ASU paves way for AI chatbots at higher-ed institutions

Anna Vod · January 25, 2024 · Short URL:

The university is collaborating with OpenAI on learning-focused and data-safe version of ChatGPT

If you can’t stop something you don’t like, use it to your advantage. This can be said about the widespread use of ChatGPT by students and the capitulation on the part of schools to accept it.

Schools adopted different approaches toward generative AI chatbots, and it’s no surprise that banning the technology was among the first policies, considering the concerns of misuse. But months later, seeing the bans largely fail, with so many students admitting to using the technology for schoolwork, schools are looking for ways to incorporate AI into the learning system.

Where educators previously saw cheating, more now see progress. David Banks, chancellor of New York City Public Schools, wrote in an opinion piece last May as the school system reversed its ban on ChatGPT: “The knee-jerk fear and risk overlooked the potential of generative AI to support students and teachers, as well as the reality that our students are participating in and will work in a world where understanding generative AI is crucial."

Recently, Arizona State University made the first step in not only making ChatGPT accessible to its employees and researchers, but incorporating the tool into internal workflows. ASU thus became the first higher-ed institution to partner with OpenAI on the integration of ChatGPT Enterprise.

This version of ChatGPT, released in August, was built for enterprise use with business data safety concerns in mind. Powered by GPT-4, ChatGPT Enterprise promises complete control of data, with that data excluded from AI training by default. “Enterprise-grade security and privacy, unlimited higher-speed GPT-4 access, longer context windows for processing longer inputs, advanced data analysis capabilities, customization options, and much more,” wrote OpenAI in a release at the time.

Just five months after its launch, ChatGPT Enterprise grew its customer base to over 260 businesses with 150,000 users, according to a recent Bloomberg report. So, why would the universities stay on the sidelines when such a powerful tool promises data security? ASU decided to embrace it.

ASU President Michael M. Crow said in the announcement last week: “ASU recognizes that augmented and artificial intelligence systems are here to stay, and we are optimistic about their ability to become incredible tools that help students to learn, learn more quickly and understand subjects more thoroughly.”

The university positions itself as a frontrunner in exploring AI and has been devoting its funding toward AI research and development. The collaboration with OpenAI, ASU said, will “define how generative AI can be used in higher education to shape learning, research and the future of work.” The primary focus will be enhancing student success, powering research, and streamlining organizational processes, it said.

Starting February, ASU invited its faculty, staff, and researchers to submit proposals on how to best utilize the new tool. For now, access to ChatGPT Enterprise will be limited and will not include student accounts. However, ASU did say that student requests will be reviewed in the future.

Which means that, for now, students and most faculty members will continue to use the vanilla version of ChatGPT. But an official, and potentially safe, use of generative AI as a higher education assistant is now emerging on the horizon.



Image: Rawpixel, ASU, OpenAI

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