sign up for ChatGPT or Jasper or any of several other artificial intelligence tools online.  Try entering a question on a familiar topic to best gauge its accuracy.

Academic Integrity

Is using ChatGPT a violation of academic integrity?

Not necessarily. Improper uses of artificial intelligence tools such as ChatGPT are covered under the University’s standards of academic integrity, which refer to AI in the sections on cheating and plagiarism. For example, the unauthorized use of generative AI to create content that is submitted as one’s own is considered plagiarism and a violation of the academic integrity policy.

Does Northwestern have a syllabus statement about ChatGPT or other generative AI?

Instructors may wish to use the following statement on their syllabi which can also be found on the Office of the Registrar Syllabus Statements webpage:

Any form of cheating, including improper use of content generated by artificial intelligence, constitutes a violation of Northwestern’s academic integrity policy. Turnitin, which already is in use at Northwestern, is expanding its system to include artificial intelligence detection.

How can I tell if my students have used ChatGPT or other AI to generate an essay?

Instructors can use AI detection tools to identify text likely generated by AI. Turnitin, the plagiarism detection service available at Northwestern, is developing a tool to detect text likely generated by AI, but it has not yet launched. Other detection tools, such as ZeroGPT and AI Content Detector, are available on the internet. Instructors should note that these tools are imperfect, especially as these technologies are changing rapidly.

Pedagogy and AI Tools

The Searle Center for Advancing Learning and Teaching has created a guide titled Exploring the Pedagogical Possibilities of Generative Artificial Intelligence. The guide provides additional information on generative AI as it relates to pedagogy. Brief answers to some common questions are below. Please review the guide for more thorough explanations of these concepts, examples of how to incorporate these suggestions into your assignments, and more guidance on the potential use of AI tools in classrooms.

What are some ways in the short term that I can adjust my assessments (e.g., assignments, discussion boards, quizzes, exams) if I am concerned that generative AI tools may undercut student learning?

Consider the following approaches:

  • Revisit the University’s academic integrity policy with your students. Ask them how they think the policy applies to AI tools and what they think would be appropriate and inappropriate uses of the tool given the learning goals of the course and the types of assignments.
  • Add in a reflective component to an assignment. Ask students to write or record annotations or a holistic self-assessment about their process—what steps did they take and why? Why did they choose a certain answer? What other options did they consider?
  • Incorporate elements to your assignments that allow students varied ways to demonstrate their learning and knowledge. This is a principle of Universal Design for Learning and of the Northwestern Principles of Inclusive Teaching, which provides examples and further guidance.

What are some ways in the long term that I can (re)design assignments that that tap into students’ intrinsic motivation in order to help students avoid academic integrity violations?

Consider the following methods to make assignments less susceptible to the downsides of AI tools.

  • Incorporate elements that help maximize students’ intrinsic motivation by tapping into their authentic curiosity and providing them choice to determine the focus or modality whenever possible.
  • Emphasize the process over just the final product, adding elements such as proposals, drafts, annotation, or feedback into your assignments.
  • Get specific in your assignment instructions.

How can instructors engage students in a critical discussion of AI-generated material to hone critical thinking, media literacy and other skills for world readiness?

Here is one suggestion: Use ChatGPT in the classroom by asking students to apply what they have been learning to analyze and assess AI-generated content. Talk with students about how AI is impacting your field and/or altering the workplaces of the future.

Additional Resources