Academic Uses of AI for Students

Updated 4/11/24

Note

Students must have absolute clarity from their instructors of appropriate use prior to using AI generators for course work.

Frequently Asked Questions for Students

Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is the ability of a computer or robot to do things often associated with human intelligence, such as perception, reasoning, learning, language use, and problem solving. AI has come to refer to online programs that can create text, answer questions, or make art. These programs have to be trained on other people’s work, which may or may not be open-resource, causing some ethical concerns.

See also:

  • Read/review the course syllabus and each assignment for appropriate uses or prohibited uses of AI. Without specific allowances, assume AI use is prohibited.
  • If AI is allowed, read instructions for AI use in each assignment, activity, or assessment. If not, proceed with work without AI.
  • Follow guidelines: If AI is expected to be used as a part of your work, determine to what extent and if there are specific guidelines. It may be OK to use AI for initial ideation and inspiration but not for generating content, text, or images for submission. Or, it may be OK to generate content, but you must provide an analysis in your own human-generated prose. Read instructions carefully. 
  • Cite properly: When allowed, be sure to cite all uses of AI (see below). 
  • Communicate: When in doubt, contact your instructor to clarify expectations. If you use automated assistive technologies as part of an accommodation, be sure to communicate with your instructor.

See also: Pathways for Academic Uses of AI at WWU: Flowchart (ATUS, Western Washington University)

  • Getting unstuck: AI can serve as a jumping-off point for students, helping to brainstorm, find sources, and locate issues. Just like using Google to get ideas or see what others have contemplated on a particular topic, generating images or content with AI can get you “unstuck”—but be sure it ends there unless it’s clearly allowed as part of an assignment.
  • Honing thinking skills: AI is not adept at creativity in writing and often makes mistakes; students then build skills in editing, problem-solving, creativity, and prompt tailoring, causing them to better understand the material as they engage with it. 
  • Getting feedback: AI can serve as a sounding board for student ideas and learning. Some products can lead the learner toward solutions rather than provide answers, acting as a tutor.
  • Evaluating AI-generated results: This ability to critically review content for accuracy, flow, bias, and ingenuity is an essential skill in many jobs. Being adept at working both with and against AI may serve you well.

See also: How to drive student success with creative Generative AI tools in the classroom (Adobe, Oct. 2023)

  • Not allowed: When the professor has prohibited its use, or the conditions for its use in the class haven’t been met.
  • Not cited: When its use in the project isn’t cited.
  • Not enhancing your learning: When it’s doing all the work for you, rather than encouraging you to engage; when you are not thinking critically, checking the work, and using it to build your own skills.
  • Not right: When its bias and errors go unchecked, rather than its work being checked against other sources.

See also: 5 Pros and Cons of AI in the Education Sector (Walden University)

First, review the Pathways for Academic Uses of AI at WWU: Flowchart to ensure AI-generated work is allowed.

See Generative AI Product Comparison (below).

  • Use colloquial language in full sentences for more human-sounding results.
  • Be specific. Include context, such as desired tone, audience, and mode of desired output. For art generator: use artistic styles, colors, textures, mediums, etc. Consider composition.
  • Use multiple prompts; when the output isn’t as you’d hoped, submit corrections, new ideas, and different prompts. Work back and forth with the AI as you might a colleague or peer.
  • Ask AI to help you create effective prompts.
  • Use literal, concrete language.
  • Prompt a style: ask AI to generate text or art in the style of someone well-documented on the internet.
  • Prompt a persona: for example, ask it to write a meal plan for you “as if it were” your personal trainer.
  • Suggest an emotion or mood for an image generator.
  • Use open-ended language for image generators, to allow for creativity and interpretation, rather than including too many instructions and details. 
  • Avoid ambiguity.
  • Use other prompts as templates, your own or others’.

See also: 

AI is trained on limited data that may have reflected the biases of our culture, and it can struggle to understand context. As such, it may show bias, stereotypes, and incorrect or problematic behavior.

  • Think critically: Who is being represented? Is it primarily privileged demographics? Are there common stereotypes? In other words, if you were asked to picture someone for a specific role, is the person AI is generating what you would immediately picture (for example, does it generate “a construction worker” as a white, masculine, able-bodied man)?
    • Fix: Use specificity in your prompts to generate more diverse outputs, such as by specifying aspects of the desired person that push away from stereotypes.
  • Some AI hallucinates sources when it automatically (or when prompted) provides citations, providing sources that don’t exist or are fake. 
    • Fix: Check for credibility, and also check if the author and site are real, if it’s satire, and if it’s accurate.
  • Read laterally: if the AI doesn’t provide sources to check, pick out its arguments and assumptions and look for other (credible) articles on these topics to see if the information matches.

See also: 

  • Track your work: Use the track changes feature in Word or use GoogleDocs to show your changes over time or keep a record of your research process, including notes from sources, brainstorming ideas, and drafts.
  • Write multiple drafts: Save separate documents of your drafts as you revise and edit for clarity, flow, and proper grammar.
  • Use caution with paraphrasing tools: They may not always suggest original content.
  • Communicate any uses of AI helping tools with your instructor.
  • Get help at the Hacherl Research & Writing Studio: Get feedback and help with citations, then document this interaction.

In addition, writing generated by AI generally has certain red flags. Non-native English speakers and beginning writers might use simple sentence structures or phrasing and tone that differ from standard English. This can cause AI detection tools to mistake these as attempts of using AI writing tools. Writers can evaluate their writing as follows:

  • Focus on critical thinking: Demonstrate your understanding of the topic by offering your own interpretations, questions, and arguments.
  • Use a natural tone: Vary sentence length and structure, ask questions, avoid passive voice. 
  • Avoid overly complex or overly simple language: Use complex terms or jargon only when relevant.
  • Get feedback: Ask a peer or someone at the Hacherl Research & Writing Studio to review your work.

NOTE: Parts of these bulletpoints were generated and summarized in collaboration with Google Gemini and Microsoft CoPilot using the following prompt: “What can students do to be proactive in college courses that require a lot of writing, and may be required to show proof they did not use AI for their writing?

    • Be prepared to show your work: If you have not used AI, see if you have any versions of your work that you can show. If using GoogleDocs, it will have date- and time-stamped versions that you can share. If you used some kind of helping application, explain exactly how you used it. If you used AI-generated content when it was not specifically allowed, be prepared to discuss options and alternative work. See "How do I show that I did not use AI?" above.
    • Talk: If you did use AI, be prepared to talk about it. No matter what the situation, start with an honest communication via email with your instructor. If your instructor reached out to you first, be prepared to meet during office hours to discuss a resolution.
    • Be prepared for your grade to be impacted. If the instructor deems necessary, they may reduce your grade or even give the assignment a failing grade. When the grade is impacted, the plagiarism violation will be reported to the Academic Honesty office.
    • Be prepared to take anti-AI plagiarism training: If your instructor reports your AI plagiarism, the Academic Honesty office will conduct their own evaluation. If this is determined to be plagiarism and it is your first offense, it will be an educational experience, not go on your record, and you will likely be asked to take a self-directed training course.

    See also: Academic Honesty Violation Information for Students (Western Washington University)

    Generative AI Product Comparison

    The table below shows several AI generator tools, whether they require accounts, their limits and key characteristics. Products referenced may be used at your own risk and without specific endorsement by WWU.
    Comparison Elements ChatGPT
    by OpenAI
    Copilot
    by Microsoft (a.k.a. Bing Chat)
    Gemini
    by Google
    Designer
    by Microsoft
    FireFly 
    by Adobe
    Type Text generator; summarizer Text generator; internet searcher; image generation via DALL-E 3 Text generator; internet searcher; image generation Image generator; design Image generator and editor
    Free? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
    Account Non-school email account Limited functions without account; use WWU Microsoft account for higher limits and capabilities, including image generation Non-school email account Non-school email account WWU Microsoft account or other email accounts
    Model GPT-3.5 GPT-4 and GPT-4 Turbo usage only during low traffic Gemini DALL-E 3 (which uses GPT-4) trained on a dataset of licensed content, such as Adobe Stock, and public domain content where copyright has expired
    Platform web, iOS, Android web, iOS, Android web web web
    Interactions Unlimited chats, interactions, and history Chat limits: 5 with no account; 30 when signed in to WWU 240 requests per day for text/other; 6,000 for code generation No limit while in preview No limit; 1025 credits/month
    Sources Identified No Yes, links sources and citations (Bing) No, but provides option for verification No No
    Generates Code Yes Yes Yes No No
    Characteristics

    Dataset limited to before Jan. 2022;

    Threads saved indefinitely;

    Difficulty with longer projects

    Allows for voice input for searches;

    Threads saved for 30 days;

    Three chat modes: creative, balanced, precise;

    For images: Enhance/change colors; blur/remove background; change art style; change shape of the image (square to landscape); crop; filter; add or remove elements of the image; offers suggestions for content/style

    Can process images, audio, and video and provide chat descriptions;

    Allows for prompt response to be verified in Google search results

    Provides templates;

    Can incorporate uploaded media;

    Can generate captions;

    Includes typography;

    Allows for moving elements (basic animation);

    Basic image editing and templates via Creator

    Can incorporate uploaded reference image;

    Includes generative fill and text effects;

    Can adjust for composition, lighting, mood, style, size, visual intensity, colors, aperture, shutter speed, field of view, etc.;

    Basic image editing via Adobe Express;

    OK for Commercial-use

    Resources

    For more information, review the following: