Should ChatGPT be Allowed in MBA Classes?

AI can create credible-sounding facts but may also produce false data and incorrect information.

 – Bharat Singh Thapa

ChatGPT is a natural language processing chatbot that utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) technology, enabling users to engage in human-like conversations. The acronym GPT stands for ‘generative pre-trained transformer’ and was developed by OpenAI. This nonprofit organization also created Dall-E-2, an AI art generator, and Whisper, an automatic speech recognition system. ChatGPT 3.5 was initially released in November 2022 and later updated to ChatGPT 4 in March 2023.

ChatGPT can generate 25,000 words and can understand over 26 languages. This language model has been trained on vast amounts of text data and images from the internet using machine learning. It uses this training to generate responses to questions based on patterns it has seen in the data. It is not just a chatbot, it can generate articles, summaries, essays, or code in seconds. Other AI tools have their own features. The most popular AI tools used by students and teachers in teaching-learning systems are ChatGPT, Google Bard, Bing AI, and Claude.

Generative AI tools are gaining popularity among business students. Last December, when I first surveyed “how many students have heard the term ChatGPT?” in my class of MBA, hardly anyone had any idea about it. At present, almost everyone uses it or any other Gen AI tool in their assignments, projects, and readings. According to the latest available data, ChatGPT currently has over 1.5 billion total visits on its website (September 2023) and around 200 million users across the globe. About 61 percent of users are below the age of 34 and two-thirds of total users are male.

AI can create credible-sounding facts but may also produce false data and incorrect information, thus students must have sufficient knowledge about their topics. Students need practice and interactive training with AI models to generate meaningful text, which will benefit their studies and future readiness. The integration of AI into classrooms requires time and dedication. A classroom policy is required to help students understand and use AI tools effectively as a way to enhance learning and raise expectations. Hence, learning is becoming more challenging and rewarding after the emergence of ChatGPT.

ChatGPT in MBA class 
The roles of MBA students have evolved significantly in the dynamic landscape of business and technology. They are no longer confined to traditional areas like finance and marketing but now embrace creativity and innovation as driving forces in the business world. ChatGPT can play a pivotal role in this transformation by offering various benefits to MBA students. How MBA students can benefit from such tools? Here are some uses of ChatGPT among MBA students:

Idea Generation: MBA students often engage in brainstorming sessions and need creative ideas for projects, business plans, or marketing strategies. ChatGPT can generate ideas, helping students explore different possibilities. It may be helpful for them to become more creative and innovative in their thinking. Exposing students to fresh perspectives and innovative ideas can empower them to devise solutions for business case problems that may have eluded them otherwise.

Writing Assistance: Humans have boundless creativity. However, the challenge of communicating their concepts in written or visual form restricts vast numbers of people from contributing new ideas. ChatGPT can remove this obstacle. In MBA programs, writing reports, business proposals, case preparation, and presentations carry a significant portion. ChatGPT has the potential to assist in drafting and editing content, improving the clarity and quality of case preparation and written assignments. It generates text that is clear, concise, and well-organized. This is particularly important for Non-native English-speaking students.

Research Assistance: MBA students need to analyze market data, economic indicators, consumer behavior, and competitive landscapes. By providing instant access to a vast reservoir of knowledge, ideas, and language expertise, ChatGPT has become a great research assistant for aspiring business leaders in making better decisions. They find it helpful to get and summarize relevant information from a variety of sources quickly and efficiently. This can also save a significant amount of time and effort of students, and help them to develop a more comprehensive understanding of their research issues.

Risks of Using ChatGPT in Academia
Educators have concerns about the risks of this new technology in teaching and evaluating students. A common challenge that educators face is plagiarism, the use of AI in written content reflected in assignments, exams, papers, essays, and quizzes; and promoting ethical research with the use of reliable and valid sources of information. At the beginning of this year, New York City’s Department of Education as well as the Los Angeles Unified School District in the USA banned the use of ChatGPT because it inspired students to cheat. Studies have shown that the over-dependence of students on AI causes them to deviate from important learning opportunities such as critical thinking, problem-solving, social skills, independent projects, and interaction with professors and other students in class.

The ChatGPT website also warns users about how they collect data for training the model. It may occasionally generate incorrect information. It may produce harmful instructions or biased content. Additionally, MBA students should also be aware of some limitations of ChatGPT.

  • ChatGPT may not have up-to-date information about the specific topic. For example;
    Author: “Could you provide an account of the Global economic slowdown?” ChatGPT: “I apologize for any inconvenience, but I do not have access to real-time data or the ability to provide the latest information. As of my last update in January 2022, the global economy had been facing various challenges ….”
  • There is a risk of errors and fabrications with any model, so there is a possibility of students learning the wrong thing. In one of the incidences, I tried to find out the journal article citation made by ChatGPT but could not find it on the website of the journal. It is important for students to carefully review any information that they generate using these tools, and to verify it with some reliable sources before using it in their work.
  • The answers of ChatGPT are hard to assess for students who are new to a topic. To achieve high-quality outcomes with it, students need to invest effort in refining prompts that require hard work. Thus, they should not blindly trust AI-generated information, especially numbers or facts. It’s incorrect unless students are certain or can verify it from another source. Thus, it’s most effective for topics that students are familiar with.

UNESCO has raised concerns about Generative AI in education – from shorter-term concerns such as cheating to longer-term concerns such as the further expansion of the digital divide and whether these models will try to take over human roles and replace human creativity. Countries with less ability to develop such models or feed them with massive datasets will find themselves further marginalized.

The Changing Role of Professors 
Professors are transitioning from traditional lecturers to facilitators of learning. In such a context, they should not only provide students with a more pleasant and rewarding educational experience but also prepare them to take charge of their learning and participate in a society in which learning is a cooperative more than a competitive act. AI is a tool that has tremendous potential. But, like all tools, it has its limitations too. To create productive and meaningful content with AI, students must learn to work with AI tools or ChatGPT.

The role of the professor is becoming more facilitator than the lecturer. ChatGPT can provide students with access to information and resources that they need to learn. Professors can then focus on helping students to make sense of the information, develop their critical thinking skills, and apply what they have learned to real-life scenarios.

Professors should focus on “how to learn” rather than “what to learn”. ChatGPT can be used to teach students how to evaluate information critically, how to identify biases, and how to learn independently. ChatGPT provides a balanced analysis of the pros and cons of alternatives. This is becoming increasingly important in the age of infobesity.

It is imperative to become more creative in teaching methods in the age of AI. ChatGPT can be used to create new and innovative learning experiences for students. For example, professors can use ChatGPT to generate case studies, role-playing exercises, feedback on student work, and lead case discussions more effectively. A professor of finance can use ChatGPT to generate a worksheet for facilitating a Role Play exercise in which students negotiate a Loan with a Banker. Similarly, in a complex business case discussion, the professor may find ChatGPT highly useful in crafting the discussion blocks, finding good questions, and providing relevant examples to help students engage in meaningful discussions. Here is an example.

Author: “Could you prepare three top discussion questions for the class discussion on the case “Enron Collapse”?”
ChatGPT: Certainly! Here are three top discussion questions for a class discussion on the Enron collapse:

  1. What were the key factors and ethical issues that contributed to the Enron scandal, and how did they lead to the company’s collapse?
  2. How did the Enron scandal impact the accounting profession, corporate governance, and regulatory oversight, and what lessons can be learned from this case to prevent similar corporate fraud in the future?
  3. In your opinion, what are the most important takeaways from the Enron scandal, and how has it shaped your understanding of corporate responsibility, ethics, and transparency in business?

The Changing Role of Students 
Students are becoming more independent learners, critical thinkers, and creative users in their dealings with ChatGPT. It gives students the ability to learn at their own pace and in their own way. Students can use it to find information and insights that are relevant to their interests and learning goals. It can be used to help students develop their critical thinking skills by exposing them to a variety of perspectives and by helping them to evaluate information critically. Similarly, the use of ChatGPT can be used to help students to be more creative in their learning by providing them with new perspectives and ideas. For example, students can use it to brainstorm ideas for a business plan or business simulation. But the big caution is: “If used unethically, this technology could diminish their learning process and objectives”.

Policy for AI class
Universities should help by creating an environment in which students and professors get a chance to practice ChatGPT fairly. Professors must set a clear classroom policy that forecasts potential problems and offers guidance for acceptable use. Honesty is the best policy in AI class. For example, Harvard Business School has set an Academic Standard of Conduct and clearly stated the dos and don’ts of Using ChatGPT and Artificial Intelligence (AI) Tools arguing the Responsible Experiment with Gen AI. Likewise, Stanford University also does not permit the use of AI tools in completing an assignment or answering exam questions.

HBS professors Ethan Mollick and Lilach Mollick made suggestions for crafting AI policy for undergraduate and MBA students. They provided the following checklist that professors should consider while preparing AI policy:

√ Under what circumstances AI use is permitted or forbidden
√ How students should cite or credit AI?
√ A warning about the technology’s tendency toward providing deceptive data and clear rules regarding students’ accountability for AI output
√ A notice about using AI ethically and responsibly
√ Discussion of the need to use AI as a tool to learn, not just to produce content

Can ChatGPT Leverage Creativity?
ChatGPT and other Gen AI tools can enhance human creativity and improve innovative efforts by assisting in generating novel ideas and refining the qualities of raw ideas. Like the invention of the calculator in the past, AI can find a new way to unleash large potentials of people who have great ideas but cannot communicate in written or visual form. It also helps in evaluating the dimensions of creativity such as novelty, feasibility, specificity, impact, and workability.

AI has tremendous possibilities of making learning students-centric and promises to democratize education. It may offer the opportunity for academia to redesign their curricula in such a way that students can be more creative and innovative, and can overcome the present challenges of Students Centered Learning. Students can more actively engage in the learning process and foster their divergent thinking through the use of AI.

As opportunities are abundant, risks associated with this new technology in the teaching-learning process should be equally considered by educators. For example, AI is not human and cannot have the insights, feelings, experience, or understanding of the local context that human beings have. Therefore, its greatest potential is not replacing humans but rather assisting humans in their efforts to create incredible solutions to real-world problems. Instead of taking ChatGPT as a threat, educators and their institutions should nevertheless analyze its advantages and use them in favor of the students to achieve their educational objectives.

Educators should proactively adopt AI tools and explore their use to elevate the teaching experience. While AI’s transformative influence might pose challenges to educators, its importance for our student’s future success is even greater. It is our responsibility to equip them for a dynamic business world shaped by AI.

Thapa is an Assistant Professor and Director of MBA Finance Program at the Central Department of Management, Tribhuvan University.

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