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Tuesday, Apr 23, 2024

Hong Kong Baptist University begins ChatGPT trial for teachers, but concerns remain

Hong Kong Baptist University begins ChatGPT trial for teachers, but concerns remain

Access to be granted without need for VPN under agreement with Microsoft, which backs company behind powerful tool.

Hong Kong Baptist University has rolled out a trial for the use of ChatGPT by teaching staff, but professors have said clear guidelines are needed for using intelligence (AI) tools in an academic setting.

The university announced internally on Wednesday it would provide official accounts for staff to access the tool without using a VPN as part of an agreement with Microsoft, which backs the company behind the software.

The test period will run until mid-November, but no guidelines have been given on how to use the tool.

While some professors expressed excitement about exploring how the teaching burden could be eased by using ChatGPT, others voiced criticism over the technology’s effectiveness and worries regarding the absence of official parameters.

Dr Amelia Lee Nam-yuk, head of the university’s early childhood and elementary education division, said the institution was encouraging teachers to learn about ChatGPT and her colleagues were still “getting their heads around” the conversational bot.

Lee said she believed the technology could save her a lot of time in preparing class materials and exam questions, as well as searching for references.

Critics had previously argued that the tool could generate wrong answers. Associate Professor Billy Mak Sui-choi, from the department of finance and decision sciences, said it was “not mature enough to count on”, and he found it difficult to get creative responses.

Baptist University joins four other tertiary institutions in the city in embracing the use of AI-based tools.


Three other teaching staff emphasised the importance of having clear guidelines from the university. “The tasks that ChatGPT can or cannot be used for remain unclear,” said Professor Ken Yung Kin-lam, who teaches biology. He said he was not sure whether ChatGPT should be used to review academic journals or just for general searches.

Associate Professor Luwei Rose Luqiu echoed Yung, saying she would wait for further instructions from the university before incorporating ChatGPT into her work at the department of journalism. She said the tool was no different to her than using Google’s search engine.

As of this month, six government-funded tertiary institutions – City University, Polytechnic University (PolyU), the Education University of Hong Kong (EdU), Hong Kong Metropolitan University, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and the University of Hong Kong (HKU) – have embraced the use of AI-based tools and given flexibility to its staff and students to set their own guiding principles for using them.

Professor Raymond Li, head of the department of journalism, said making ChatGPT accessible to teachers was “absolutely a good thing” as AI was here to stay.

Li said he used the tool in his free time and planned to incorporate it into fact-checking lessons in which students would be asked to cross-check answers it generated.

“The narratives of AI technologies are evolving,” said Li, adding the university should seize its chance to set guidelines dealing with concerns about their potential dangers.

The Post has reached out to Baptist University for comment.

Hong Kong’s former finance chief John Tsang Chun-wah earlier threw his support behind educators adding AI tools to the curriculum, while slamming universities that barred students from using the technology.

Tertiary institutions have adopted various approaches towards AI tools such as ChatGPT. At Chinese University, students are required to seek permission from tutors before using the powerful bot for assignments.

HKU has limited its use, allowing only teaching staff to access it for work and research-related purposes. EdU set out a wider scope for AI tools to be used for coursework, but required students to declare and submit reflections on their experience.

A spokesman for PolyU said it had issued guidelines and would fully implement them by September this year. Lingnan University said it prohibited the use of all AI tools in coursework and assessments.

Earlier this year, Baptist University sent a letter to its students warning them over plagiarism if they took words or ideas from other sources, including ChatGPT and other AI technologies, and presented them as their own.

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