Understanding AI Writing Tools and Their Uses for Teaching and Learning at UC Berkeley

What is ChatGPT?

 ChatGUnderstanding AIPT is a tool powered by artificial intelligence that can output conversational and formal written text. ChatGPT is considered a type of  “chatbot” tool; users who access this tool can type in a question or a prompt and the ChatGPT tool will respond with a clear and cogent written answer. 

There are several advantages and disadvantages to using ChatGPT for learning and, ultimately, it will be up to individual departments and faculty to decide how they best see the potential and pitfalls of using ChatGPT and other similar emerging tools in their courses. 

Is ChatGPT a Supported Tool at UC Berkeley?

Please note that ChatGPT is not a supported tool here at UC Berkeley. That means that UC Berkeley has not reviewed ChatGPT for concerns with accessibility, privacy, and security. As such, if instructors choose to use ChatGPT for their teaching, they assume responsibility for reviewing and vetting concerns with accessibility, privacy, and security. Instructors should remain open to giving students alternative options for completing an assignment if ChatGPT is inaccessible to them in any way. Please consider working with the Disabled Students' Program (DSP) for ideas on how to explore accessible alternatives as needed.

Numerous AI detection tools have emerged to address the use of ChatGPT, but, as with ChatGPT itself, none of these tools have been reviewed for accessibility, privacy, and security. Turnitin (Berkeley's Academic Integrity platform available in bCourses) has released a new feature for detecting AI-generated text. Along with several of our peers, we initially opted out of this feature, but are now reviewing it for a potential pilot. Please contact academicintegrity@berkeley.edu with any questions about the Turnitin feature.

Note that using any third-party AI detection tools could lead to FERPA, privacy, and copyright violations given that using these tools require faculty to input examples of student work into a third-party software. We do not recommend that instructors rely upon AI detection tools to identify usage of ChatGPT for writing and, instead, encourage faculty to engage in conversation with their students about appropriate (and inappropriate) usage of ChatGPT for their courses.

Technology like ChatGPT continues to evolve and it’s likely that advice about how, when, and when not to use ChatGPT will continue to shift in kind.  These are a few starting points that may help in conversations about student usage of this tool. Note that these ideas are intended to be educational and are not yet driven by any institutional policy.

In the remainder of this page, we outline a range of pedagogical strategies instructors can use to harness the power of the AI to further their learning goals as well as some further reading on opportunities and risks posed by ChatGPT and similar technologies.

This page will remain a work-in-progress and will be updated as use cases and engagement with ChatGPT technology continues to evolve.

Additional contributors: Mary Ann Smart, for her contributions to the activity ideas featured on this page. Cathryn Carson, for her contributions to some of ChatGPT's risks.

Last updated: July 10, 2023

Teaching Recommendations 

Given that faculty may have different approaches, attitudes, and orientations towards guiding students in the usage of AI writing assistance, there are a couple of guidelines that may be applicable to everyone:

Fold in ChatGPT as an example of a tool that violates academic integrity when used inappropriately.

In a portion of the course syllabus dedicated to academic dishonesty, it is worth mentioning that if a student uses text generated from ChatGPT and passes it off as their own writing, without acknowledging or citing the influence of ChatGPT in their process, they are in violation of the university’s academic honor code. Lifting full sentences and paragraphs wholecloth, whether it’s from an encyclopedia, written article, or AI-generated text creation tool, is considered plagiarism. Providing concrete examples to students of what constitutes written plagiarism may help them make more informed choices about how and whether to use particular tools to support their writing.

Discuss the value of the writing process with students and help students see the value in writing as a skill/outcome/competency in your class context.

If learning to become a stronger writer is part of a course learning outcome or goal, weave that outcome intentionally in your Spring course. Help students understand the value or benefits they gain from writing in your class. For example, incentivize or give credit for students to turn in outlines, drafts, pre-writing, and other kinds of notes so that they demonstrate their thinking about a topic prior to the creation of a formal written piece. Scaffolding in pre-writing, drafting, or outlining will help faculty more easily see the evolution of a student’s thought before they engage with the final written product.

Suggested Writing Prompts and Activities

Create an assignment where students analyze and critique what ChatGPT generates.

If you’re interested in having students actively engage with ChatGPT, invite them to input responses into ChatGPT and analyze what they notice about its output. What does ChatGPT do well in its response? What do they see as the limitations of the response? What are they noticing about the tone, style, and engagement with core ideas from the class you’re teaching? The more that you help students guide their own critique and engagement with ChatGPT’s output, the more thoughtful and informed students can be about what ChatGPT is capable of doing.

Design essay and exam prompts that require close discussion or analysis of the materials used for your class, including images, video, and other media.

Current users of ChatGPT have found that ChatGPT struggles most to generate text that incorporates analysis of cited materials or artifacts, such as images, video, and media. As such, if you are designing writing assignments that include “close reading” of particular texts or media that are relevant to your class context, it is unlikely that ChatGPT will be capable of producing very meaningful work.

Design prompts that require students to work with and incorporate multiple, cited sources in their writing.

AI-generated answers do well at providing expositions and facts (even if the “facts” are not all accurate!). However, when asked to relate one concept to another, ChatGPT presents an exposition of one concept followed by the other, making only minimal and superficial connections between them. You can strengthen this kind of assignment by specifying a need for students to engage with multiple sources, asking them to cite those sources and explain how they are connected around shared themes, arguments, and ideas in your course.

Create essay and exam assignments that require students to devote a significant amount of time and space to describing and analyzing a specific example, object, or case.

ChatGPT does an adequate job of summary, but is incapable of close reading and of description based on sensory perception. Any assignment that includes a clear and specific requirement to discuss concrete examples that cite sensory experiences will require students to do much of the work themselves.

Opportunities and Risks of Using ChatGPT for Teaching and Learning


Further Reading

ChatGPT provides a discussion point for faculty and students to interrogate the benefits and limitations of artificial intelligence in their learning. Understanding and seeing what’s possible – and what isn’t – will help students recognize how a tool like ChatGPT can help and hinder their ability to complete assignments.

"Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Teaching and Learning:" U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology

“ChatGPT Both Is and Is Not Like a Calculator” (John Warner, Inside Higher Ed)

“Update Your Course Syllabus for ChatGPT” (Ryan Watkins)

ChatGPT can kick off classroom conversations about information literacy and where information comes from online. ChatGPT is powered by a particular data set that has clear limitations. Using ChatGPT to conduct simple information searches, like using other search engine tools, can help students see what kind of information they can and can’t find using AI.

"Getting a Grip on ChatGPT" (Alison Head and Barbara Fister for Inside Higher Ed)

ChatGPT Advice Academics Can Use Now (Inside Higher Ed)

ChatGPT can provide generative starting ideas for helping students pre-write or brainstorm ideas for responses to a prompt.

"Assigning AI: Seven Ways of Using AI in the Classroom" (Ethan Mollick)

"How I Approached AI Literacy in the Writing Classroom" (Laura Dumin)

AI Will Augment, Not Replace(Marc Watkins, University of Mississippi) 

ChatGPT can give some writers a template for producing writing in a particular genre (for example, a 5-paragraph essay, a cover letter, or an interview template). The content of the writing may be inaccurate, but the form of the genre may be reflective of the expectations for the assignment or task.

Don’t Ban ChatGPT in Schools. Teach With It.(Kevin Roose, New York Times)

AI Could Be Great for College Essays” (Daniel Lametti, Slate)



ChatGPT can produce full essays based on simple prompts, which may tempt some students into submitting AI-generated essays from ChatGPT as their own work. 

Here is an overview of some of the many concerns about academic honesty in written assessments: “AI and the Future of Undergraduate Writing” 

ChatGPT outputs text in an authoritative tone, which may lead some students to believe that all information from ChatGPT is accurate. However, its data set is limited and, as such, may present false data or misinformation. 

The New Chatbots Could Change the World. Can You Trust Them?” (The New York Times)

“If ChatGPT doesn’t get a better grasp of facts, nothing else matters” (Fast Company)

ChatGPT is a for-profit tool, actively gathering data from users who input information. While ChatGPT is free to use as of this page’s publication, it will eventually be monetized. It is unclear how the developers of ChatGPT will use the data that users input. By using ChatGPT, users consent to having potentially personal data stored and sold by OpenAI (the developers of ChatGPT). 

OpenAI Privacy Policy

There are ethical implications to engaging with ChatGPT's dataset, as its development depends on exploited human labor. Workers in the Global South were paid less than $2 per hour to read and label disturbing content, including graphic violent and sexual material, so that it could be removed from ChatGPT's output.

"OpenAI Used Kenyan Workers on Less than $2 Per Hour to Make ChatGPT Less Toxic" (Time)

There are economic and environmental ramifications to engagement with ChatGPT. Large Language Models (LLMs), such as ChatGPT, require tremendous computing power that only major tech companies have the funds to support. Running any technology with major computing processes required has an environmental impact, as computing processing facilities will need to be built with facilities that require even larger power and cooling resources. Training ChatGPT led to emissions of more than 550 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

"Tech Giants Rush to put chatbot to work" (Axios)

"The Generative AI Race Has a Dirty Secret" (Wired)