Skip to Main Content

Navigating Generative AI in Higher Education: An Introduction

This guide is designed to provide resources for navigating generative AI tools.

What is Generative AI and ChatGPT?

Generative AI is a type of machine learning that is trained on massive datasets to create new content based on a user's prompt or instructions. Generative AI tools can be trained to create new text, images, audio, and even computer programs or code. As this is a technology that is quickly evolving, this guide is meant to be an introduction to generative AI and may be updated regularly. 

ChatGPT is one of the most talked about generative AI tools available. Users can sign-up for a free account and access ChatGPT 3.5. The dataset used to train  ChatGPT 4.0 is available as a paid service and is "more reliable, creative, and able to handle much more nuanced instructions than GPT 3.5," according to OpenAI. ChatGPT was trained on information through September 2021, which means it cannot provide answers to prompts about information after this date.

ChatGPT 3.5 and 4.0 are both subject to hallucinations and social biases. Hallucinations occur when a generative AI tool provides an answer that is false or made-up. It is important to be aware of the potential for hallucinations and social bias in all content provided by these tools. Users should always double-check that the information generated by AI can be verified through other reliable sources. 

Other Generative AI Tools

There are other AI tools similar to ChatGPT that are currently available for free use. While they have similarities, there are key differences to know. 

  • Microsoft Copilot is extremely powerful and is another OpenAI generated tool (Microsoft is an investor of OpenAI.) It offers three modes of use, all of which are connected to the internet. This means that the information acquired through Copilot is likely to be more accurate than ChatGPT, though it can also be prone to hallucinations. Creative Mode uses GPT-4, which is one of the reasons why it seems more advanced than the free version of ChatGPT. You may have heard that sometimes Copilot can generate "weird" or unsettling content. Safeguards have been put in place to limit this type of content generation. 
  • Perplexity is an AI search engine that also utilizes GPT-4 and is connected to the internet. Users can choose a specific search mode, such as Wikipedia or YouTube or the entire internet. One of the more unique features is a function called "co-pilot", which asks users clarifying questions to make responses more relevant to the initial query. 
  • Google's Gemini uses a different type of training model, called the Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA), to generate responses to user prompts. According to Google, "[t]he language model learns by “reading” trillions of words that help it pick up on patterns that make up human language so it’s good at predicting what might be reasonable responses." The difference in this model from GPT-4 is that it is meant to be more "conversational."

There are many more Generative AI tools available, including those that create images, audio, help organize files, summarize information, and more. 

Privacy Concerns and Generative AI

Before you use generative AI tools, you may want to consider the potential privacy risks. Many tools use user-interactions with Chatbots for training purposes. While companies like OpenAI and Google state that all identifying information is removed first, there is still a risk associated with offering personal information or details to AI tools. CNN Business published an article that highlights some of the unique aspects of generative AI and privacy in March 2023. As with any technology, it is advisable to familiarize yourself with the privacy policy and user agreement of the product you are using prior to sign-up. It is a good rule of thumb not to share any information with an AI chatbot that you would not want to be freely available to the public.

Research & Instruction Librarian