In the last year, there has been a wave of rapid acceleration in the field of generative AI, which is made up of software programs that use artificial intelligence technology to produce text, images, audio and other content. You’ve likely already heard about some of these generative AI programs.
By late 2022, people around the world were using DALL-E 2 and Midjourney to generate images: some stunning, some puzzling and still others controversial. Months later, OpenAI released its beefed-up ChatGPT-4, which could not only write a captivating essay when given a prompt but could also create the code for an entire website and score in the 90th percentile on the bar exam. By April 2023, ChatGPT already had 100 million general users, urging major players like Google and Microsoft to bring their own groundbreaking AI technology out of the testing labs and to the public.
“It’s a mind-blowing amount of growth that hasn’t been paralleled before in history. We’ve never seen platforms take off like this,” says Ryan McPherson, professor of practice in the UTSA Department of Communication, who has been closely tracking the rise of generative AI programs. “TikTok wasn’t this fast. Facebook took years. Combined with other developments like quantum computing, this has the potential to be ‘industrial revolution’ big.”
But as ChatGPT captivated the masses, educators began seeing a troubling trend taking root. Students across the country were using ChatGPT to generate their essays and homework assignments instead of putting in the work themselves. Many K-12 schools and colleges moved quickly to prohibit the use of generative AI programs from their campuses to the extent they could, but UTSA sought a better path forward: adopting the trailblazing technology while simultaneously guiding students, faculty and staff to see its potential.
“Students have been hearing about it either from TikTok or from their peers, but we want them to know there’s so much else you can do with it,” says Marcela Ramirez, UTSA’s associate vice provost for teaching, learning and digital transformation.
Limiting the use of generative AI at UTSA would only hinder students, adds Melissa Vito, the university’s vice provost for academic innovation. It’s a technology that will only continue to become more popular and prevalent, and it’s already causing a startling disruption in many industries. Careers in marketing, finance, computer programming, design, human resources, journalism and law are all experiencing some kind of overhaul due to AI, and Vito says that the college graduates who have familiarized themselves with the technology will be better prepared to weather the changes.
“People aren’t going to lose their jobs because of AI. They’re going to lose their jobs because they don’t know about AI,” Vito says. “I think what we’re doing now amplifies our message of digital fluency and digital literacy across the curriculum. Whether it was four years ago when we became an Adobe Creative Campus, or now as we’re exploring what it means to use AI in a course, the message is that we’re trying to prepare our students for the world of work five years from now.”