Center for Teaching and Learning

What is chatGPT?

ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence (AI) tool that can produce clear, coherent, human-like text and computer code in response to a question or prompt submitted by a user. ChatGPT is the latest chatbot developed by the company OpenAI, and similar tools (such as Quillbot AI and CopyGenius) have been developed by other companies. In addition to chatGPT (an AI text generator), OpenAI has also developed an AI image generator called DALL-E 2 that can produce digital images in response to user prompts.

Underlying chatGPT’s ability to generate human-like, conversational text in response to a user prompt is a language model that allows it to predict the next word in a sequence. This language model was trained on a massive data set of text sources using reinforcement learning from human feedback. This training was completed in early 2022, and chatGPT was released in November 2022.

The training of chatGPT is important to note because it also determines its limitations. As OpenAI notes in its blog, “during RL [Reinforced Learning] training, there’s currently no source of truth,” which is why chatGPT can produce “plausible-sounding but incorrect or nonsensical answers.” As a result, there are a myriad of examples of chatGPT generating erroneous quotes and sources and performing incorrect calculations, such that chatGPT outputs should always be evaluated for accuracy.

ChatGPT is the most recently developed language prediction model in the GPT series developed by OpenAI, with earlier versions including GPT-2 and GPT-3. The main difference between these versions is the size of the model and the amount of data that it was trained on. 

As disruptive as AI-generative tools like chatGPT feel at the moment, it can help to consider them in the long line of technological advancement like Wikipedia, Google Translate, and the calculator. While each of these technologies were initially disruptive to how we approached teaching in our courses, eventually we figured out how to adapt our courses to emphasize student learning and to prepare our students to succeed in a world in which these technologies exist.