Released last November, OpenAI’s ChatGPT immediately raised concerns, and rightly so, over students’ use of the chatbot for completing homework. Yes, ChatGPT is capable of writing cogent essays, solving science and math problems, and producing working computer code. But for every misuse of the tool, there seems to be an equivalent use that makes it right, and its potential as an educational tool for instructors could outweigh its risks
ChatGPT is an innovative and capable tool that performs reasonably well across a wide variety of tasks and academic subjects. So instead of running from it, we thought about how to leverage it to the instructor’s advantage. To get the most out of ChatGPT as an online course instructor, you just need to provide clear and specific instructions and break down complex queries. We know that’s no easy feat. To understand the plumbing behind what makes a good prompt so you can write the instructions for ChatGPT to perform well is tough. That’s why we coached it on Blooms Taxonomy and more than 60 different approaches to online discussions, so you get a solid starting point and variation in approaches on every run.
And as a result, you’ll find yourself with better, more effective course discussion prompts, more quickly than ever.
Effective Course Discussion Prompts at Scale
Some educators have started to see ChatGPT as an opportunity rather than a threat. In theLA Times op-ed published in early 2023, psychologist Angela Duckworth, PhD, argued against banning the bot, explaining that it and similar technologies are here to stay—and that instructors should learn how to incorporate it into curricula. Many psychology instructors are already experimenting with the software, recognizing that ChatGPT could be a useful tool to prepare students for the real world where critical thinking is more important than rote memorization.
Integrating any new tool into the classroom should be done judiciously, and ChatGPT is no exception. Educators must consider ethics, cheating, and equity, just as they would when integrating other technologies into their courses. But with the right approach, ChatGPT can be a useful—and as some argue, revolutionary—tool to prepare students for their future careers.
Imagine if all you had to do was click a few buttons and suddenly you have more sound pedagogy in ALL of your discussions? What if students were guided to discuss topics with an interaction strategy that is relevant to their course level — how would that impact engagement?
That was our goal. Harmonize has leveraged its knowledge of quality online education pedagogy to coach ChatGPT to build better course discussion and assignment prompts, so that educators and instructional designers can boost student engagement with every single discussion.
Greater Efficiency: Timing Savings
As more and more courses move online, instructional designers are being stretched thin. To come up with multiple new prompts for every course and each instructor would be impossible — or at least time consuming. With ChatGPT in Harmonize, you don’t have to.
Focus on the higher level needs of the courses and use ChatGPT in Harmonize to fill in the work of generating prompts for you — at scale across multiple lessons, courses, and instructors. Here’s an example of how you can build better discussion prompts faster and at scale.
The original course discussion prompt
Are design patterns important in application development?
The problem with this prompt…it’s easily Google-able and maybe just a wee bit boring?
The revised prompt as written by ChatGPT & coached by Harmonize
We took that prompt and then coached the artificial intelligence on a couple areas, including:
Bloom Taxonomy Level = Analyzing
And then choosing Strategy = Debate
Here’s what our ChatGPT teaching assistant came up with:
Welcome to the online discussion for our course on software design patterns! In this activity, we will be engaging in a debate regarding the importance of design patterns in application development. Design patterns are widely recognized as reusable solutions to common problems that occur during software design and development. They provide a structured approach to designing software systems and can significantly impact the quality, maintainability, and scalability of applications.
Now, let’s delve into the debate. In this discussion, I want you to explore both sides of the argument and present persuasive arguments to support your viewpoint. Consider the following statement: “Design patterns are essential in application development.”
One group will take the stance that design patterns are indeed crucial in application development. You should analyze the components and structure of design patterns, examine their relationship to application development, and provide evidence to support your position. What benefits do design patterns bring to the table? How do they contribute to code reusability, modularity, and extensibility? Present your arguments in a clear and organized manner.
On the other hand, another group will argue against the statement, suggesting that design patterns may not be as important as they are often portrayed. You should analyze and question the validity of design patterns, probe their potential drawbacks or limitations, and explore alternative approaches to solving common problems in software design. Present counter arguments based on research and critical examination.
Remember, each student is required to make at least one primary post, presenting their initial argument, and respond to at least two of their peers’ posts. Engage in a constructive dialogue, challenge each other’s ideas, and provide well-reasoned responses. This activity aims to develop your critical thinking skills, research abilities, and the capacity to construct persuasive arguments.
I expect you to delve deep into the topic, examine different design patterns, evaluate the evidence, and draw informed conclusions. Be sure to categorize and differentiate the various design patterns, dissect their purpose and application, and identify patterns or trends in their usage. Remember to respect each other’s viewpoints and maintain a positive and professional tone throughout the discussion. Good luck, and let the debate begin!
Increased Student Engagement
All that’s left for you to do is assign students to group 1 or group 2. As you can see, this prompt is well thought out, designed to engage students from multiple viewpoints, and extensive in what it asks for and how students are expected to approach it. To do this every single time, for each discussion, across multiple instructors and courses, would probably make you run for the hills.
But then, what if you want to change the discussion strategy? Maybe it’s too early in the course for the class to engage in a debate. Perhaps a small-group discussion would encourage greater student participation and better engagement as well as lead to richer exchange at this point. No need to redo any work. We simply coach ChatGPT on a new discussion strategy — small-group discussions — and this is what we get.
Discussion prompt with a different strategy
Welcome, students, to our engaging discussion on the significance of design patterns in application development. Design patterns play a crucial role in creating interactive applications and enhancing the effectiveness of object-oriented analysis and design. In this discussion, we will delve into the importance of design patterns, analyze their impact on application development, and explore how they contribute to creating robust and efficient software solutions.
As part of this discussion, I expect each of you to make at least one primary post and actively engage with your peers by responding to at least two of their posts. This will allow us to have a fruitful exchange of ideas, insights, and perspectives.
To foster collaborative learning and encourage active participation, we will follow a group-based approach for this discussion. I will divide you into small groups, with each group focusing on becoming experts in a specific subtopic related to design patterns. Within your groups, you will collaborate to thoroughly understand and dissect your assigned subtopic.
Afterward, the groups will be reshuffled to form new groups comprising representatives from each initial group. This reshuffling will enable you to share your expertise, contribute your unique knowledge, and gain insights from other subtopics during the broader discussion. Through this approach, we aim to promote cooperative learning, facilitate a diverse exchange of perspectives, and enhance your understanding of design patterns in the context of application development.
With your newfound expertise, let us now explore the significance of design patterns in application development. Analyze the components and structures of design patterns, evaluate the evidence supporting their effectiveness, and identify the patterns that are most relevant in different scenarios. You may compare and contrast various design patterns, differentiate their applications, categorize their benefits, investigate real-world examples, and question their limitations.
Consider the following guiding questions to shape your discussion:
What are design patterns and why are they important in application development?
How do design patterns contribute to creating robust and efficient software solutions?
Can you identify specific design patterns that are widely used in different domains or industries?
What are the benefits of applying design patterns in software development?
Are there any challenges or limitations associated with using design patterns?
Feel free to explore additional aspects and share relevant examples from your own experiences or from the industry. Remember, the goal is to collectively deepen our understanding of the significance of design patterns and their practical implications in application development.
Using ChatGPT in Harmonize
Think of ChatGPT in Harmonize as your newest teaching assistant. You’ve added the subject matter expertise to the prompt, and because we’ve trained the bot on many course-level appropriate interaction strategies, you can be sure your students will be met with different discussion prompt approaches throughout different points in their academic journey. The goal is to ensure they stay engaged and continue building their critical thinking skills as they progress through levels of content.
By integrating ChatGPT into Harmonize’s suite of online course discussion and collaboration tools, instructors will create a more interactive learning environment. They can prepare more effective discussion prompts, more quickly than ever, and students can engage in thought-provoking discussions, receive valuable feedback, and enhance their critical thinking skills like never before. And remember, if you’re concerned about Googled or ChatGPT-generated student responses to your discussions, we can catch that too! 😉
With the power of AI-driven conversations, coupled with sound pedagogy around what makes a good discussion prompt, you’ll immerse your online students in more complex topics, exchange ideas, and deepen their understanding.
If you’re interested in seeing how you can use ChatGPT to build better, more engaging course discussion prompts in half the time, get started here.