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ChatGPT, a Provocative AI application

ChatGPT, a Provocative AI application

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Over the past few weeks, the ChatGPT product from the OpenAI initiative has been in the news, primarily for its ability to write an accurate seamless essay about any topic that the user has in mind. I’ve been playing around with it for a couple of weeks and thought that I would kick off the New Year with a review.

Some of the comments I read about ChatGPT mentioned that it should be banned from classes because it will enable students to cheat more and/or better than ever. I thought I would test that theory by asking a few questions about a topic that I know very well, online student retention.

I began by asking which articles about online student retention are most cited? The response I received is listed below. Randy Garrison was one of the creators of the Community of Inquiry and is frequently cited. Of the five articles produced below, I am only familiar with #4. I visited Academia.edu and asked for a list of papers about “online student retention.” That search produced 296,342 full text papers. When I sorted for relevancy, none of these surfaced in the first few pages. I considered using Google Scholar to search for the number of citations for each of these articles but thought that was going too far for now.

What are the most frequently cited articles about online student retention?

 There are many articles that have been written about online student retention. Here are a few frequently cited ones:

  1. “The Impact of Social Presence on Student Satisfaction in Online Education” by R. Scott Tannenbaum and Barbara A. Snow (2001). This study found that students who felt a greater sense of social presence in their online courses had higher levels of satisfaction and were more likely to persist in their studies.
  2. “The Role of Motivation in Online Learning” by D. Randy Garrison and Norman D. Vaughan (2008). This article discusses the importance of motivation in online learning and how it can impact student retention.
  3. “The Role of Interactivity in Online Education: A Meta-Analysis of the Literature” by D. Randy Garrison and Norman D. Vaughan (2008). This meta-analysis found that interactive elements in online courses can have a positive impact on student retention and engagement.
  4. “Student Persistence in Online Education: A Test of Tinto’s Model of Student Departure” by D. Randy Garrison and Norman D. Vaughan (2008). This study applied Tinto’s model of student departure to the online learning context and found that social and academic integration were important predictors of student persistence in online courses.
  5. “The Impact of Faculty Support on Student Persistence in Online Education” by D. Randy Garrison and Norman D. Vaughan (2008). This article discusses the role of faculty support in student retention in online education and highlights the importance of effective communication and feedback.

Next, I asked a question about a specific topic related to online courses to see if ChatGPT produced an answer with appropriate citations. The answer that I received below was good. If I asked this question in a college course, I would have required citations. As you can see, none are provided.

 What are the best strategies to ensure student engagement in online college courses?

 There are several strategies that instructors can use to ensure student engagement in online college courses. Here are a few:

  1. Encourage participation in online discussions: One of the most effective ways to engage students in an online course is to encourage them to participate in online discussions. By asking questions and encouraging students to share their thoughts and ideas, instructors can create a sense of community and foster active learning.
  2. Use multimedia resources: Incorporating videos, podcasts, and other multimedia resources into your course can help keep students engaged and help them better understand the material.
  3. Use interactive tools: Online tools such as polls, quizzes, and games can be a great way to engage students and get them actively involved in the learning process.
  4. Offer regular feedback: Providing regular feedback on assignments and participation can help students feel connected to the course and motivated to stay engaged.
  5. Encourage collaboration: Encourage students to work together on projects or assignments. Collaboration can help students feel more connected to the course and their peers.
  6. Use a variety of assessment methods: In addition to traditional exams, consider using a variety of assessment methods such as papers, presentations, and projects to assess student learning. This can help keep students engaged and motivated.

 The Community of Inquiry framework was developed by Garrison, Anderson, and Archer in 2000. It’s well known for explaining the three presences (cognitive, social, and teaching) needed to engage students in an online classroom. Since the question about engagement provided me with practical tactics for engagement, I thought I would ask a more specific question about an area of engagement research. The answer is good, but it provides an incorrect answer about the three originators of the theory. Norm Vaughn has been very active in the CoI, but he is not credited with the initial work.

What problem in education does the Community of Inquiry attempt to solve?

 The Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework is a widely used model for understanding and promoting deep learning in online education. The CoI framework was developed by D. Randy Garrison, Norman D. Vaughan, and Walter Archer, and it is based on the idea that deep learning occurs when students are engaged in cognitive, social, and teaching presence in online learning environments.

The CoI framework identifies three interrelated elements that are essential for promoting deep learning in online education:

  1. Cognitive presence: This refers to the extent to which students are able to construct meaning and understanding through critical thinking and problem-solving.
  2. Social presence: This refers to the extent to which students feel connected and engaged with their peers and instructors in the online learning environment.
  3. Teaching presence: This refers to the extent to which the instructor is able to effectively design, facilitate, and direct the learning process in the online learning environment.

The CoI framework aims to solve the problem of shallow learning, or the failure to achieve deep understanding and retention of course material, which is a common challenge in online education. By promoting cognitive, social, and teaching presence in online learning environments, the CoI framework seeks to enhance student engagement and learning outcomes in online education.

 I decided to ask another question about the Community of Inquiry but request specific citations. The answer below is good and is different from the one above. The second citation is the article generally cited as the first one published on the topic. Note that Vaughn is not one of the authors.

Explain the Community of Inquiry and provide a minimum of five citations

The Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework is a theoretical model that describes the essential elements and their interactions that contribute to the development of a successful online learning experience. The CoI model proposes that there are three interrelated components that must be present in an online learning environment in order to create a sense of community and facilitate learning: cognitive presence, social presence, and teaching presence.

Cognitive presence refers to the ability of learners to construct and confirm meaning through sustained communication and interaction with others. Social presence refers to the ability of learners to project themselves as individuals within the community and to establish relationships with others. Teaching presence refers to the ability of the instructor to facilitate and guide the learning process.

Here are five citations that provide more information on the CoI framework:

  1. Anderson, T., Rourke, L., Garrison, D. R., & Archer, W. (2001). Assessing teaching presence in a computer conferencing context. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 5(2), 1-17.
  2. Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105.
  3. Rourke, L., Anderson, T., Garrison, D. R., & Archer, W. (2001). Methodological issues in the content analysis of computer conference transcripts. Journal of Distance Education, 16(2), 1-17.
  4. Richardson, J. C., & Swan, K. (2003). Examining social presence in online courses in relation to students’ perceived learning and satisfaction. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7(1), 68-88.
  5. Shea, P., Pickett, A. M., & Pelz, W. B. (2003). The community of inquiry framework: A tool for evaluating online learning environments. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7(4), 73-93.

Having asked about online engagement, I thought I would move to online student persistence. I posed the question below. The answer is very good, just unsupported with no citations.

What is the most important factor in improving online student persistence?

There is no single most important factor in improving online student persistence, as different factors may be more or less important depending on the specific context and needs of the students and the institution. However, research has identified several key factors that can impact online student persistence. These include:

  1. Academic preparedness: Students who have strong academic skills and are well-prepared for the demands of online coursework are more likely to persist in their studies.
  2. Motivation: Students who are motivated and have a clear purpose for their studies are more likely to persist in online learning.
  3. Social and academic integration: Students who feel connected to their peers and instructors and who feel a sense of belonging in their online courses are more likely to persist.
  4. Supportive learning environment: An online learning environment that is well-organized, provides clear expectations and feedback, and offers support resources can help students persist in their studies.
  5. Faculty support: Faculty who are available, responsive, and supportive can help students feel more connected and motivated to persist in their studies.
  6. Institution-level factors: Institutional policies and practices, such as providing financial aid and academic support services, can also impact online student persistence.

Ultimately, the most effective strategies for improving online student persistence will likely involve a combination of these factors, tailored to the specific needs of the students and the institution.

I reworded the previous question to see if I received a similar response. The answer was shorter and broader (see below). Since I don’t understand the ChatGPT methodology, I can’t explain why this occurred other than I changed the wording of my previous question.

What is the most successful tactic to improve online student retention?

There is no single most successful tactic for improving online student retention, as different strategies may be more or less effective depending on the specific needs and context of the students and the institution. However, research has identified several key strategies that can help improve online student retention, including:

  1. Providing academic support: Offering academic support services such as tutoring, writing centers, and academic advising can help students overcome challenges and persist in their studies.
  2. Enhancing social and academic integration: Creating opportunities for students to connect with their peers and instructors can help improve retention by increasing feelings of belonging and engagement.
  3. Supporting student motivation: Encouraging students to set goals and providing support and resources to help them achieve those goals can help improve retention by increasing motivation and engagement.
  4. Improving the online learning environment: Ensuring that the online learning environment is well-organized, provides clear expectations and feedback, and offers support resources can help students feel more connected and motivated to persist in their studies.
  5. Providing faculty support: Faculty who are available, responsive, and supportive can help students feel more connected and motivated to persist in their studies.

Ultimately, the most effective strategies for improving online student retention will likely involve a combination of these tactics, tailored to the specific needs of the students and the institution.

As an online student retention researcher, I know many of the articles about engagement and persistence are related to courses and not always about program or institutional persistence. I asked for articles about institutional research in the question below. The citations are accurate, I’m not sure of the basis for including these articles.

Are there articles that more specifically cite institutional research about online student persistence?

 Yes, there are many articles that have been published that report on institutional research about online student persistence. Here are a few examples:

  1. “Retention and Persistence in Online Programs: A Case Study” by Nancy L. Zimpher, Christopher J. Dede, and Joseph P. South (2004). This case study examined retention and persistence in an online bachelor’s degree program and found that students who were more academically prepared and motivated were more likely to persist in their studies.
  2. “Predicting Student Persistence in Online Higher Education” by C. John Carfora, Susan E. Coates, and James L. Morrison (2007). This study used data from a large, public university to identify factors that predicted student persistence in online courses. The authors found that students who were more academically prepared and motivated, and who had higher levels of social and academic integration, were more likely to persist in their studies.
  3. “Student Persistence in Online Learning: An Exploratory Study” by Christine Greenhow, Richard Robelia, and Jeanette McDonald (2009). This study examined student persistence in online learning at a community college and found that students who had stronger academic skills, higher levels of self-motivation, and more positive attitudes towards online learning were more likely to persist in their studies.
  4. “Predictors of Persistence and Attrition in Online Graduate Programs: An Analysis of Student and Institution-Level Factors” by Michael J. Cuyjet, Matthew B. Easterday, and Tia L. Palermo (2012). This study used data from a large, public university to examine predictors of persistence and attrition in online graduate programs. The authors found that students who had higher levels of academic preparedness and motivation, and who received more support from their institutions, were more likely to persist in their studies.

Because I have authored and co-authored papers about online student retention, I asked ChatGPT who I was to see if any of my papers were mentioned. The answer was generally accurate except for “over 30 years.” A more accurate representation would have been “20.” Specific papers were not cited, but I was credited with “numerous.”

Who is Wallace E. Boston, Jr.?

Wallace E. Boston, Jr. is a well-known education leader and former president and CEO of American Public University System (APUS). He has served in various leadership roles in higher education for over 30 years and has a wealth of experience in online education and student retention. During his tenure at APUS, Boston oversaw the growth of the institution from a small, regional institution to a nationally recognized leader in online higher education. He is also an active researcher and has published numerous articles on topics such as online student persistence, academic preparedness, and faculty support.

Dr. Phil Ice and I have collaborated on a number of online retention articles. I asked the app to provide me with a few of them. Oddly, this is where it broke down and listed each of us as co-authors of papers that neither of us co-authored and did not list any that we co-authored together.

What sources are there for student retention articles by Phil Ice and Wallace Boston?

Phil Ice and Wallace Boston are both well-known researchers in the field of education, and they have published numerous articles on student retention. Here are a few examples of articles by Phil Ice and Wallace Boston on student retention:

  1. “Student Persistence in Online Education: A Test of Tinto’s Model of Student Departure” by D. Randy Garrison, Norman D. Vaughan, and Phil Ice (2008). In this study, the authors applied Tinto’s model of student departure to the online learning context and found that social and academic integration were important predictors of student persistence in online courses.
  2. “Predicting Student Persistence in Online Higher Education” by C. John Carfora, Susan E. Coates, James L. Morrison, and Wallace Boston (2007). This study used data from a large, public university to identify factors that predicted student persistence in online courses. The authors found that students who were more academically prepared and motivated, and who had higher levels of social and academic integration, were more likely to persist in their studies.
  3. “The Impact of Social Presence on Student Satisfaction in Online Education” by R. Scott Tannenbaum, Barbara A. Snow, and Phil Ice (2001). This study found that students who felt a greater sense of social presence in their online courses had higher levels of satisfaction and were more likely to persist in their studies.
  4. “The Role of Interactivity in Online Education: A Meta-Analysis of the Literature” by D. Randy Garrison, Norman D. Vaughan, and Phil Ice (2008). This meta-analysis found that interactive elements in online courses can have a positive impact on student retention and engagement.
  5. “The Role of Motivation in Online Learning” by D. Randy Garrison, Norman D. Vaughan, and Phil Ice (2008). This article discusses the importance of motivation in online learning and how it can impact student retention.

I opted to leave online student retention (for now) and asked a question about EdTech, another interest of mine. The response to the question below was okay in that it provided general areas that are expanding (AI, VR, AR) but did not cite any specific products.

 What EdTech products have the highest potential to impact education in 2023?

 It’s difficult to predict exactly which EdTech products will have the most impact in the future, but there are a few trends that might shape the EdTech landscape in 2023. One trend is the increased use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in educational technology. This could include personalized learning platforms that use AI to tailor content to the needs and abilities of individual students, or intelligent tutoring systems that can provide real-time feedback and support to students. Another trend is the growing adoption of virtual and augmented reality technologies in education. These technologies have the potential to create immersive, interactive learning experiences that can engage students in a way that traditional methods might not. Finally, there is a trend towards the use of more mobile and flexible learning platforms, which can make education more accessible and convenient for students. This might include the use of tablets, smartphones, and other portable devices for learning, as well as the development of new online course formats and platforms.

I asked another question below about a specific EdTech product and received a good answer. Once again there were no citations provided nor did the answer mention specific products.

What are the benefits of online course sharing for colleges and universities?

 There are several benefits of online course sharing for colleges and universities:

  1. Increased access to education: Online course sharing allows students to access courses from institutions that may not be physically located near them. This can increase the number of students who are able to pursue higher education.
  2. Increased course offerings: By sharing courses online, colleges and universities can offer a wider range of courses to their students without having to hire additional faculty or build new classrooms. This can be especially useful for smaller institutions that may not have the resources to offer a wide variety of courses.
  3. Improved student retention: By providing students with more course options, online course sharing can help to keep students engaged and motivated to continue their studies. This can help to improve student retention rates.
  4. Cost savings: Online course sharing can be a cost-effective way for colleges and universities to offer additional courses to their students. Institutions can save money on faculty salaries, classroom construction, and other expenses associated with offering additional courses.
  5. Increased collaboration and networking opportunities: Online course sharing can facilitate collaboration and networking between institutions and their faculty and students. This can lead to the sharing of ideas and resources, as well as the development of new research partnerships.

The EdTech questions provided me with an inkling that the AI search functionality might be good at observing trends, so I asked the question below. I thought the answer was very good with the exception that accounting was included under finance. I think it should be a separate category.

If you were starting a new school of business, what programs would you include?

If I were starting a new school of business, I would likely include a range of programs that cover the various aspects of business, including:

  1. Marketing: This would include courses on market research, advertising, branding, and customer relationship management.
  2. Finance: This would include courses on financial accounting, corporate finance, and financial management.
  3. Operations: This would include courses on supply chain management, project management, and quality control.
  4. Management: This would include courses on leadership, human resources, and organizational behavior.
  5. Entrepreneurship: This would include courses on starting and growing a business, including market analysis, product development, and pitch creation.
  6. Information Technology: This would include courses on data analysis, cybersecurity, and business process automation.
  7. International Business: This would include courses on conducting business in a global context, including cross-cultural communication and international trade regulations.
  8. Ethics: This would include courses on ethical decision-making, corporate social responsibility, and sustainability.

I would also consider offering specialized programs in areas such as digital marketing, data analytics, and real estate, to meet the needs of students interested in these specific areas.

I decided to stretch my luck and ask a similar question to the previous one but ask it about education. This answer was good for the most part, but I had issues with it. In a post from 2022, I looked at the Top 10 Schools of Education as rated by U.S. News & World Report and noted that very few of them provided instruction in even half of the nine categories rated. I think the reason for that is financial. I assume the AI does not take that into consideration. I also note that there are many areas under Higher education that were not mentioned such as policy and student services.

If you were starting a school of education from scratch, what programs would you include?

 If I were starting a school of education from scratch, I would make sure to include a wide range of programs that cater to students with different interests, goals, and learning styles. Some specific programs that I might include are:

  1. Early childhood education: This program would focus on the education and care of young children (birth to age 8), including the development of language, social skills, and cognitive abilities.
  2. Elementary education: This program would prepare teachers to work with students in the primary grades (typically ages 6-11). It would cover a broad range of subjects, including math, science, social studies, English, and the arts.
  3. Secondary education: This program would focus on the education of adolescents (typically ages 11-18). It would prepare teachers to work with students in middle and high school, and would cover a wide range of subjects, including math, science, social studies, English, and foreign languages.
  4. Special education: This program would focus on the education of students with disabilities or learning challenges. It would prepare teachers to work with students with a variety of needs, including those with physical, cognitive, or emotional disabilities.
  5. Educational leadership: This program would prepare students for leadership roles within schools and school districts, including positions such as principals, superintendents, and educational policy makers.
  6. Educational technology: This program would focus on the use of technology in education, including the development of online learning materials and the integration of technology into the classroom.
  7. Educational psychology: This program would focus on the psychological and sociological factors that influence learning and teaching, including motivation, cognition, and social development.
  8. Higher education: This program would prepare students to work in colleges and universities, either as professors or in administrative roles. It would cover a wide range of subjects, including teaching methodologies, curriculum development, and research methods.

I am sure that I will continue to experiment with ChatGPT over the next few weeks and months. I’m also sure that I will continue to read about ways in which others have used it. I was particularly impressed with an 18 page document created by John McGill and the ChatGPT. Mr. McGill claims that ChatGPT will revolutionize content production. Maybe it will. Like many trends I observe, I think it’s too soon to tell. As usual, feel free to write if you have any additional comments.

Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President in 2002. In September 2019, Dr. Boston retired as CEO of APEI and retired as APUS President in August 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. For four years from 2009 through 2012, APEI was ranked in Forbes' Top 10 list of America's Best Small Public Companies. During his tenure as president, APUS grew to over 85,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 100,000 alumni. While serving as APEI CEO and APUS President, Dr. Boston was a board member of APEI, APUS, Hondros College of Nursing, and Fidelis, Inc. Dr. Boston was appointed to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity by the U.S. Secretary of Education in 2019. He also serves as a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), as a Trustee of The American College of Financial Services, as a member of the board of Our Community Salutes - USA, and as a member and chair of the board of New Horizons Worldwide. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. In August 2020, the Board of Trustees of APUS appointed him Trustee Emeritus. In November 2020, the Board of Trustees announced that the APUS School of Business would be renamed the Dr. Wallace E Boston School of Business in recognition of Dr. Boston's service to the university. Dr. Boston lives with his family in Austin, Texas.

Comment(2)

  1. I found it interesting to ask my own PhD dissertation research question (from 1997). The question was historical and political – and I got a lame answer similar to what I found in the literature at the time. But I gave it another try a few hours later and an entirely different version of history popped up – closer, but still not on point with my findings. With more questions (and maybe a digital version of the book), the bot would have gotten there eventually.

  2. The CEO of OpenAI has stated that it will provide better answers the more it is used. I like the idea of asking your dissertation research questions, particularly if it was published before 2021.

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