A while ago, an AI tool called ChatGPT took the world by storm. This article dives into some of the ways that this tool can be used by learning designers.

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There’s a new kid on the block that everyone’s talking about… ChatGPT, the AI that needs no introduction!

Well, ChatGPT is not new anymore, since it’s been around for a while, but the uptake is quite high with people asking whether it’s going to replace a human creative person, and I thought I should jump in with my two cents. So here you go…

First, what is it?

The GPT in ChatGPT stands for Generative Pre-training Transformer, and it’s a language model developed by OpenAI that can generate human-like text based on a given input.

With the sort-of-scienty explanation out of the way, let’s now try to understand ChatGPT in simpler terms. It is an Artificial Intelligence based computer program that can write just like a human. ChatGPT can converse with you like a person, helping you write stories or articles, and even answer questions. The best part is, unlike other AI models that you’ve interacted with before, this one has the capability to hold a sustained conversation, just like a human.

Wait, what! Have I interacted with AI models before?

Yes, you have. Siri, Alexa, and Google Home are all AI models that have been a part of our lives for a few years now.

A major difference between these older models and ChatGPT is that while you can talk to Siri and Alexa, you can only communicate with ChatGPT via a text interface, and it will respond to you back in text. But the good news? ChatGPT’s interface is so simple that anyone can use it. In other words, using ChatGPT is as easy as texting your friend.

Another key difference is that, unlike the older models which can only answer single questions, ChatGPT has the ability to hold a back-and-forth conversation (to a limit, of course), similar to how you’d have with another human. This is a huge advantage.

When I talk to instructional designers, content writers or anyone in the creative field in general, the one question that seems to be on their mind is whether AI is going to take away their jobs. The answer is no. Not yet, at least.

While ChatGPT and its peers might be great at generating content, producing summaries and answering questions at a lightning pace, it’s not without its flaws. Bias, data privacy, accuracy, reliability, and plagiarism are among the many issues that have been reported by early testers.

Also remember that these models are nothing more than tools. And as with any tool, the quality of output depends on the input you feed into it, and how you utilize what it churns out.

AI brings intelligence at speed. But you need to bring the critical thinking, the domain expertise, the human aspects, and most of all, the ability to discern the good output from the bad, and take only what’s appropriate and then tweak it to your need.

So, think of AI not as a replacement, but as an assistant.

As a learning designer, you can use ChatGPT to assist you in several ways. Let’s look at a few:

1. Write scenarios / stories

Let’s say you’re developing a course on having open conversations. And you want to write a mini story to set up a scenario where an executive is exhausted, and needs to have a conversation with his boss. The prompt I typed in to ChatGPT is given below, along with the response.

Prompt: Write a short story about a middle-aged executive who’s struggling to manage his priorities. His workload keeps increasing, and on top of that, his boss now wants him to handle additional responsibilities as well.

ChatGPT: As John sat at his desk, staring at the never-ending to-do list in front of him, he couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed. His workload had been steadily increasing over the past few months, and just when he thought he had finally caught up, his boss dropped a bombshell on him.

“I need you to take on some additional responsibilities,” his boss said. “I know you’re already stretched thin, but I have full confidence in your ability to handle it.”

John knew he couldn’t say no, but he was struggling to see how he would be able to fit everything in. He had a family to take care of, after all, and he didn’t want to sacrifice his personal life for his career.

This is the first part of the output that ChatGPT produced in response to the generic prompt above, which was written without much background or context. Imagine if you tweaked your prompt to describe the conditions of your scenario, and kept tweaking it, till you get the result you’re looking for.

You then have a very workable outline of a story, which you can fine-tune and use in your content.

2. Write questions and possible options

Already have a scenario fleshed out? Have the content in place? Use GPT to generate a few possible questions, along with options. As with everything else, you will need to run a fine lens through the output and then pick and edit what works for you.

And remember that ChatGPT can hold a sustained conversation, so you can ask follow-up questions to tweak the response, or even simply ask it to give you another response if you’re not satisfied with the first one.

3. Rewrite a particular piece of text in a given tone

You can ask ChatGPT to rewrite a paragraph with a sense of humor, or in a more serious corporate tone, as though explaining to a five-year old, etc. Yes, really 😊. For example:

I asked ChatGPT to: “…rewrite the above story in informal language, with a slight sense of humor”, and here’s what it coughed up:

John was feeling super stressed sitting at his desk, staring at the never-ending to-do list. His workload had been going up and up for a few months now, and just when he thought he was finally caught up, his boss hit him with some more stuff to do.

“Hey man, I need you to take on some extra responsibilities,” his boss said. “I know you’re already super busy, but I’m sure you can handle it.”

John couldn’t help but roll his eyes at his boss’s comment. Sure, he may be able to handle a lot, but he had a family to take care of too. He couldn’t sacrifice his personal life for his career.

See? Same content, different prompts… and you have different results. Similarly, you can ask GPT to write in formal corporate speak or in simple, clear terms. Try different prompts and see what it returns. And use the one that best suits your needs.

4. Draw up course outlines and lesson plans

For example, write the prompt: “Create an outline for an e-learning course on xxxx, using this content as input. The course is for corporate employees, and the duration should not exceed 30 minutes.” Note that ChatGPT has the ability to take web links as input, so you can point to your base content hosted somewhere on the Internet, and ChatGPT will read it and create an outline for you.

5. Generate ideas

ChatGPT can help you generate ideas for content by suggesting potential topics or angles based on your input.

For example, I asked: What are some reasons people do not follow password security protocols, even when they are aware of what it states?

And the response: There are several reasons why people might not follow password security protocols, even when they are aware of what they are. Some of these reasons include:

Lack of convenience: Many people find it inconvenient to create and remember strong passwords, especially if they have to follow complex rules for password creation.

Lack of understanding: Some people might not fully understand the importance of password security or how to create strong passwords, leading them to choose weaker passwords that are easier to remember.

Complacency: Some people may be aware of password security protocols but feel that they are not at risk of having their accounts hacked, leading them to be complacent about their password choices.

Pressure to meet deadlines: In some cases, people might prioritize meeting deadlines over password security and choose weaker passwords in order to log in and complete tasks more quickly.

Limited password choices: Some systems may have limits on the length or complexity of passwords, which can make it more difficult for people to create strong passwords that meet the requirements.

Couldn’t have been more right!

Sure, if you’re designing a learning solution on password security, you will be exploring all the barriers that prevent the adoption of the said security protocol. But you have this assistant at your fingertips, and all you have to do is ask. Then take this basic list to your SME and ask them to validate it. The SME doesn’t have to spend time building the list for you from scratch, and you get your input sooner. Win-win!

6. Proofreading

Need another pair of eyes to read through your content and suggest edits / changes? ChatGPT can help you proofread your content by suggesting alternative phrases or corrections for grammar and spelling errors.

7. Summarizing / Expansion

Have a lengthy report or document you don’t have time to read fully? Ask ChatGPT to summarize it for you, and generate a list of the key points discussed. So if you’re dreading to open that 950-page PDF that your SME sent you, all you have to do is invoke your magic (ahem!) assistant, and it will do your footwork for you. Or, have an idea that needs to be fleshed out? Write a one-to-two-line summary, and ask GPT to expand on it.

These are the ways that I could think of where ChatGPT can be of assistance in learning design. I’m pretty sure there are countless other applications, with our imagination being the only limit.

But as said earlier, it is but a tool, and like all tools, its impact is in the hands of the user. In ChatGPT’s own words, “Sometimes, ChatGPT might not understand what people are saying or might not write things that make sense, so people have to check and fix its words before they use them. ChatGPT is very good at writing lots of words very quickly, but it needs people to help it learn new things and make sure it writes things that are accurate and make sense.”

So what do you think? There are other parts of this article that ChatGPT has contributed to. Can you spot them?

Although this article primarily focuses on ChatGPT, it is not the only AI model out there as you’re already aware. There are several others, some of which are similar to ChatGPT, but others offer different kinds of automation. For example, I use an AI-based service called Otter, which offers speech to text transcriptions. If you’re having a meeting with your stakeholders for instance, you could use Otter to record your meeting and create a transcript in real-time. Now, combine this with the power of ChatGPT, to which you can input the transcript, and it can then generate a summary of the meeting and key points in a matter of seconds… saving you hours of time.

I haven’t had the chance to explore the other available options. But there’s a whole treasure trove out there, if only we take the time to find out.

I’m not an expert on AI and its applications. I also generally don’t like to make predictions about the future. But it looks like AI, and ChatGPT especially, is poised to change the game for good.

Do you agree? I’d love to know what you think.

Written by Srividya Kumar, Co-Founder @ Learnnovators

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