IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

How Are Higher Ed Instructors Using GenAI Today?

While ChatGPT remains king in terms of GenAI tools used by college professors to create content and guide lessons, other tools are emerging for specific purposes such as transcription, coding and making presentations.

A robot AI teacher or speaker at a podium giving a lecture in front of mathematical and chemistry concepts
According to a recent survey of educators from over 1,200 institutions conducted by the ed-tech company Cengage, about 75 percent of higher-ed faculty believe that generative AI will radically change higher education. And while most faculty remain cautious and apprehensive about what that change entails — only 16 percent report feeling prepared — more and more educators are growing comfortable with using generative AI tools to guide lessons and create course content.

Among those is Regan Gurung, a psychology professor at Oregon State University and executive director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, who said he’s made use of generative AI content creation tools such as for creating engaging presentations, in addition to using ChatGPT to assist in developing grading rubrics and other course-planning uses. He believes ChatGPT remains the most widely used AI tool among instructors due to its accessibility and affordability, but noted that the university is planning to adopt more AI tools for instructors interested in using them as faculty continues to warm up to the technology.

“We are waiting here at Oregon State to get Microsoft Bing Enterprise [Microsoft Copilot] rolled out on campus. Once that happens, we will probably use that more. … But the reality is there are just so many things right now that look different, but [are] just a little wrapper on top of ChatGPT. … So many places are using OpenAI stuff,” he said, noting that many AI-integrated ed-tech tools utilize similar large language models.

At the University of Texas at San Antonio, instructors like Mary Dixson, a professor in the department of communication, have made some use of AI voice transcription tools like AudioPen, which she said can be particularly useful for compiling and organizing meeting and lecture notes. She said the tool can be helpful for students and instructors alike, particularly for those who have disabilities that impede their ability to write. She added that tools such as these can also be used to improve users’ writing skills through edit suggestions.

“If somebody has a learning disability that affects the way they write or the way that they type, then the ability to use your voice to do this work is really great, and it can help take your voice notes and turn them into professional types of writing," she said. "It becomes a voice editor. I would definitely recommend AudioPen as a really good tool for students.”

Dixson also recommended Goblin Tools’ “Formalizer,” which polishes writing to make it more professional.

Noting similar use cases, Theresa Merrick, an instructor and assistant director of the Writing Center at Kansas State University, said generative AI tools can help students get started on research paper assignments. This use of GenAI has become more accepted in recent months among writing instructors who were initially more concerned about how the tool would be used for plagiarism among students. She said she has also experimented with using the AI platform SciSpace for teaching research skills.

“I'm definitely curious about any tools that are helping with research and searching for ideas,” she said. “One of the [AI tools] I really love is SciSpace, which operates as a kind of a literature-review tool, and a way to bring sources together and compare sources, or ideas across sources.”

While the market for GenAI tools in education is continuing to grow amid advancements in AI, ChatGPT remains the go-to for most instructors experimenting with the technology, according to Kristy Kelly, a writing instructor and director of writing also at Oregon State University. She said many newer tools require paid subscriptions, making the free version of ChatGPT among the most practical options for instructors.

“I guess what's been facing a lot of us is the paywall problem," she said. "That's one of the reasons we keep kind of turning back to ChatGPT."

Mark Spanier, a math professor and interim dean of the Dakota State University College of Arts and Sciences, agreed that ChatGPT reigns supreme as far as GenAI tools used by instructors. However, he said, he’s also made use of programs like Replit AI’s free online code generator and GitHub Copilot for exercises where students can compare code to identify computational errors, among other applications.

“I've tried a few other ones, but the simplicity of ChatGPT has always been what I've come back to,” he said. “Now that we have [functions from] Copilot, we can have a full discussion of what an algorithm is going to be. … [When] I'm typing up the actual code in front of the class, it will start filling in what it predicts the next line will be, and sometimes the next couple of lines of code.”
Brandon Paykamian is a staff writer for Government Technology. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from East Tennessee State University and years of experience as a multimedia reporter, mainly focusing on public education and higher ed.