As generative AI continues to disrupt work, education, and life as we know it, one major university is embracing it in all its glory. Harvard University is now using an artificial intelligence tool powered by ChatGPT to help teach beginner computer science courses and simultaneously free up teaching assistants.
Known as the CS50 Bot, the generative AI tool was rolled out to about 70 students this summer as part of the university's introductory class into the Computer Science program as a supportive tool for students.
The AI chatbot can give students personalized help by understanding their coding challenges with in-depth explanations and providing them with immediate feedback. This prevents students from becoming stuck and discouraged when TAs or professors aren't available. This can result in improved retention rates for both the curriculum and the university.
The AI bot isn't meant to replace teachers or teaching assistants but to "support students as we can through software and reallocate the most useful resources -- the humans -- to help students who need it most. It's not to reduce the number of teachers but to enhance them," as David Malan, the Gordon McKay Professor of the Practice of Computer Science put it.
He explained that this is a supportive tool for the students, TAs, and professors alike to make the most of the available resources.
Working with AI is an inevitable part of the future, and this is a tool that could also make the faculty's jobs easier by automating code style improvement suggestions, evaluating code design, troubleshooting issues, and answering the students' frequently asked questions to free up TAs' and professors' time, so they can focus on more interactive and engaging activities with students.
Other institutions have already encouraged the use of AI in the classroom but more are still working towards introducing it. Using AI in Harvard's computer science course could set a standard for the broader adoption of AI in higher education.