Canvas Spotlight

Get Started Using Generative AI in Your Course

Last updated on March 29, 2024

Related Resources

  • Use Microsoft Copilot – this tutorial covers the basic use of Copilot, like entering prompts and using the interface.
  • Copilot Example Showcase – this showcase is a collection of practical demonstrations of using Copilot.

Let’s walk through it together

Best Practices

How does generative AI work?

  • GenAI is any kind of computer program that can produce novel creative works by analyzing and mimicking existing human-created work, like writings or images. Large language models, like the famous ChatGPT, are a kind of GenAI focused on writing. They essentially operate by predicting what words could follow another in a sentence based on patterns it observes in human language.
  • The product of generative AI can only ever be as good as the material it has analyzed; it isn’t capable of independent logic and reasoning. For that reason, it can easily parrot misinformation or conform to cognitive biases already present in human writings. It can also hallucinate (an industry term) new information, as its predictive algorithm may lead it to combine ideas in a false or misleading way.
  • Despite these flaws, it is still an incredibly potent way for information to be parsed and presented in an easily comprehensible summary. Think of it like a kind of search engine: Google can link to websites with true, false, or questionable information. It cannot make judgments about what is correct, only about what is popular.
  • Large language models are capable of responding to a huge variety of prompts. It can answer questions, follow directions in what it generates, and refine the output based on user input. Users are free to communicate with it conversationally, clarifying their requests or asking follow-up questions in natural language.

How could this be used in education?

  • While GenAI is similar to a search engine, it is far more powerful. When searching the internet for information, the user still needs to follow links,  read a lot of information, decide what is relevant and synthesize the results. GenAI can absorb and condense a great deal of information quickly before presenting it to the user.
  • GenAI can also analyze writing the user provides, offering advice on the strengths and weaknesses of what it reads. It could be used as a tutor or coach for writing by students. Of course, it can only compare the writing to the data set it has available to it and can’t be relied upon to give expert opinion.
  • You and your students can use generative AI conversationally, asking questions and using it to brainstorm new ideas. In this role, it is a kind of collaborator, offering feedback and allowing you to express your ideas. It isn’t a replacement for a trusted colleague, but it is always available for you to use.
  • It is also possible for anyone to try to pass off generated content as their own writing. While this is a real risk, students who know how to use GenAI as a research assistant, coach, or collaborator may be less likely to use it as a replacement for their own intellect. 
  • GenAI is an emerging technology, and while some attempts have been made to develop ways to detect content that has been created using it, these detectors have troubling rates of false positives. We caution you against relying on tools like these and instead focus on educating students on using the tools responsibly rather than abstaining from them completely. 

How do I use this in my course?

  • The single best (and easiest) thing you can do is communicate your policy regarding generative AI with your students immediately. Let students know what kind of use is and isn’t acceptable in your course. Make recommendations on how they might use it most effectively. If there’s a specific research project you think it might be helpful for, mention that. At the same time, let them know that they still need to cite peer-reviewed research and they can’t submit AI-generated work as their own.
  • Try out GenAI for yourself to understand its abilities and limitations. All MSU Denver employees have access to Microsoft Copilot. Copilot is preferred for professional use since MSU Denver accounts have their data protected. You won’t need to worry about potentially sensitive data being saved by the program, especially that protected by FERPA. A good place to start is to just ask it how Generative AI can be used for your subject matter.
  • Create assignments that instruct students on using it appropriately for your class. For example, you can instruct students to start their research with MS Copilot and then compare the results to resources from the Auraria Library. Have students report how accurate their results from Copilot were and what things it might have missed in the peer-reviewed research they found. 

Further Resources

  • The AI Empowerment in Higher Education workshop series equips faculty, staff, and university leaders with the skills to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) in higher education. Spanning four engaging workshops, this series progresses from AI fundamentals to practical applications using tools like ChatGPT, Google’s Gemini, and Microsoft Copilot.
    • April 26, 2024
    • 1:00 pm – 2:45 pm
    • Jordan Student Success Building 211
  • The Cornell Center for Teaching Innovation has a series of articles on the role of generative AI in education.