Learn with A.I.

As many students have already discovered, there are all kinds of ways to use A.I. to do your schoolwork for you.  Our advice to you?  Do not make the mistake of trying to use AI to cut corners in your classes.  Your professors decide how AI can be used in their courses. Typical statements you may see on a syllabus may read: 

"Use of AI (such as ChatGPT) in this class.  Using AI (such as ChatGPT) to assist in completing assignments in this class is prohibited.  If you do use AI, you will be committing plagiarism* and will be subject to penalties in this class and sanctions by Indiana University."

Or your faculty member take a different approach:

"Use of AI (such as ChatGPT) in this class.  Using AI (such as ChatGPT) to assist in completing assignments will be allowed in the following ways: [List of acceptable uses, e.g. “In Assignment x, will be using and citing ChatGPT as part of the assignment.”] If you use AI in an unauthorized manner, you will be committing plagiarism* and will be subject to penalties in this class and sanctions by Indiana University."

Be very sure that you clearly understand how you can use AI to work on assignments in your courses. 

Working with AI to Learn

Here, we want to talk about how you can actually work with these incredible tools to improve your learning by freeing you up so you can concentrate on where the real value is:  What’s happening inside your own head and what that means for your growth as an increasingly confident, educated, capable person (as opposed to just working through your educational tasks as quickly as possible).  This is called metacognition – how you think about your own thinking, assess it, and decide what you need to take it to the next level. 

One of the biggest challenges about this is that, in college, you’re doing a huge amount of your learning outside of class through self-teaching.  As your own teacher, then, it might help to think like a teacher, many of whom love this saying – “the one doing the most work is doing the most learning.”  To put that into action with A.I., we want it as our springboard, facilitator, coach, or starting point -- not as the actual doer of the work.  A.I. can free us up to spend our time and attention on the activities that will have the biggest payoff in terms of our learning.  Remember that, in response to certain prompts, A.I. has been known to make up quotes, facts, and even whole sources that are incorrect and/or simply don’t exist. In the A.I. world, these are known as "hallucinations." Don't be like the lawyers who ended up submitting fictitious cases in their brief and got fined $5000, as reported here by CBS News

Just two more things before we get to the ideas below about how to work with these tools:

  1.  What if one of the most important things about your learning is not just what you're learning and how efficient it is, but who you're learning it with? One of the things that helps us thrive the most in college -- and at every other stage in life-- is social connection.  For every suggestion of how to use AI below, you can get out into the world, meet someone -- an academic coach, a tutor, a professor, a course assistant, another new friend in class -- and learn as we are built to do best -- interactively, in person, with each other.
  2. The deepest learning comes from the things youmake yourself -- the writing, the explanations, the projects, the ideas. Your ideas will always be built, to some extent, on those that came before you. Using AI ethically and responsibly, just like any other tool, not only improves your learning, it also means you get to express gratitude for the people whose work you're drawing upon. When you provide proper citations (i.e., identifying for your reader where you used AI to help generate your work), you clarify for your audience what you are adding to the world, so you get to lay claim to the ideas that are yours, your own contribution and original thinking!

See below where we’ve collected a few ideas for how to make that all work. 

Ideas for Using AI

As universities and professors puzzle through how to develop policies surrounding A.I., have a conversation with your instructors about their thoughts and recommendations.  They may have set out their class policy on AI in the syllabus.  If you are in doubt about what is or is not allowed, ask!  What kinds of ways of working with A.I. in their classes would they support?  How do they specifically ask you not to use it?  What possibilities and limitations does your instructor foresee that they could share with you in this class and field of study?  Are there specific tools they might recommend you use or caution you not to use in support of your growth and learning? 


You might start by asking your A.I. tool of choice:

  • how best to create a balanced schedule in college if you’re taking a certain number of credits
  • advice for recommended study time for those classes over 5 days
  • healthy amount of hours to sleep so your brain can recharge and consolidate your learning
  • how to make time for healthy meals (or even help planning those meals on campus or for your crew at home)
  • Help with other family responsibilities and so on

Or, you can bring it all together and prompt it with something like this:  

“Act like my personal assistant.  I am taking the following college classes.  Create a weekly schedule for me that includes study time, meal times, and sleep time...”  

See what A.I. creates for you (you may need a calendar plugin for your A.I. app to make some more direct scheduling happen) and work to improve and refine it from there in your paper planner and/or electronic calendar.  You could even describe a paper or other project and see what response you get about how to break that down into small, manageable steps over time (“I have to write a 5 page paper this week.  Break this down into smaller steps so I'm working on it a little each day.”)  

Dr. Philippa Hardman came up with this idea, using ChatGPT and 3 different note-taking formats – Cornell Notes, Concept/Mind Mapping, and Driving Questions. After you take your class notes, you could prompt your A.I. tool with (paraphrasing Hardman’s piece):  “You are a professor of [insert subject of your notes here].  First you will review my notes on [subject] below. Explain core concepts back to me using simple terms and analogies, identify any core concepts that I missed, provide real-world examples of each, compare and contrast them, explain how they’re related, then create a list of quiz questions based on them to test my knowledge of these concepts.  Wait until I answer each question and then help me correct and refine my answers and repeat the questions until I have answered all sufficiently.” Then you actually paste your notes into the prompt and get to work.  If you want to use a specific note-taking method, revise the first instruction to add "structure my notes using [note-taking method]." Wow!


Don't understand that difficult concept or type of problem from your college course?  Ask an A.I. chatbot to explain it to you at a high school level or a middle school level if you're still struggling to grasp it, etc.  Then, try to create your own explanation in your own words and act like you’re the teacher (a form of Elaboration, or take it even further with the Feynman Technique).  Some tools can help you generate flash cards and practice quizzes so you can maximize your time by focusing on learning that content on a deeper level over time – but make sure you’re directing the A.I. to use trusted sources.


If your professor allows this usage of AI in their course, when you’re working on a paper or speech, try pasting in some of your sentences when you get stuck, ask it to find the holes in your argument, or prompt it to help you edit from the perspective of good writing principles or a certain style manual.  You could ask it to tailor your draft speech, website text, or social media post to a particular kind of audience and then polish it from there based on your own style and sense of purpose.  If you get stuck in your creative work, ask A.I. to help you with whatever that step is to build momentum – the planning, nailing the problem you’re trying to solve, where to go next... Then, take all of this further by using your own reasoning to evaluate and learn from the suggestions you get so you can carry that forward on your own to the next situation. 


Sometimes the point of what you’re reading, watching, or listening to for a class may actually be the experience of going through that itself and the important learning this experience offers.  But, other times, reading (especially) can pose particularly difficult challenges – it could be the style of writing, the length, the specialized terms or background knowledge and context that aren’t explained that the author assumes you already know.  For those terms and background knowledge, try the strategies above to get A.I. to help you generate and absorb explanations as you go or ask for a broader perspective on its significance to a field of study or culture in general (Ex. “Define special terms in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” and/or “Explain the significance of _____, “Synthesize all the book reviews of The Feeling of What Happens” ).  Then, try creating your own perspective on this material that not only captures its arguments on its own terms, but takes it further to connect it with your own life and experience, other examples you can think of, and helps you to form your own unique  position on the merits and weaknesses of the arguments presented.