Tag: Michigan Tech Global Campus

Michigan Tech Global Campus: A Great Fit for Amanda Irwin

Amanda promoting the Michigan Tech Global Campus to prospective students.

Amanda doing what she does best: being an advocate and team player for Global Campus

Guiding Students With Expertise and Representing Global Campus With Passion

Michigan Tech Global Campus, which is responsible for housing MTU’s online graduate programs, continuing education, and more, is staffed by a small but mighty team. You previously learned about Vice President David Lawrence, such as his rigorous schedule and his passion for developing partnerships. Then, Brian Hannon, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Alliances, and former MTU hockey star (or should we say celebrity!), skated across the digital pages of this blog.

But there are a few people left to write about, two team members and student champions you need to meet. And one of them is Amanda Irwin, Graduate Admissions Manager for Global Campus. She was kind enough to take some time out of her busy schedule to let me interview her.

Before we get into the details of what you do at Michigan Tech Global Campus, tell us a little more about you.

Amanda Irwin, Graduate Admissions Manager for the Michigan Tech Global Campus.
Amanda Irwin, Graduate Admissions Manager for Michigan Tech Global Campus

In 2009, I graduated with my Bachelor’s in Business Administration (BBA), majoring in Accounting, from Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU). While completing my degree, I also worked full time in workforce development and case management.

That is when and where I found my passion for higher education. In my job, I worked closely with dislocated workers, helping them take advantage of grant money for retraining. And I loved it.

That experience is what launched me onto the path of helping students with their educational journeys. I am also a mom of four super cool kids!

What, exactly, do you do on your job?

In my role, I help prospective students through all stages of the inquiry and enrollment process. In doing so, I answer questions about our programs and application process. But probably the most impactful of my duties is walking students through the admissions process step by step, detailing the timeline, and letting them know what to expect next. I think students appreciate the insight. They feel more at ease knowing what the process will look like from start to finish.

What was your previous role before coming to Michigan Tech Global Campus and how did that experience prepare you for this one?

Well, I have worked in admissions since 2012, at a local university and at a community college. The decision-making process is very different for a high school student coming to their freshman year of college vs. that of an adult student returning later in life (or starting for the first time). These experiences with students have provided me with perspective. They’ve also opened my eyes to so many different life paths that people will walk through. Lastly, my previous roles have helped me develop a deeper understanding of diverse student experiences. And patience and empathy, of course!

What is the favorite part of being the Graduate Admissions Manager for Michigan Tech Global Campus?

Talking to cool people is my favorite part of the job. I enjoy being in a relationship and making a connection with students, chatting about kids or the weather or sports….finding that common ground with them. A close second is hearing from students semesters later and learning that they are doing well and planning their graduations. In other words, it is that feeling of accomplishment in knowing that you helped them get started.

Why have you chosen to work in online learning? That is, what about online learning resonates with you?

I think online learning is the wave of the future, especially for our adult learners. Online learning offers the flexibility students need to be able to say, “Yes, I can move toward that next goal while working at my current job or caring for my family, and so on.” Online learning allows nontraditional students to fulfill their personal and professional goals and to finish what they started. Or get a brand new start altogether.

Along with guiding students through the application process, you’ve often done outreach for Michigan Tech Global Campus. Can you say a little more about this work?

Amanda Irwin represents Michigan Tech Global Campus at the MAHLE Corporate Fellowship signing ceremony.
Amanda Irwin, sixth from the left, represents Michigan Tech Global Campus at the MAHLE Corporate Education Fellowship signing ceremony. In the center are MAHLE CEO and President Peter Lynch and MTU President Richard Koubek.

Well, I regularly travel to and participate in our corporate partner events to represent Michigan Technological University and Global Campus. For instance, in Fall 2023, I attended corporate fellowship signing ceremonies for both ITC (September) and MAHLE (November).

I’m also very active in my local chamber of commerce where I go to various events and spread the word about Michigan Tech and Global Campus. One of the most memorable events was the Midland Business Association’s (MBS) Women in STEM panel discussion, in which female researchers and leaders talked about some of their challenges in STEM roles. This event was partially sponsored by Global Campus. Global Campus was also a program sponsor for one of our WakeUp Midland networking breakfast events. These events offer a great opportunity to make business contacts, enjoy breakfast, and create networks.

And when Michigan Technological University sponsored Dr. Ruth Archer at the Lean Summit, I set up a Global Campus table there.

The goal in all of these events is getting exposure for Global Campus, building on the respect and reputation of our little school in the north, and letting people know that we can bring Michigan Tech to them.

Amanda Irwin, Graduate Admissions Manager for Global Campus

When you are not working, what do you like to do?

I love helping with my kids’ sports teams, especially basketball. Watching them play any sport is where you will find me most weekends.

When we aren’t playing sports, I enjoy adventuring with my husband and kids. We fish, explore parks, go rock hunting, go on waterfall adventures. The whole family loves going for a drive and searching for eagles and other cool birds.

I also enjoy some recreation league sports that I play in a few times a year, hanging with family and friends, and doing puzzles.

Amanda Irwin, Global Campus Admissions Manager, stands with  her husband and four small children in front of an icy waterfall.
Amanda Irwin and her family doing one of their favorite things: exploring waterfalls.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Yes. In the second week of March, I will be holding an in-person information session on our accelerated master’s degrees, accelerated certificates, and online graduate programs. At this event, there will be program directors; the always amazing Director of Graduate Enrollment Services, Jacque Smith; and, of course, free pizza. If you’re an eligible student, you’ll get an email from me. So check your inboxes!

If you have questions about any of Michigan Tech’s online programs or the application process, please reach out to me at globalcampus@mtu.edu or make an appointment on my calendar. You’ll get friendly service from someone who knows our programs and the application process inside and out.

Five Ways Artificial Intelligence is Transforming Healthcare

A cellphone against an image of a heart and a robotic hand, meant to suggest the connectedness of artificial intelligence in healthcare.

In the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s Top Emerging Technologies of 2023 report, the organization nominated AI-facilitated healthcare as the 10th top global trend. After stressing how the COVID pandemic magnified the shortages of healthcare systems around the globe, the report suggested that perhaps one of the most important goals of AI systems is that of improving healthcare. But how, exactly, can artificial intelligence help if not transform healthcare?

1. Providing Diagnostic Assistance

“Errors and discrepancies in radiology practice are uncomfortably common, with an estimated day-to-day rate of 3–5% of studies reported, and much higher rates reported in many targeted studies.”

Adrian P. Brady, Error and discrepancy in radiology: Inevitable or Avoidable

By leveraging machine learning algorithms to analyze medical data and images, whether they are CT scans, X-rays, retinal images, and more, Artificial Intelligence can play a crucial role in interpreting medical images and data.

Although AI can’t replace the expertise of radiologists, it can certainly supplement it. For instance, trained on vast data sets of diseases and anomalies, AI excels at recognizing both patterns and abnormalities in medical images. And it often does so with more efficiency, speed, and consistency than its human counterparts. AI systems also maintain a consistent level of performance regardless of factors like fatigue or distraction, which can affect human radiologists. Therefore, AI may provide more reliable results throughout the day and across different cases. This heightened accuracy could make the difference between life and death in emergency situations.

AI can integrate radiological findings with electronic health records (EHRs) and other clinical data. Thus, it helps to provide a more comprehensive, holistic analysis. It can also help with quality control by flagging potential errors and inconsistencies in medical images that lead to misdiagnoses.

2. Aiding in Drug Discovery and Development

An image of a lab worker who is using artificial intelligence to discover drugs.
Artificial intelligence can help researchers create new drugs.

AI is also transforming drug discovery and development by leveraging advanced computational techniques to analyze large datasets, predict molecular interactions, and streamline various stages of the drug development pipeline.

Algorithms can assess large data sets (genomic, proteomic, and clinical) not only to identify proteins and genes associated with diseases, but also to pinpoint targets that will respond to clinical intervention.

Machine learning can also predict the binding affinity of molecules to target proteins. This prediction allows researchers to prioritize and then test possible drug compounds. In other words, AI can help both streamline and reduce the cost of pharmaceutical research.

For instance in 2020, DeepMind’s AI system (AlphaFold), made headlines by accurately predicting 3D protein structures from amino acid sequences. According to its website, AlphaFold regularly “achieves accuracy that is competitive with experiment.” Why is this accuracy important? Understanding the 3D structure of proteins assists researchers in designing drugs that can interact more precisely with specific proteins. The outcome is more effective and targeted treatments.

Artificial intelligence can also optimize the design of critical trials by analyzing patient data, summarizing biomedical literature, identifying suitable patient populations, and predicting potential challenges. In addition, AI helps investigate drug repurposing, predict drug toxicity, and identify disease biomarkers.

3. Personalizing Healthcare

Personalized medicine, also known as precision medicine, involves tailoring preventive care, medical treatment, and interventions to an individual’s characteristics. These might include such factors as genetics, lifestyle, and environment.

Artificial Intelligence steps in by analyzing large datasets, making predictions and insights that enable more personalized, targeted, and effective healthcare.

An image of diabetes treatment devices to indicate how artificial intelligence can help personalize diabetes treatment.
Precision medicine can help create more effective, individualized diabetes treatment plans.

For instance, for diabetes treatment, precision healthcare considers an individual’s lifestyle factors, such as diet, exercise habits, and stress levels. Then, doctors use AI to create personalized dietary plans and exercise regimens to manage blood sugar levels effectively. Diabetes treatment might involve using wearable devices and health trackers to monitor and adjust lifestyle interventions based on real-time data.

Take Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) systems, which provide real-time data on glucose levels throughout the day. Precision medicine utilizes this data to adjust treatment plans dynamically. Thus, Artificial Intelligence allows for more accurate insulin dosing based on the person’s unique glucose patterns.

In precision medicine, AI may also assess an individual’s genetic makeup in conjunction with their medical records. The goal is predicting how a patient may respond to certain medications and treatments. And in nutrigenomics, AI amasses a wealth of genetic, molecular, and nutritional data to make personalized dietary recommendations. In other words, machine intelligence helps create personalized plans that also better engage patients in their healthcare journeys.

4. Using Predictive Analytics to Improve Patient Outcomes

A smart phone held in front of a computer. In this image, predictive analytics are being used in healthcare.
Predictive analytics is one tool that can improve healthcare.

Predictive analytics uses various statistical algorithms, machine learning techniques, and data mining processes to analyze historical data and make predictions.

The goal of predictive analytics is identifying patterns, trends, and relationships within data to forecast future behavior or outcomes.

PA, then, leverages the power of data so that organizations make informed predictions and better decisions while reducing their risk.

For instance, AI can assess large datasets to identify both patterns and risk factors associated with disease. Thus, it helps healthcare providers estimate the likelihood of certain individuals developing conditions and diseases. They can then suggest preventative measures, such as lifestyle interventions and early screenings.

AI also assists in monitoring patients, such as in chronic disease management. By continuously analyzing patient data, such as vital signs and other health metrics, it can detect deteriorating health conditions earlier. With this data, healthcare providers can intervene more quickly and reduce the risk of complications.

Adhering to taking medication is obviously crucial to patient outcomes. AI can help predict and improve medication adherence by analyzing patient data and identifying factors that may influence a patient’s ability to follow prescribed medication regimens.

In other words, predictive analytics, when combined with early intervention, can improve patient outcomes while creating a more proactive and efficient healthcare system. Learn more about the growing importance of data analytics to healthcare.

5. Acting as Virtual Health Assistants

Artificial Intelligence-powered virtual assistants are also used throughout healthcare. In these roles, they provide information, answer questions, help in preliminary diagnoses, improve patient engagement, and direct inquirers to healthcare services.

Deepscribe is one such trusted medical scribe. After extracting information from the conversation during a doctor’s visit, it uses AI to create a medical note. This note “syncs directly with the provider’s electronic health record system, so all the provider has to do is review the documentation and sign off at the end of the day.”

A smartphone can help you access AI health apps.
AI mental health apps are easily accessed on smartphones.

Artificial Intelligence helpers are used in telepsychiatry and with predictive analytics to identify at-risk individuals. But it is AI’s use in chatbots for mental health support that might be one of its more important functions. Why?

The National Council for Mental Well-Being, which announced a mental health crisis in the US, found that 56% of Americans seek some form of mental health. However, the US has a surprising lack of resources. In the same survey, 74% of people stated that they didn’t believe these services were accessible to everyone whereas 41% said options are limited. And because of high cost and inadequate health insurance, 25% of those surveyed admitted that they often had to choose between getting therapy and buying necessities.

Accessing healthcare is also impacted by a person’s location and income. That is, those who live in rural areas and those with lower incomes are less likely to seek mental health. And, for many, there is also the stigma of getting help. In a recent study, 42% of employees confessed to hiding their anxiety from their employer. They were worried about being judged, demoted, or, at worst, fired.

Accessing Therapy Through Artificial Intelligence

But chatbots, who turn out to be good for things other than writing your term papers, could help in this mental health crisis.

That is, chatbots are often the first line of treatment for those with limited access to and funds for therapy. According to a Forbes Health article, the cost of therapy for those without insurance ranges between $100 and $200, depending on your location. And 26 million Americans (7.9% of the population) don’t have health insurance.

Chatbots, then, assist with therapy cost, accessibility, and patient privacy. These apps are available when people are at work or done for the day: ready when they need them. A study by Woebot, in fact, found that 65% of their app’s use was outside normal hours, with the highest usage rate between 5 and 10 PM. Although there are health hotlines and hospitals, most doctor’s offices and clinics close at 5 PM or earlier. So people who can’t leave their jobs to get help are often left stranded. (And, for employers, it turns out that these apps also reduce work downtime, too.)

A screenshot of Wysa's website, which shows the scale of impact of this artificial intelligence cognitive behavioral therapist.
Wysa summarizes its chatbot’s scale of impact.

Two of the most popular AI-chatbots are Wysa and Woebot, accessible through mobile apps.

Using principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), these chatbots provide mental health support. They help users manage their stress and anxiety by tracking mood, offering coping strategies and mindfulness exercises, and engaging in conversations.

In other words, these chatbots create an anonymous safe space to talk about worries and stressors, working towards deescalating them. Others include Youper, and Replika, the “AI companion that cares.”

Keeping Pace With Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare

There is no doubt that Artificial Intelligence will continue to integrate (if not infiltrate) healthcare systems, inform new technologies, and guide medical interventions. Indeed, this blog has just scratched the surface of AI’s potential. There is still much to say, for example, about AI solutions for bolstering healthcare infrastructure and services in developing nations.

Those wanting to make a difference in data-driven healthcare, and ensure that artificial intelligence is used responsibly, securely, and ethically require specialized advanced education.

Besides its online certificate and MS in Applied Statistics, Michigan Technological University offers several online health informatics programs through its Global Campus. Along with Foundations in Health Informatics and an Online Public Health Informatics certificate, the Michigan Tech Global Campus has two other certificates and a graduate degree. In these CHI programs, students also get access to HIMSS, an interdisciplinary society that unites people striving to improve the global health ecosystem.

If you’d like additional information about these programs, reach out to the designated Graduate Program Assistant, Margaret Landsberger at margaret@mtu.edu. Or request information about one or more of of MTU’s Health Informatics Programs.

ChatGPT: Friend or Foe? Maybe Both.

An image of a network to symbolize ChatGPT.

(NOTE: This article is a slightly abbreviated and edited version of a blog originally published in May 2023.)

In 2006, British mathematician and entrepreneur Clive Humby proclaimed that “data is the new oil.”

At the time, his enthusiastic (if not exaggerated) comment reflected the fervor and faith in the then expanding internet economy. And his metaphor had some weight, too. Like oil, data can be collected (or maybe one should say extracted), refined, and sold. Both of these are also in high demand, and just as the inappropriate or excessive use of oil has deleterious effects on the planet, so may the reckless use of data.

Recently, the newest oil concerning many, one that is shaking up the knowledge workplace, is ChatGPT. Released by OpenAI in November 2022, ChatGPT combines chatbot functionality with a very clever language model. Or to be more precise, the GPT in its name stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer.

Global Campus previously published a blog about robots in the workplace. One of the concerns raised then was that of AI taking away our jobs. But perhaps, now, the even bigger concern is AI doing our writing, generating our essays, or even our TV show scripts. That is, many are worried about AI substituting for both our creative and critical thinking.

Training Our AI Writing Helper

ChatGPT is not an entirely new technology. That is, experts have long integrated large language models into customer service chatbots, Google searches, and autocomplete e-mail features. The ChatGPT of today is an updated version of GPT-3, which has been around since 2020. But ChatGPT’s origins go further back. Almost 60 years ago, MIT’s Joseph Weizenbaum rolled out ELIZA: the first chatbot. Named after Eliza Doolittle, this chatbot mimicked a Rogerian therapist by (perhaps annoyingly) rephrasing questions. If someone asked, for instance, “My father hates me,” it would reply with another question: “Why do you say your father hates you?” And so on.

The current ChatGPT’s immense knowledge and conversational ability are indeed impressive. To acquire these skills, ChatGPT was “trained on huge amounts of data from the Internet, including conversations.” An encyclopedia of text-based data was combined with a “machine learning technique called Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback (RLHF).” This is a technique in which human trainers provided the model with conversations in which they played both the AI chatbot and the user.” In other words, this bot read a lot of text and practiced mimicking human conversations. Its responses, nonetheless, are not based on knowing the answers, but on predicting what words will come next in a series.

The results of this training is that this chatbot is almost indistinguishable from the human voice. And it’s getting better, too. As chatbot engages with more users, its tone and conversations become increasingly life-like (OpenAI).

Using ChatGPT for Mundane Writing Tasks

Many have used, tested, and challenged ChatGPT. Although one can’t say for certain that the bot always admits its mistakes, it definitely rejects inappropriate requests. It will deliver some clever pick-up lines. However, it won’t provide instructions for cheating on your taxes or on your driver’s license exam. And if you ask it what happens after you die, it is suitably dodgy.

But what makes ChatGPT so popular, and some would say dangerous, is the plethora of text-based documents it can produce, such as the following:

  • Long definitions
  • Emails and letters
  • Scripts for podcasts and videos
  • Speeches
  • Basic instructions
  • Quiz questions
  • Discussion prompts
  • Lesson plans
  • Learning objectives
  • Designs for rubrics
  • Outlines for reports and proposals
  • Summaries of arguments
  • Press releases
  • Essays

And this is the short list, too, of its talents. That is, there are people who have used this friendly bot to construct emails to students, quiz questions, and definitions. The internet is also awash with how-to articles on using ChatGPT to write marketing copy, generate novels, and speeches. Noy and Zhang even claim that this “generative writing tool increases the output quality of low-ability workers while reducing their time spent, and it allows high-ability workers to maintain their quality standards while becoming significantly faster.”

Below are examples of two onerous writing tasks assigned to ChatGPT: a reference letter and learning goals.

ChatGPT reference letter.
AI writes a very wordy reference letter
Example of learning goals generated by ChatGPT
Here is an example of content created by ChatGPT after being instructed to use Bloom’s taxonomy to create learning goals for a Sci-Fi course.

Recognizing ChatGPT’s Limited Knowledge

Despite helping writers with mundane tasks, this artificial intelligence helper does have its limitations. First of all, it is only as wise as its instructions. For instance, the effusive reference letter above resulted from it having no guidance about length or tone. ChatGPT just threw everything in the written soup.

This AI helper also makes mistakes. In fact, right on the first page, OpenAI honestly admits that its chatbot “may occasionally generate incorrect information, and produce harmful instructions or biased content.” It also has “limited knowledge of the world and events after 2021.”

And it reveals these gaps, often humorously.

For instance, when prodded to provide information on several well-known professors from various departments, it came back with wrong answers. In fact, it actually misidentified one well-known department chair as a Floridian famous for his philanthropy and footwear empire. In this case, ChatGPT not only demonstrated “limited knowledge of the world” but also incorrect information. As academics, writers, and global citizens, we should be concerned about releasing more fake information into the world.

Taking into consideration these and other errors, one wonders on what data, exactly, was ChatGPT trained. Did it, for instance, just skip over universities? Academics? Respected academics with important accomplishments? As we know, what the internet prioritizes says a lot about what it and its users value.

Creating Errors

There are other limitations. OpenAi’s ChatGPT can’t write a self-reflection or decent poetry. And because it is not online, it cannot summarize recent content from the internet.

It also can’t approximate the tone of this article, which shifts between formal and informal and colloquial. Or whimsically insert allusions or pop culture references.

To compensate for its knowledge gaps, ChatGPT generates answers that are incorrect or slightly correct.

In the case of generating mistakes, ChatGPT does mimic the human tendency to fumble, to tap dance around an answer, and to make up material rather than humbly admit ignorance.

Passing Along Misinformation

Being trained on text-based data, which might have been incorrect in the first place, ChatGPT often passes this fakery along. That is, it also (as the example above shows) has a tendency to generate or fabricate fake references and quotations.

It can also spread misinformation. (Misinformation, unintentional false or inaccurate information, is different from disinformation: the intentional spread of untruths to deceive.)

The companies CNET and Bankrate found out this glitch the hard way. For months, they had been duplicitously publishing AI-generated informational articles as human-written articles under a byline. When this unethical behavior was discovered, it drew the ire of the internet.

CNET’s stories even contained both plagiarism and factual mistakes, or what Jon Christian at Futurism called “bone-headed errors.” Christian humorously drew attention to mathematical mistakes that were delivered with all the panache of a financial advisor. For instance, the article claimed that “if you deposit $10,000 into a savings account that earns 3% interest compounding annually, you’ll earn $10,300 at the end of the first year.” In reality, you’d be earning only $300.

All three screwups. . . . highlight a core issue with current-generation AI text generators: while they’re legitimately impressive at spitting out glib, true-sounding prose, they have a notoriously difficult time distinguishing fact from fiction.

John Christian

Revealing Biases

And ChatGPT is not unbiased either. First, this bot has a strong US leaning. For instance, it was prompted to write about the small town of Wingham, ON. In response, it generated some sunny, non-descript prose. However, it omitted this town’s biggest claim to fame: the birthplace of Nobel Prize winning Alice Munro.

The bias is based on ChatGPT being trained on data pulled from the internet. Thus, it reflects all the prejudices of those who wrote and compiled this information.

Nobel exposes corrupt algorithms. Chat GPT was trained on these.
Nobel’s expose of algorithms

This problem was best articulated by Safiya Umoja Nobel in her landmark book Algorithms of Oppression.

In this text, she challenges the ideal that search engines are value-neutral, exposing their hegemonic norms and the consequences of their various sexist, racist biases. ChatGPT, to be sure, is also affected by if not infected with these biases.

What really made me lose confidence in ChatGPT is when I asked if the United States ever had a president with African ancestry, and it answered no, then apologized after I reminded the chatbot about Barack Obama.

Jamaal Abdul-Alim, Education Editor, The Conversation

Despite agreeing with Nobel’s and Abdul-Alim’s very serious concerns, and thinking that ChatGPT can be remarkably dumb at times, many may not want to smash the algorithmic machines anytime soon. Furthermore, there are writers who do use this bot to generate correct definitions of unfamiliar technical terms encountered in their work. For instance, it can help non-experts understand the basics of such concepts as computational fluid dynamics and geospatial engineering. Still, many professionals choose not to rely on it, nor trust it, too much.

Letting Robots Do Your Homework

But it is students’ trust in and reliance on OpenAI that is causing chaos and consternation in the education world.

That is, many 2022 cases of cheating were connected to one of this bot’s most popular features: its impressive ability to generate essays in seconds. For instance, it constructed a 7-paragraph comparison/contrast essay on Impressionism and Post-Impressionism in under a minute.

And the content of this essay, though vague, does hold some truth: “Impressionism had a profound impact on the art world, challenging traditional academic conventions. Its emphasis on capturing the fleeting qualities of light and atmosphere paved the way for modern art movements. Post-impressionism, building upon the foundations of impressionism, further pushed the boundaries of artistic expression. Artists like Georges Seurat developed the technique of pointillism, while Paul Gauguin explored new avenues in color symbolism. The post-impressionists’ bold experimentation influenced later art movements, such as fauvism and expressionism.”

With a few modifications and a checking of facts, this text would fit comfortably into an introductory art textbook. Or maybe a high-school or a college-level essay.

Sounding the Alarm About ChatGPT

Very shortly after people discovered this essay-writing feature, stories of academic integrity violations flooded the internet. An instructor at an R1 STEM grad program confessed that several students had cheated on a project report milestone. “All 15 students are citing papers that don’t exist.” An alarming article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, written by a student, warned that educators had no idea how much students were using AI. The author rejected the claim that AI’s voice is easy to detect. “It’s very easy to use AI to do the lion’s share of the thinking while still submitting work that looks like your own.”

And it’s not just a minority of students using ChatGPT either. In a study.com survey of 200 K-12 teachers, 26% had already caught a student cheating by using this tool. In a BestColleges survey of 1,000 current undergraduate and graduate students (March 2023), 50% of students admitted to using AI for some portion of their assignment, 30% for the majority, and 17% had “used it to complete an assignment and turn it in with no edits.”

Soon, after publications like Forbes and Business Insider began pushing out articles about rampant cheating,the internet was buzzing. An elite program in a Florida high school reported a chatbot “cheating scandal”. But probably the most notorious episode was a student who used this bot to write an essay for his Ethics and Artificial Intelligence course. Sadly, the student did not really understood the point of the assignment.

Incorporating ChatGPT in the Classroom

According to a Gizmodo article, many schools have forbidden ChatGPT, such as those in New York City, Los Angeles, Seattle, Fairfax County Virginia.

But there is still a growing body of teachers who aren’t that concerned. Many don’t want to ban ChatGPT altogether. Eliminating this tool from educational settings, they caution, will do far more harm than good. Instead, they argue that teachers must set clearer writing expectations about cheating. They should also create ingenious assignments that students can’t hack with their ChatGPT writing coach, as well as construct learning activities that reveal this tool’s limitations.

Others have suggested that the real problem is that of teachers relying on methods of assessment that are too ChatGPT-hackaable: weighty term papers and final exams on generic topics. Teachers may need to rethink their testing strategies, or as that student from the Chronicle asserted, “[M]assive structural change is needed if our schools are going to keep training students to think critically.”

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, also doesn’t agree with all the hand-wringing about ChatGPT cheating. He blithely suggested that schools need to “get over it.”

Generative text is something we all need to adapt to . . . . We adapted to calculators and changed what we tested for in math class, I imagine. This is a more extreme version of that, no doubt, but also the benefits of it are more extreme, as well.

Sam Altman

Read MTU’s own Rod Bishop’s guidance on ChatGPT in the university classroom. And think about your stance on this little AI writing helper.

MAHLE and MTU: Moving Forward Together

Leaders from MAHLE and Michigan Tech gather at the signing ceremony.
Leaders from MAHLE and Michigan Technological University gather at the signing ceremony.

MAHLE is excited to partner with Michigan Tech on the Corporate Education Fellowship. This partnership not only allows employees to steer their professional development and open new pathways for internal career mobility, but also allows MAHLE to proactively support the development of our employees to meet the evolving demand for new skills and competencies.

This fellowship, when coupled with MAHLE’s Educational Reimbursement, provides employees with the ability to access affordable education through Michigan Tech’s online programs, offering flexibility to learn at their own pace, while balancing their personal life and work. We look forward to a successful partnership that will help to further prepare MAHLE and our employees as our industry transforms toward a decarbonized future.

President of MAHLE Peter Lynch

On Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023, Michigan Technological University signed a Corporate Education Partnership Agreement with MAHLE Industries Inc. MAHLE is a leading international development partner and supplier to the automotive industry.

The partnership agreement was signed at MAHLE’s North American headquarters in Farmington Hills, Michigan. President Richard Koubek and David Lawrence (vice president for Global Campus and continuing education) were present for Michigan Tech. Peter Lynch (president of MAHLE) and Tiffiney Woznak, (director of Talent Management, MAHLE North America) represented MAHLE. Other leaders from both organizations also attended.

Richard Koubek and Peter Lynch sign the fellowship agreement.
President Koubek and MAHLE President Peter Lynch sign the fellowship agreement.
Jacque Smith, director of Graduate Enrollment Services; and Peter Lynch  chat.
Jacque Smith, director of Graduate Enrollment Services, and Peter Lynch, president of MAHLE chat.

Growing With Their Organizations

The Corporate Education Fellowship supports MAHLE employees in their pursuit of graduate education through Michigan Tech’s Global Campus. Eligible employees will receive fellowships to enroll in one of Michigan Tech’s online graduate certificates or master’s degree programs.

A hard copy of the MAHLE Corporate Education Fellowship Agreement that people sign.
The signing documents for the corporate fellowship agreement.

With this fellowship, employees can acquire industry-needed skills, follow areas of professional interest, and meet the diverse challenges of the ever-evolving automotive industry.

And they can achieve these benefits while studying online through Global Campus. As many of us understand, earning a credential while staying on the job is very convenient for working professionals.

These fellowships are available for up to four years. Recipients must meet the eligibility requirements of both the fellowship program and the scholastic standards of Michigan Tech’s Graduate School.

This program is part of the connected missions of Global Campus: building relationships between academia and industry, making quality online education more accessible to a diverse population of adult learners, and helping professionals advance and grow with their workplaces.

So far, several MAHLE associates have expressed a deep interest in this program.

Tiffiney Woznak stands in front of a picture of American NASCAR legend Richard Petty and the car Petty’s Garage helped design for MAHLE. Using MAHLE components, Petty’s Garage builds supercharged high-horsepower engines for one-of-a-kind-vehicles.

Tiffiney Woznak shows President Koubek the MAHLE car that Petty helped design.
Tiffiney Woznak (head of Talent Management for MAHLE North America) talks to President Koubek.

Partnering With MAHLE

If you haven’t heard of MAHLE, it is a global powerhouse. It has approximately 72,000 employees working in more than 30 countries. The company also boasts 152 production locations and 12 major research and development centers. As a global leader in technology, MAHLE has been proudly shaping the future of mobility and transforming the automotive industry for more than 100 years. It is known for being a leading international development partner and supplier to the automotive industry with customers in both passenger car and commercial vehicle sectors.

And you’ve probably been in the presence of a MAHLE part or two, as well. That is, this company’s components reside in about 50% of all the passenger and commercial vehicles on the road.

MAHLE’s portfolio is also wide. The company is also involved with industrial applications, as well as both small and large engine components. One of the company’s newest technological ventures is investing in e-bikes and smart bike accessories. E-bikes tend to be remarkably heavy, but MAHLE is changing the game with its ultra-light drive systems.

Collaborating With Companies Making a Difference

MAHLE has a rich past, but like Michigan Tech, it also has ambitious future-changing initiatives.

That is, one of the company’s main and ambitious goals is working towards climate-neutral mobility. To that end, it is focusing “on the strategic areas of electrification and thermal management as well as further technology fields to reduce CO2 emissions, such as fuel cells or highly efficient combustion engines that also run on hydrogen or synthetic fuels” (MAHLE). The company is also striving to improve “the triad of sustainable drives”: the electric motor, the fuel cell, and the non-fossil-fuel-powered intelligent internal combustion engine.

In other words, MAHLE, is both a presence in the vehicular industries and a crucial driver in the global move towards electrification and environmental sustainability. Its leadership in both of these areas make it a natural fit for Michigan Tech.

That is, MTU has a long history of working with the automotive industry and collaborating with other future-forward companies. For instance, in Nov. 2022, MTU signed a fellowship agreement with Nexteer Automotive. Nexteer is respected for delivering high-quality, next-level electric power and steer-by-wire systems, steering columns, driveline systems, and driver-assistance systems. And in August, ITC, a company committed to solving next-generation electricity infrastructure challenges, also partnered with MTU.

Pursuing Advanced Education: An Ongoing Journey

President Koubek confirmed the need for employees to earn advanced degres. From his experience, he knows well that all employees and leaders must continuously improve their skills to not only help their organizations succeed, but also meet upcoming technological challenges. He stressed that education, rather than an endpoint, is an ongoing process.

“I think we’re at a point in time where change is happening so fast . . . . It’s almost an expectation in the world now, especially in the technological fields, that you’re continuing your advanced education, that you’re never really done, and that there is always room to grow.”

Richard Koubek

Michigan Tech looks forward to working with MAHLE and to helping grow its success.

Parth Bhatt Powers Through With Python

 A high-resolution, drone-captured image of seagulls gathering on the beach in St. Ignace, Michigan.

Above: A high-resolution, drone-captured image of seagulls gathering on the beach in St. Ignace, Michigan.

Dr. Parth Bhatt is definitely making his mark at Michigan Tech’s College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science. Arriving in only 2016, he quickly earned both his master’s degree and then his doctorate from the CFRES. And on important projects, too. That is, during his PhD, he worked with the Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Forest Service to map the Hiawatha National Forest according to its natural habitat communities. To do so, he used both sensing and machine learning techniques.

Parth Bhatt in the classroom teaching a Python with GIS class.
Dr. Parth Bhatt in the classroom.

But this was not his first use of machine learning to depict and analyze complex natural phenomenon. Before coming to Tech, Parth Bhatt worked with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).

Currently, Parth (which he prefers to be called) is a Teaching Assistant Professor / Researcher in the CFRES, who has a passion for Python, remote sensing, and more.

Recently, I’ve collaborated with him to help promote his courses and to grow with Global Campus.

Discovering Python’s Capabilities

But let’s take a step back for a second. Despite his current expertise in and enthusiasm for Python , it was at Michigan Tech that Parth first developed his passion for this programming tool.

As an MS student, he took the class Python Programming for ArcGIS. Here, he learned more about Python and applying some of its techniques to automate repetitive tasks. Impressed with this tool, Parth then attended a GIS conference in which he saw people using Python in almost every field. At this event, he thought to himself, “I need to get better at this.” So he buckled down on his studying, taking in several NASA sponsored online webinars.

And get better he did. And quickly!

He ended up teaching several courses at the undergraduate and graduate level. He was enthusiastically in the classroom for Introduction to GIS, Introduction to GIS for Natural Resources Management, GIS Project Management, and Seminar in GIS.

It is obvious that Parth is a very busy and motivated professional. That is, he is currently instructing a non-credit, 7-week course (Python for Modern GIS and Remote Sensing). And while doing so, he is also developing a for-credit graduate certificate for Spring 2024.

Because this programming language is his passion, I asked him to explain it to me.

Q. Summarize Python for a layperson.

A. Python is a popular programming language for making a person’s day to day work/research life easier and efficient. It has gained widespread popularity in the past decade. Overall, it is extremely useful in the field of GIS and Remote Sensing (or any field for that matter) due to its dynamic nature, ease of use, and versatile, large open community support.

Q. What distinguishes Python from other programming languages when it comes to being used in GIS environments?

A. Well, as I said before, Python is easy to use and implement. It is also very efficient and powerful for data visualization and processing.

Due to Python’s open-source nature, it can be combined with all the major GIS softwares like ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS Online, QGIS etc. Therefore, it offers a great amount of working flexibility. And from a developer’s perspective, all the major advances are occurring within Python, as compared to other languages such as R. Over the last decade, Python has emerged as a winner in terms of the most liked and used programming languages by the GIS community.

Q: What excites you about applying Python in GIS environments? What is this tool best used for? How have you used it?

A. The possibilities are endless. Python can be used in anything from opening a simple excel sheet filled with various GIS data to visualizing, manipulating, and handling big data. It also has hundreds of useful libraries that are applicable for various geospatial analysis. To me, any modern GIS and Remote Sensing curriculum is incomplete without this language and tool.

In my work, I have used Python to automate various GIS tasks: updating a dataset attribute table with hundreds of rows and columns (basically data cleaning); classifying complex forest ecosystems using machine learning; as well as analyzing data, making charts, conducting accuracy assessments, and performing various geospatial analysis tasks. Furthermore, I have assessed change in terms of urbanization, detected algal blooms, and calculated fire burn ratios.

Q. You’re teaching a non-credit course “Python for Modern GIS and Remote Sensing.” Please briefly explain what this course is about and who should take it.

A: I’m excited about this course, which is new to Michigan Tech. No one has taught Python for GIS in either an online or non-credit format before.

In a nutshell, this course teaches beginning and intermediate-level Python skills as they are applied in the GIS environment. It is suitable for anyone who deals with (or is planning to deal with) GIS and Remote Sensing on a daily basis. Of course, anyone who wants to add to their skill set and make their work more efficient should take it.

As you know, Coding/Programming is an essential skill set to have in our current times, especially for fields such as GIS, Forestry, Ecology, Geology, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Data Science.

For example, right now in my course, I have students from diverse backgrounds, as well as professionals working in the GIS Industry. They are enjoying the asynchronous class format and the assignments. I am looking forward to incorporating their feedback in the next edition of the course, which will be in Spring 2024.

On a broader scale, Python is basically used in every application that’s related to the the five earth elements (Air, Water, Land, Fire, and Space). For example, it’s playing a big part in NASA’s first ever Mars drone application

Dr. Parth Bhatt
Dr. Parth Bhatt in the field, doing GIS work with Python.
Dr. Parth Bhatt in the field, doing GIS work.

Q. How can professionals use Python to manage or solve prevailing environmental and sustainability challenges, such as land use, forest fires, and the effects of climate change?

A. Python offers hundreds of unique libraries, which can be implemented to any/all kind of GIS and Remote Sensing datasets. Developers can make useful tools according to their needs and applications. As a result, they can enhance their decision making processes.

For example, professionals at the multidisciplinary Michigan Tech Research Institute (MTRI) use Python programming to address complex ecological problems, make wildfire prediction models, analyze efficient road networks, asses infrastructure, and map and monitor land use/cover and pristine wetlands.

Overall, this is an exciting time to teach this course. We are living in a world where climate change is happening rapidly and things surrounding us are constantly changing (whether they are environmental, economical, or political).

Q. I agree that we need all hands on deck when it comes to solving climate change and sustainability issues. But what is a personal example of your use of Python to contend with pressing environmental problems?

This image, which shows the extent of the damage after the flood, was created with a change detection algorithm and Python.
This image, which shows the extent of the damage after the flood, was created using a change detection algorithm.

In my own work, I have used this tool to document the effects of the historic flood in Pakistan. The flood, which was in mid-June ’22, affected more than 33 million people and destroyed or damaged more than one million houses.

In fact, the floods affected all four of the country’s provinces or about 15% of the country’s population.

Floodwaters inundated tens of thousands of square kilometers of the country, causing at least 1,100 deaths. Because of the 2023 monsoon season, Pakistan is still struggling to recover from this event.

Q. What motivates you? And what is next on your journey at Michigan Tech?

A. I love teaching, doing research, and solving complex problems. These drives require me stay current with, if not slightly ahead of, my field. Furthermore, I believe that if I am not up to date with my knowledge, I won’t be able to offer anything new and beneficial to students.

As Gandhi so eloquently said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” In other words, I have to keep updating and offering advanced skills, not only for my personal growth, but also for students so they can succeed in their careers.

And for the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Sciences, I’m glad to help grow its online offerings. My non-credit course marks the beginning of our online education program. That is, we are designing other useful and applied courses, such as ArcGIS Online. Also, starting in 2024, we plan to be offering the first ever Master’s of Geographical Information Science online degree certification. Look out for it on Michigan Tech’s Global Campus.

One more thing: I’m holding an information session on Oct. 20 at 10:30 AM for Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The session will introduce the Online GIS programs from the CFRES. However, the Michigan Tech community is also welcome to attend. You will be asked to sign in with your MTU email (or the email associated with your Zoom account) to join the session. If you have any questions about this session or anything else, email me at ppbhatt@mtu.edu.

Q. Any final thoughts?

As excited as I am about learning new materials and tools, the biggest reward of teaching occurs when you run into or hear from a student and they say, “Thank you for teaching me that GIS thing, it’s helping me big time in my job or research.”

ITC Signs Education Fellowship Agreement

Leaders of MTU and ITC at the Corporate Fellowship Program Signing Event.

(Leaders and employees of MTU and ITC at the official signing event for the Corporate Education Fellowship. In the center is Linda Apsey, CEO and president of ITC Holdings Corp. To her left (our right) are Michigan Tech President Richard Koubek; and David Lawrence, vice president for Global Campus and continuing education. Contracts Specialist Felicia Milam stands on Apsey’s right. Directly behind her is Brian Slocum, senior vice president and chief operating officer of ITC Holdings Corp.)

Michigan Technological University recently signed a Corporate Education Partnership Agreement with ITC Holdings Corp., the nation’s largest independent electricity transmission company.

ITC owns and operates high-voltage transmission infrastructure in Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma. It has more than 700 employees and 1,000 contractors. The company provides transmission grid solutions to improve reliability, expand access to markets, allow new generating resources to interconnect to its systems, and lower the overall cost of delivered energy.

The signing ceremony took place at ITC’s headquarters in Novi, Michigan, on Tuesday, August 22, 2023. In attendance were Michigan Tech President Richard Koubek; David Lawrence, vice president for Global Campus and continuing education; Linda H. Apsey, president and CEO of ITC; and Brian Slocum, senior vice president and chief operating officer of ITC. Other leaders from both organizations, MTU alumni, and fellowship recipients were also present.

Making Advanced Education More Accessible

The Corporate Education Fellowship was spearheaded by David Lawrence. This program supports ITC employees in their pursuit of online graduate education through Michigan Tech’s Global Campus. That is, current employees will receive fellowships to enroll in one of Michigan Tech’s online graduate certificates or master’s degree programs. These fellowships are available for up to four years, provided the recipients continue to be employed by ITC and that they meet Tech’s eligibility requirements.

The program allows employees to acquire further industry-needed skills, follow areas of professional interest, and meet the evolving demands of next-generation energy infrastructure.

The fellowship program is part of Global Campus’s dual missions of building relationships between academia and industry; and making quality online education more accessible to diverse adult learners.

President and CEO of ITC Holdings Corp., Linda Apsey; and President Richard Koubek sign the fellowship agreement.

Preparing ITC Employees For the Future

Linda Apsey, president and CEO of ITC, reflected on the fellowship and on collaborating with MTU. “We’re at this really pivotal moment in time, as we are on the cusp of an energy transformation. And innovation, new skills, new experiences, leadership: all of those things are so important now more than ever.”

Apsey also spoke highly of ITC employees who are Michigan Tech graduates: “What we observe and experience is that Michigan Tech grads come to ITC ready and prepared day one. They also come with the right skills and technical knowledge. And I would say even more importantly, that they arrive with the demonstrated desire to continue and to learn and grow in an organization like ours.”

Moira Morgan, director of organizational learning and development of ITC, affirmed that this fellowship helps employees be “prepared not just for today, but tomorrow. What they learned two years ago, three years ago, may not be applicable today.” So, thanks to this program, “they’re preparing themselves for the future.”

Supporting Industry in Michigan

At the ceremony, President Richard Koubek referred to MTU’s founding charter that mandates its support of industry, particularly in Michigan. He also addressed the importance of alignment between education and industry for both innovation and growth in organizations.

ITC CEO and President, LInda Apsey and President Koubek shake hands.
ITC CEO and President, LInda Apsey and President Koubek shake hands.

There is a change, transformational times, certainly in the energy industry. Also, there are a lot of transitions, tectonic shifts, happening in higher ed. In my opinion, having a close relationship with industrial partners is going to be key for universities succeeding in the future.

President Koubek

President Koubek also added, “It’s so important that what the students are learning in the classroom is directly relevant to what they’re going to do once they graduate. And I think having a tight feedback loop between industry and the academic institution makes that so.”

Continuing Its Relationship with Michigan Tech

Michigan Tech and ITC have a long-established relationship. For instance, ITC recently instituted the Jon E. Jipping Annual Scholarship for undergraduates. Jipping (MSEE ’91), who was one of ITC’s first employees, retired as executive vice president of ITC Holdings in 2023. He is now a member of the Michigan Tech Board of Trustees.

Following in his footsteps, several current ITC employees are Michigan Tech alumni. Additionally, many MTU students join ITC for summer internships, with several interns becoming full-time employees upon graduation.

Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of ITC Holdings Corp. Brian Slocum confirmed that “the impact from Michigan Tech students on ITC has been longstanding. Over the years, we’ve heard from many, many Michigan Tech students that ITC and Michigan Tech share a similar mindset and culture, which is why our relationship has endured. What they [Michigan Tech students] continue to bring to the table is an ability to solve problems from a technical standpoint and a deep knowledge about the power industry, which gives them a kick-start on their career at ITC. I’m excited to see how that will grow as we move forward with our relationship.”

Brian Slocum, senior vice president and chief operating officer of ITC Holdings Corp.; and David Lawrence, vice president for Global Campus and continuing education sign the fellowship agreement.

Moving Forward with MTU

One of the fellowship recipients is Liz Martin, an engineering project manager. When asked about why she is pursuing the online TechMBA program, Martin asserted that she’s an “engineer through and through; it’s huge part of who I am. So I love that their [Michigan Tech’s] MBA program marries aspects of engineering with business, which is exactly what I was looking for.”

Then she enthusiastically added, everyone at ITC “loves Michigan Tech. We’re a big Michigan Tech company. I’ve always heard about how amazing it was. Most of my friends went to Michigan Tech. So I couldn’t miss an opportunity to also be a husky and join the fandom.”

Michigan Tech is proud to work with ITC, an organization committed to solving next-generation energy infrastructure challenges.

Global Campus Grows

Whether it’s been covering new education fellowship partnerships, reporting on Michigan Tech’s collaboration with the MEDC, writing about innovative mass timber research initiatives, researching the gifts of adult learners, welcoming new team members, or rushing to keep up with Global Campus Vice President David Lawrence, this blog writer has had a busy year. And while all these initiatives, and more, have been underway, I’ve also had to keep track of Michigan Tech’s new online courses and programs.

Recent Online Programs at Global Campus

For example, in the last year, the College of Business added the online TechMBA and the Master of Engineering Management. Both are accredited, 10-course programs that, in various ways, leverage your STEM expertise. Whereas the TechMBA provides foundational business skills, the MEM allows students to customize degrees that merge engineering and business. To promote these programs, Dr. Mari Buche, David Lawrence, and his Global Campus team graciously led several online virtual interest sessions, which were all well attended.

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.

President John F. Kennedy

Furthermore, the College of Engineering met the learning and leadership challenge with its Master of Engineering, a professional terminal degree. This degree allows students to focus on either a HEV (hybrid electric vehicle) track or an engineering track. For the engineering track, learners can combine courses from several disciplines. In fact, the master of engineering is ideal for those collaborating with their employer to develop a program to meet specific on-the-job needs.

More recently, the Department of Applied Computing has also added two new programs to its roster: Public Health Informatics and Foundations in Health Informatics. Both certificates can be stacked to form a master’s degree. Like other HI programs, these prepare students for diverse roles in the data-driven healthcare industry. Guy Hembroff, the Health Informatics director, also ensured that MTU’s CHI students have memberships in HIMSS. HIMSS (Health Information Management Systems Society) is a global society. It enables health information professionals to access resources, enroll in seminars, develop networks, search for jobs, and much more. In other words, it gives MTU’s Health Informatics students an edge.

Global Campus Bridge Courses

Bridge courses are short, intensive, preparatory online courses that help learners acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to enter advanced study. This study might mean an undergraduate program, graduate degree, or graduate certificate. Often, bridge courses are for students who are provisionally accepted into a program.

Linear Algebra: A Bridge Course Offered Through Global Campus
Linear Algebra: A Bridge Course Offered Through Global Campus

For instance, in September of 2022, Teresa Woods, Associate Teaching Professor in Mathematical Sciences and Linear Algebra aficionado, taught our first bridge course: Linear Algebra. Her ten-week, asynchronous online course was aimed at prospective students who needed the LA requirement to enroll in MTU’s Online Master of Science in Applied Statistics program.

Woods’ course covered fundamental linear algebra concepts as used in Applied Statistics. Some of the topics included systems of equations, vectors, matrices, orthogonality, subspaces, and the eigenvalue problem.

To learn more about this course, email Teresa Woods (tmthomps@mtu.edu).

Linear Algebra is once again running for the Fall 2023 semester. And there are still a few seats left. Right now, the proposed start date is Sept. 18, 2023.

Newer Professional Development Opportunities

Fundamental Courses and Bootcamps

Global Campus also had the privilege of working with subject matter experts to promote in-demand professional development courses. Also known as continuing education and career training, these courses allow those in the workforce to hone skills, acquire specialized training, develop leadership abilities, and stay up-to-date on current trends.

Currently, Michigan Tech offers both non-credit and for-credit pd courses.

For example, during the summer of 2023, APS Labs rolled out its short, but rigorous course on Diesel Engine Fundamentals. Despite the turn to EV, this course recognized that diesel engines weren’t going anywhere soon. That is, diesel engines are still in light-duty vehicles, medium and heavy-duty trucks; in commercial vehicles (trains, trucks, buses, barges, and boats); in army vehicles; and in generators.

This course was conveniently available in both online and in-person versions. Its goal was educating those pursuing careers in the automotive industry, commercial vehicles, power generation, or related fields.

A Diesel Engine, which was studied in the APS Labs short course for Global Campus
A Diesel Engine

Also, Kevin Johnson, Assistant Teaching Professor, Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering, lent his significant expertise to summer students. He taught an an intense 20-hour in-person hydraulics bootcamp. In his course, students learned about several topics crucial to hydraulics, such as valves, pumps, motors, circuits, and closed-loop hydrostatic systems.

Upcoming Professional Development Courses

Python for Modern GIS

A person working on GIS with Python, one of the courses taught though Global Campus
GIS Workshop

Furthermore, recognizing the need for more Python professionals in the GIS world, Parth Bhatt (Assistant Teaching Professor / Researcher from the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Sciences) is offering a 7-week, asynchronous, online course for Fall 2023.

His Python for Modern GIS and Remote Sensing course will help students learn beginning and immediate-level applications of Python for understanding and writing simple scripts, automating workflows, and solving day-to-day, real-world geoprocessing tasks in the ArcGIS ecosystem and open-source platform.

Dr. Bhatt, a dynamic teaching professor who lives and breathes GIS, is also on deck to develop online for-credit certificates for his department. Stay tuned for more developments.

And, yes, you still have time to register for Bhatt’s course.

Civil Asset Management

As well, the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering has recently added a 3-credit, synchronous online course in Civil Asset Management. This course is taught by Mark Declercq, who brings three decades of valuable, practical civil asset expertise to the classroom. In fact, as Grand Rapids Engineer, Declercq was one of the first experts with boots on the ground during that city’s massive flood event.

Civil Asset Management (CEE 5390) will help students develop long-term plans, as well as the strategic, critical thinking they need to recognize and maintain the value of our all-important civil assets. Declercq also maintains that to develop resilient and affordable solutions and to tackle upcoming sustainability challenges, engineers definitely need Civil Asset Management skills.

Keep Up With Global Campus as We Learn and Grow

In the future, Global Campus plans to offer additional non-credit and for-credit courses and programs. Our goals are advancing the personal development, career goals, and leadership opportunities that come with education. We also recognize the importance of challenging all learners to grow, to think creatively and critically, and to prepare for tomorrow.

We’ll keep you posted as we assist in developing and supporting new programs. For updates, read this blog or follow us on social media.

And remember, regardless of where you are in your educational journey, whether you want to take a course for fun or for your future, it is never too late to start learning.

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.

Henry Ford

Five Advantages That Adult Learners Have

The letters "learn" on a scrabble board, which represent that education has no limits and that adult learners can still grow,

D—, that was the name of one of my most memorable non-traditional students when I taught writing courses in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Straight out of high school, he was recruited by the Western Hockey League (WHL). (MTU’s own Brian Hannon even remembers playing against him a few times.)

After spending 15 years playing professional hockey, D— had returned to university. At 33 (or maybe 34), he was older than I, his teacher, was. When he walked into the classroom, looking damaged and world-weary from years of playing enforcer, I was, admittedly, a bit scared. Would this guy, who looked like he had his nose broken at least a few times, be a good student? Or would he be a total pain?

He struggled a bit, at first, feeling a bit awkward sharing his voice, getting his footing. His writing was initially rusty, but always truthful. But throughout the semester, he became one of the most enthusiastic classroom participants. The deepest readings of the texts were his. And he could spot bad arguments from a mile away. Recalling his time on the ice, he wrote a brilliant essay sympathizing with Frankenstein’s creation, who, too, experienced the pain and scorn of being made to be ugly.

By the end of the semester, his writing and critical thinking skills had improved more than those of anyone in the class. Sadly, that was the last I heard of him until recently, when I found out he became a lawyer.

There were so many others, too. An older student who barely passed the course, but who joined Doctors Without Borders. And G—–, who took my class at the age of 57. After dedicating her life to being a foster parent for troubled kids, she was pursuing a BS and then an MS in Social Work.

Defining Adult Learners

The previous stories exemplify what many of us have known for a long time: that adult learners, rather than having disadvantages, bring many benefits to the undergraduate and graduate classrooms.

Adult learners bring skills and experience to the classroom.

Put simply, adult learners are those who take on the responsibility of education later in life than do traditional students. These learners, like those students mentioned above, may have been working all their lives. They may have no previous post-secondary education. Alternatively, they may have completed some university education and are now moving on to advanced degrees.

Adult learners are often referred to as non-traditional students. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are several characteristics of adult learners. That is, beyond being older, they may be single parents, have dependents, be working adults, and be financially secure. Or they might combine several of these traits.

Adult Learners Improve the Classroom

Admittedly, there is a plethora of articles on tips for succeeding as a non-traditional student. But there are few on the substantial skills and wisdom that adult learners bring to the classroom.

#1 Increased Experience

Adult learners bring diverse skills to the classroom.
Adult learners bring skills and experience to the classroom.

It goes without saying that adult students have the benefit of that extra knowledge that comes with age. They may have decades of on-the-job, real-life, management, leadership, communication, and team-work experiences. They may have acquired unique abilities from their previous roles.

These experiences not only help them succeed in their courses, but also enrich and diversify the classroom for everyone.

For instance, a 57-year-old student who remembers the emergence of the Blackberry will have a much more informed perspective on our current (and some would say, troubling, if not addicting) relationship to digital technology.

Adult learners can draw on their rich histories to understand and apply complex ideas; and assume teamwork and leadership roles in the classroom. Those years or even decades of understanding may help them more deeply interpret and apply course materials. For instance, I fondly recall G—– interrupting and offering her foster-parent perspective when a younger student stereotyped a story character as “just another bad, lazy kid who didn’t deserve to be helped.”

Also, some programs, such as Michigan Tech’s Online MBA , the MS in Health Informatics, and our various MS in Engineering programs (Civil, Electrical, and Mechanical) are very well suited to professionals who have been in the workforce for awhile.

#2 Superior Problem-Solving Skills

This breadth of experience, no doubt, comes with encountering more obstacles. That is, adult learners, simply from being on the planet and in the workforce for longer, have most likely encountered several tricky personal and professional problems. Therefore, they may be better at analyzing and troubleshooting issues, as well as generating practical solutions. Or to put it another way, they have made more mistakes, so they know what works and what doesn’t.

For instance, our Vice President of Global Campus and Continuing Education, David Lawrence, has over a decade of collaborating with industry. He is applying his substantial practical knowledge in his dissertation, which is on the challenges and affordances of industry/higher ed partnerships.

#3 Advanced Focus

Adult learners are often more mature and better able to handle the responsibilities of higher education, whether as undergraduates or graduates.

Why? In their various roles, they have most likely developed time management and organizational skills. These skills enable them to focus and to better juggle their academic and personal responsibilities. This focus, when combined with maturity, often makes adult learners better at handling the challenges of college life.

And if they have ever felt exhausted on the job, they may also recognize when they can no longer concentrate and work effectively. That is, they know when to stop studying and to take a break, resulting in a deeper appreciation of the importance of work-life balance.

#4 Crystallized Knowledge

And even if adult learners may sometimes not seem as quick as their younger counterparts, they are just as smart. In fact, a 2017 study in Gerontology discovered that fluid problem-solving ability increases from early adulthood to about the age of 50. But it’s not game over (as this author can attest) at 51. After age 50, adults rely more on crystallized intelligence, which comes from one’s experiences and stored information. CI, which grows throughout life, includes procedural (practical), declarative (factual), general, and specialized knowledge.

Or to put it another way, older adults maintain performance on many cognitive tasks by relying on crystallized knowledge and experience to compensate for declines in fluid abilities and processing speed.

Here’s an example. In one experiment involving a verbal memory task, young and middle-aged adults relied more on fluid abilities whereas older adults relied more on vocabulary (an index of crystallized ability) for optimal performance. It may take adult learners longer to get the answer, but when get it, they will probably be correct.

#5 The Gift of Perseverance

Last but certainly not least, whether you’re an adult thinking about going back to school, don’t worry. Whether 31 or 51, you will bring the gift of perseverance to the classroom.

Yes, pursuing an education when you have other responsibilities is tough. Juggling a career, a family, and coursework is certainly not easy. But adult students often have most of these challenges figured out. They’ve developed strategies for handling stress and for managing time. They’re often laser-focused when pursuing their goals. Lastly, in their education, they have the perseverance, or as we say in the UP, SISU, to succeed.

Adult Learners and Online Programs

When it comes to advanced education, adult learners often gravitate to online courses and programs because of their accessibility and flexibility. Online education, such as that offered by the Michigan Tech Global Campus, enables adult learners to set their own learning goals, identify their needs, and customize their degrees.

In 2020, approximately 33.5 million people in the United States took at least one online course. This number represented a huge increase since 2018. In that same year, online courses accounted for 32.4% of all postsecondary enrollments in the United States. The most popular online programs are business (22%), health (17%), computer science (14%), and engineering (11%). Of those taking online courses, 31% are between 25-44. The average age of online learners is 33 and that number is slowly moving upward.

And why enroll in these programs? Over half of all online students (51%) reported that they had taken online courses to gain new skills, upgrade their careers, and increase their incomes. Furthermore, returning to school, along with giving adult learners a sense of accomplishment and pride, also provides networking opportunities. Adult learners, that is, get the opportunity to connect with peers who share similar interests and goals, improving their personal and professional lives.

And there are other benefits. That is, for many fields, an advanced degree not only gets applicants that job in the first place, but enables them to keep it, especially during economic downturns.

Explore Online Programs at MTU

In other words, when it comes to graduate education, don’t let age hold you back from accessing these benefits. Check out Michigan Tech’s online programs and start your new learning journey.

PS. By the way, the author is speaking from multiple experiences here. From the perspective of a person who has both taught adult learners and earned her PhD post-50, she thinks that (parden the pun) old dogs can definitely learn new tricks!

Brian Hannon Joins Global Campus

Brian Hannon

Global Campus is proud to welcome Brian Hannon (‘88), former MTU hockey star and long-time coach, as a part-time member of our team.

Currently Director of Strategic Partnerships and Alliances for the Keweenaw Research Institute, Hannon will be offering his expertise to GC for a few days a week.

Getting His Start at Tech

Born in 1965 in Clinton, NY, Hannon set season and career scoring records at Clinton High School. Michigan Tech quickly noticed his talent, putting Hannon to work as a sponsored student athlete in 1983, where he played hard for the university until 1988.

There were several other successes along the way. For instance, in 1983, he was named to the Lansing State Journal CCHA All-Rookie team and the GLI (Great Lakes Invitational) All-Tournament Team.

And in 1984, he was selected to play for the 1985 United States Junior Team in Helsinki, Finland. He performed extremely well, ending up as the 3rd leading scorer for Team USA.

An 1985 article from the Winter Carnival edition of The Lode praised his skills:

Several young players have made their presence known, too. Freshmen Center John Archibald and sophomores Brian Hannon (right wing), and Don Porter (left wing), have been big scorers both in goals and assists. Their game intensity, team work, and explosive styles promise to give Tech some big victories in the next few years

The Lode

Although an injury forced Hannon out of action in 1985-1986, he returned in full form for the 1986-1987 and 1987-1988 MTU seasons. In these seasons, he scored, respectively, an impressive 37 and then 47 points. During these years, he also had several honors. For instance, he was an Assistant Captain, a WCHA player of the week, and a member of the WCHA all-academic team.

In other words, Hannon was a bonafide star for MTU. In fact, he ended his career as the all-time American-born leading goal scorer in Huskies Hockey History and the tenth highest scorer overall.

Turning Pro

After graduating from Tech, Hannon brought his talents to professional hockey in ten different hockey leagues, primarily playing in Germany from 1990-2001.

Several of these years were spent playing for the Bundesliga/DEL, a German elite hockey league in operation from 1965 to 1994.

In 1988-1989, his team, the Carolina Thunderbirds, won the Kelly Cup in the ECHL (East Coast Hockey League). In that same season, Hannon scored a whopping 67 points.

For many of these teams, he also took on the responsibility of assistant coach.

Hannon Hockey Card from his time with The Frankfurt Lions
Hannon Hockey Card from his time with The Frankfurt Lions

Thereafter, Hannon hung up his professional hockey skates.

But he didn’t take a break for long. Coaching and hockey continued to call him. In 2002-2003, he worked as Head Coach for the Springfield Spirit before bringing his talents a little closer to home as Volunteer Assistant Coach for the Finlandia Lions from 2004 to 2023.

This is just a summary of his career.

So, I asked Brian some questions and let him do the talking.

Remembering His Time at Michigan Tech

What is your favorite memory of playing hockey and being a student at Tech?

There is not just one. I fondly remember my teammates (they were a very diverse group), the Greatest PEP Band in the Land, the fans, the GLI tourney, and the Winter Carnival, of course, which is the best festival on any college Campus!

What was it like being an MTU student back in the 1980s?

I think the biggest difference is that we were on trimesters and on an accelerated  summer track. Now there is a Fall and Spring term with a summer session and the students get out around the end of April. But we stayed until almost the end of May. I totally understand the reasoning for the change and feel that MTU has always evolved with the students’ best interests in mind. Also, we didn’t have today’s technology, so you had to go to class and retain what you were learning by getting your work done and studying hard. We relied a lot more on study groups and projects that were more apt to have group or team concepts.

Making Memories in Germany

So, I noticed you played hockey in Germany for a long time. So many games, too! And goals. Can you speak about your experience of playing hockey in Germany. That is, what was it like? What did you enjoy about it?

I had a great experience and still have great memories about my time in Europe. Truthfully, I decided to go to Germany because I wasn’t good enough to make it to the NHL; I mean, I wasn’t big enough for the style of game played during that generation. (Author’s note: in the 1988-1989 season, Brian Hannon was 5’10” and 180 pounds. In that season, the NHL’s top scorer was not, in fact, Wayne Gretzky, but Mario Lemieux, who stood 6’4″ and weighed in at a whopping 229 pounds.)

However, I was fast-skilled and could definitely score. The bigger ice rink in the European leagues was an advantage for me and my particular skill set, which was more in tune with the European game. Initially, I saw hockey as a vehicle to travel and experience the world before getting back to living a traditional life. But that decision actually turned into a pretty fun, long, and amazing career that I wouldn’t change for anything.

While in Germany, I was able to learn a new language and immerse myself and my family into a different culture. The friendships made there are also lifelong. I still have teammates that come to visit me here. And now that my son, Connor, is playing professionally in Germany (defense), I’ve had the opportunity to reunite with some of those same folks. Most of all, I was lucky enough to play on some great teams and win a few championships, which create bonds that you have for for life.

Learning Life Skills Through Hockey

Hockey has been a significant part of your life. Beyond the physical skills, what else can people learn from/through hockey?

No matter who you talk to, hockey is all about the people. It doesn’t matter if they’re your family, teammates, coaches or fans; the people are the ingredient that make the game so enjoyable, so worth playing.

From the first day I stepped on Michigan Tech campus as a student athlete, I quickly learned that no matter how many goals I scored or how well the team was doing, I was responsible for getting good grades and remaining in good academic standing. I think any current or former MTU student athlete will tell you the same thing. Because of the time you miss away from campus for travel to games, practice time, etc., you really learn to manage your time and prioritize your schedule. It takes a lot of work and planning to achieve your academic and athletic goals.

Obviously a team sport requires teamwork, but it also requires leading by example, committing to excellence, and devising a strategy to reach group goals. Looking back on those championship teams, I remember that everyone was playing for each other. Everyone was sacrificing individual success for the good of the group and invested in each other’s well-being. That’s why we were able to achieve our team goals. We were a family! Beyond these skills, hockey also taught me the importance of being self-disciplined and motivated enough to stick with a process until the end.

Returning to the Upper Peninsula

You were born in New York, spent several years living in Germany, but returned to the UP. What drew you back to the Upper Peninsula?

I would say that I never really left the UP. I would say I put down roots right when I started playing hockey in 1983. And then when I graduated on May 22, 1988 and married my wife, Pam, on June 17, those roots grew deeper. (She was also a Michigan Tech student from Houghton.) And even when I started my Pro Hockey career in September, 1988, I was still here for the summers.

Let me explain. Well, during my playing years, the summer usually begins at the last game of the season. That’s about a 4-month period where we didn’t compete, but we trained. So as a student and as a professional athlete, I would stay up here during the summer and train. Remember that 40 years ago, there weren’t many ice arenas in New York state, especially those with ice during the summer months! But Michigan Tech had ice to skate on and other world-class facilities to use.

Those years were wonderful; I could train with my former Huskies, golf, fish, relax, play baseball, work at the hockey school, visit family and friends. So it was a natural when one summer, I bought some property here. At that moment, we made a decision for our children’s future. Next thing, I am building a house with my father-in-law knowing that one day, when my playing days were over, we would raise our family here.

Sharing His Talents

You just mentioned hockey school. What has been your involvement in Summer Youth Programs at MTU?

I am proud to say that I am currently the longest serving on-ice summer youth hockey instructor in the history of MTU Hockey School. I began coaching at the hockey school after graduating in 1988 (old NCAA rule where we couldn’t coach while being a student) and have worked at least one week during every summer since. That is 33 years. It would have been 35, but one year they put a new compressor system in and there was a pause because of COVID.

I’ve always enjoyed coaching, passing on what I know to the next generation. And the kids are great! I am pleased that several of the youth I coached went on to play college or professional hockey. A great example is Hancock-born Michigan Tech’s former standout Tanner Kero, who is currently with The Texas Stars.

It is delight to see many of my corporate alumni contacts bringing their children to this camp, as well as other other great sports or stem-related summer youth programs offered at MTU.

Forging New Partnerships

Vice President for Global Campus and Continuing Education David Lawrence praised you for having impressive connections with Tech Alumni and with local industry. Can you speak more about these? How do you plan to leverage these for Global Campus?

I’ve had over 40 years of being associated with both the Michigan Tech brand and MTU initiatives. For instance, I was involved with the Youth Engineering and Science (YES) Expo. YES evolved into MTU’s nationally acclaimed Mind Trekkers program.

Overall, in various roles, I have had the great pleasure of meeting, interacting, and partnering with our Michigan Tech Alumni and friends, especially in the corporate world. I’ve also made a lot of connections with industry leaders who have relationships with Tech. As a result, I have quite a bit of experience navigating the cultures of various organizations. I am hoping to leverage my skills and contacts to reach out to both alumni and MTU corporate partners to introduce them to Global Campus.

We’re still growing our online offerings, I know. But I think I am well suited to listen to the needs of organizations and connect them to the best MTU online program, project, professional development, and continuing education. I’m just getting my feet wet learning about all our initiatives, such as our role on the Semiconductor TAT, but I believe I can be of value to the team.

Promoting the KRC and Michigan Tech

Along with Global Campus, I am proud, of course, to be a part of the multidisciplinary, Keweenaw Research Center (KRC), which is the UP’s best secret. This center is active across a broad spectrum of vehicle development. KRC also maintains more than 900 acres of proving grounds, specifically developed for the evaluation of ground vehicle systems. For instance, one of our main partners is the Department of Defense, so there are usually very tight security measures in place. Unfortunately, because of our work with DoD, I can’t say too much about my role at the KRC.

I’d like you all to know that on August 4, 2024, Alumni and interested public will be able to experience this amazing research center. As part of the Alumni Weekend, the KRC will be celebrating its 70th anniversary with its very first open house.

I’ll end by saying that I have been very lucky to have a great mentor in Jay Meldrum, whom I continue to work with. Now the Director of the Grand Traverse Area Initiative, he had a wealth of industry experience long before his career in academia. He instilled in me that if I am involved with a certain project, but there is no synergy for the potential partner, don’t give up. Find a way. That is, find out what they are interested in and reach out to a different campus group, program, or project and make a new connection, forge a new partnership.

Because at the end of the day, we all play for Michigan Tech.

ChatGPT: Friend or Foe? Maybe Both.

This blog was originally published in May, 2023, but was shortened and re-released to on Nov. 2023.

In 2006, British mathematician and entrepreneur Clive Humby proclaimed that “data is the new oil.”

At the time, his enthusiastic (if not exaggerated) comment reflected the fervor and faith in the then expanding internet economy. And his metaphor had some weight, too. Like oil, data can be collected (or maybe one should say extracted), refined, and sold. Both of these are also in high demand, and just as the inappropriate or excessive use of oil has deleterious effects on the planet, so may the reckless use of data.

Recently, the newest oil concerning many, one that is shaking up the knowledge workplace, is ChatGPT. Released by OpenAI on November 2022, ChatGPT combines chatbot functionality with a very clever language model. Or to be more precise, the GPT in its name stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer.

Global Campus previously published a blog about robots in the workplace. One of the concerns raised then was that of AI taking away our jobs. But perhaps, now, the even bigger concern is AI doing our writing, generating our essays, or even our TV show scripts. That is, many are worried about AI substituting for both our creative and critical thinking.

Training Our AI Writing Helper

ChatGPT is not an entirely new technology. That is, experts have long integrated large language models into customer service chatbots, Google searches, and autocomplete e-mail features. The ChatGPT of today is an updated version of GPT-3, which has been around since 2020. But we can go back farther. We can trace its origins to almost 60 years ago. That is when MIT’s Joseph Weizenbaum rolled out ELIZA: the first chatbot. Named after Eliza Doolittle, this chatbot mimicked a Rogerian therapist by (perhaps annoyingly) rephrasing questions. If someone asked, for instance, “My father hates me,” it would reply with another question: “Why do you say your father hates you?”

The current ChatGPT’s immense knowledge and conversational ability are indeed impressive. To acquire these skills, ChatGPT was “trained on huge amounts of data from the Internet, including conversations.” An encyclopedia of text-based data was combined with a “machine learning technique called Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback (RLHF).” This is a technique in which human trainers provided the model with conversations in which they played both the AI chatbot and the user.” In other words, this bot read a lot of text and practiced mimicking human conversations. Its responses, nonetheless, are not based on knowing the answers, but on predicting what words will come next in a series.

The results of this training is that this chatbot is almost indistinguishable from the human voice. And it’s getting better, too. As chatbot engages with more users, its tone and conversations become increasingly life-like (OpenAI).

Using ChatGPT for Mundane Writing Tasks

Many have used, tested, and challenged ChatGPT. Although one can’t say for certain that the bot always admits its mistakes, it definitely rejects inappropriate requests. It will deliver some clever pick-up lines. However, it won’t provide instructions for cheating on your taxes or on your driver’s license exam. And if you ask it what happens after you die, it is suitably dodgy.

But what makes ChatGPT so popular, and some would say dangerous, is the plethora of text-based documents it can write, such as the following:

  • Long definitions
  • Emails and letters
  • Scripts for podcasts and videos
  • Speeches
  • Basic instructions
  • Quiz questions
  • Discussion prompts
  • Lesson plans
  • Learning objectives
  • Designs for rubrics
  • Outlines for reports and proposals
  • Summaries of arguments
  • Press releases
  • Essays

And this is the short list, too, of its talents. That is, there are people who have used this friendly bot to construct emails to students, quiz questions, and definitions. The internet is also awash with how-to articles on using ChatGPT to write marketing copy, generate novels, and speeches.

Constructing Learning Goals

“College-educated professionals performing mid-level professional writing tasks experience substantial increases in productivity when given access to ChatGPT . . . . The generative writing tool increases the output quality of low-ability workers while reducing their time spent, and it allows high-ability workers to maintain their quality standards while becoming significantly faster.”

Shakked Noy and Whitney Zhang

Noy and Zhang’s findings are taken with a grain of salt. That is, just as many writers don’t trust Grammarly to catch subject-verb agreement errors, others don’t trust ChatGPT to write their emails or press releases.

Nonetheless, as an experiment, this writer tested the tool by asking it to generate two tasks of college instructors.

First, ChatGPT was given this heavy-handed command: “Please generate five learning goals for an introductory course on Science Fiction. Make sure that you do not use the words “understand” or “know” when constructing these goals. Also please rely on Bloom’s taxonomy.

ChatGPT-generated learning goals for a Sci-Fi course.

In a few seconds, out popped the learning goals on the right, which use several of Bloom’s verbs: analyze, evaluate, apply, create, and compare and contrast.

The prompt for the second attempt asked ChatGPT to put these goals in order of ascending complexity, to which it quickly obliged.

(Truthfully, no Sci-Fi course could live up to these goals, but this task was a fun one nonetheless.)

Generating Reference Letters

Next, ChatGPT was assigned a task common to many academics: writing a reference letter.

Students often request these letters, often at the end of the semester, an unfortunate time when many instructors are bone-tired from grading. It turns out that ChatGPT could have helped (however badly) with this task.

Why badly? ChatGPT is only as smart as its user. In this case, the prompt didn’t specify the length of the reference letter. So the little bot dutifully churned out an 8-paragraph, ridiculously detailed, effusive letter, one no reasonable human would write, let alone read or believe.

Let’s hope that admissions officers and scholarship officials are not wading through these over-the-top AI-generated reference letters.

ChatGPT reference letter.
An overly long and over-the-top reference letter generated by ChatGPT.

Recognizing ChatGPT’s Limited Knowledge

Despite helping us with onerous writing tasks, this artificial intelligence helper does have its limitations. In fact, right on the first page, OpenAI honestly admits that its chatbot “may occasionally generate incorrect information, and produce harmful instructions or biased content.” It also has “limited knowledge of world and events after 2021.”

And it reveals these gaps, often humorously.

For instance, when prodded to provide information on several well-known professors from various departments, it came back with wrong answers. In fact, it actually misidentified one well-known department chair as a Floridian famous for his philanthropy and footwear empire. In this case, ChatGPT not only demonstrated “limited knowledge of the world” but also incorrect information. As academics, writers, and global citizens, we should be concerned about releasing more fake info into the world.

Taking into consideration these and other errors, one wonders on what data, exactly, was ChatGPT trained. Did it, for instance, just skip over universities? Academics? Respected academics with important accomplishments? As we know, what the internet prioritizes says a lot about what it and its users value.

Creating Mistakes

There are other limitations. ChatGPT can’t write a self-reflection or decent poetry. And because it is not online, it cannot summarize recent content from the internet.

It also can’t approximate the tone of this article, which shifts between formal and informal and colloquial. Or whimsically insert allusions or pop culture references.

To compensate for its knowledge gaps, ChatGPT generates answers that are incorrect or slightly correct.

In the case of generating mistakes, ChatGPT does mimic the human tendency to fumble, to tap dance around an answer, and to make up material rather than humbly admit ignorance.

Passing Along Misinformation

Being trained on text-based data, which might have been incorrect in the first place, ChatGPT often passes this fakery along. That is, it also (as the example above shows) has a tendency to generate or fabricate fake references and quotations.

It can also spread misinformation. (Misinformation, unintentional false or inaccurate information, is different from disinformation: the intentional spread of untruths to deceive.)

The companies CNET and Bankrate found out this glitch the hard way. For months, they had been duplicitously publishing AI-generated informational articles as informational articles under a byline. When this unethical behavior was discovered, it drew the ire of the internet.

CNET’s stories even contained both plagiarism and factual mistakes, or what Jon Christian at Futurism called “bone-headed errors.” Christian humorously drew attention to mathematical mistakes that were delivered with all the panache of a financial advisor. For instance, the article claimed that “if you deposit $10,000 into a savings account that earns 3% interest compounding annually, you’ll earn $10,300 at the end of the first year.” In reality, you’d be earning only $300.

All three screwups. . . . highlight a core issue with current-generation AI text generators: while they’re legitimately impressive at spitting out glib, true-sounding prose, they have a notoriously difficult time distinguishing fact from fiction.

John Christian

Revealing Biases

And ChatGPT is not unbiased either. First, this bot has a strong US leaning. For instance, it was prompted to write about the small town of Wingham, ON. In response, it generated some sunny, non-descript prose. However, it omitted this town’s biggest claim to fame: the birthplace of Nobel Prize winning Alice Munro.

This bias is based on ChatGPT being trained on data pulled from the internet. Thus, it reflects all the prejudices of those who wrote and compiled this information. This problem was best articulated by Safiya Umoja Nobel in her landmark book Algorithms of Oppression. In this text, she challenges the ideal that search engines are value-neutral, exposing their hegemonic norms and the consequences of their various sexist, racist biases. ChatGPT, to be sure, is also affected by if not infected with these biases.

Despite agreeing with Nobel’s concerns, and thinking that ChatGPT can be remarkably dumb at times, many writers don’t have want to smash the algorithmic machines anytime soon. Furthermore, many writers DO use this bot to generate definitions of unfamiliar technical terms encountered in their work. For instance, it can help non-experts understand the basics of such concepts as computational fluid dynamics and geospatial engineering. Still, many professional writers choose not to rely on it, nor trust it, too much.

Letting Robots Do Your Homework

But it is students’ trust in and reliance on one of ChatGPT’s features that is causing chaos and consternation in the education world.

That is, many recent cases of cheating are connected to one of this bot’s most popular features: its impressive ability to generate essays in seconds. For instance, it constructed a 7-paragraph comparison/contrast essay on Impressionism and Post-Impressionism in under a minute.

And the content of this essay, though vague, does hold some truth: “Impressionism had a profound impact on the art world, challenging traditional academic conventions. Its emphasis on capturing the fleeting qualities of light and atmosphere paved the way for modern art movements. Post-impressionism, building upon the foundations of impressionism, further pushed the boundaries of artistic expression. Artists like Georges Seurat developed the technique of pointillism, while Paul Gauguin explored new avenues in color symbolism. The post-impressionists’ bold experimentation influenced later art movements, such as fauvism and expressionism.”

With a few modifications and checking of facts, this text would fit comfortably into an introductory art textbook. Or maybe a high-school or a college-level essay.

Sounding the Alarm About ChatGPT

Very shortly after people discovered this essay-writing feature, stories of academic integrity violations flooded the internet. An instructor at an R1 STEM grad program confessed that several students had cheated on a project report milestone. “All 15 students are citing papers that don’t exist.” An alarming article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, written by a student, warned that educators had no idea how much students were using AI. The author rejected the claim that AI’s voice is easy to detect. “It’s very easy to use AI to do the lion’s share of the thinking while still submitting work that looks like your own.”

And it’s not just a minority of students using ChatGPT either. In a study.com survey of 200 K-12 teachers, 26% had already caught a student cheating by using this tool. In a BestColleges survey of 1,000 current undergraduate and graduate students (March 2023), 50% of students admitted to using AI for some portion of their assignment, 30% for the majority, and 17% had “used it to complete an assignment and turn it in with no edits.”

Soon, publications like Forbes and Business Insider began pushing out articles about rampant cheating and the internet was buzzing. An elite program in a Florida high school reported a chatbot “cheating scandal”. But probably the most notorious episode was a student who used this bot to write an essay for his Ethics and Artificial Intelligence course. Sadly, the student did not really understood the point of the assignment.

Incorporating ChatGPT in the Classroom

According to a Gizmodo article, many schools have forbidden ChatGPT, such as those in New York City, Los Angeles, Seattle, Fairfax County Virginia.

But there is still a growing body of teachers who aren’t that concerned. Many don’t want to ban ChatGPT altogether. Eliminating this tool from educational settings, they caution, will do far more harm than good. Instead, they argue that teachers must set clearer writing expectations about cheating. They should also create ingenious assignments that students can’t hack with their ChatGPT writing coach, as well as create learning activities that reveal this tool’s limitations.

Others have suggested that the real problem is teachers relying on methods of assessment that are too ChatGPT-cheatable: weighty term papers and final exams. Teachers may need to rethink their testing strategies, or as that student from the Chronicle asserted, “[M]assive structural change is needed if our schools are going to keep training students to think critically.”

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, also doesn’t agree with all the hand-wringing about ChatGPT cheating. He blithely suggested that schools need to “get over it.”

Generative text is something we all need to adapt to . . . . We adapted to calculators and changed what we tested for in math class, I imagine. This is a more extreme version of that, no doubt, but also the benefits of it are more extreme, as well.

Sam Altman

Read MTU’s own Rod Bishop’s much briefer take on academic integrity and AI.