Temple faculty, librarians move forward to understand AI in education

Temple has created several resources and embarked on studies to understand AI technology and its place in education since the release of ChatGPT a year ago.

Temple adapts to the rise of AI tools in education, amending policies and conducting studies in an effort to address faculty concerns. | FERNANDO GAXIOLA / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Last semester, Temple Library and faculty members from the Center for the Advancement of Teaching conducted a survey of five classes that permit the use of Artificial Intelligence, analyzing students and professors’ reactions to the tools.

The survey, which came after the university amended its policy on classroom AI use in August 2023, had mixed results. Some students were nervous, while others took to it immediately. Many were concerned that, even when explicitly permitted to use AI tools, they would be reprimanded for cheating.

“The students who had discussed it in the previous semester in their classes felt more prepared, they felt like they understood the tools better,” said Stephanie Fiore, associate vice provost and senior director at CAT. “They felt like they could navigate using those tools a little bit better than the students who didn’t really have any grounding in it. For me, it’s important to talk to students about it, to engage them in conversations about [AI].”

The release of ChatGPT in November 2022 brought AI tools into the public eye. In the landscape of higher education, many Temple faculty members have been concerned with potential plagiarism and figuring out how to AI-proof assignments.

Temple amended its policy on AI software in the classroom just before the start of the Fall 2023 semester, allowing faculty members to determine if and how generative AI tools can be used to complete course assignments and homework. 

“We realize that AI is most likely going to be sticking around,” Fiore said. “That means that we have a responsibility to think about whether or not we need to train our students on how to use those tools effectively, but also ethically. That doesn’t mean that it’s appropriate for every class. It doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for every assignment. But it does mean that we do have to grapple with it and figure out what that means for education and for the future for students.”


Generative AI is software capable of generating content, like images or text, in response to prompts. 

Caitlin Shanley, the coordinator of learning and student success at Temple Libraries, is one Temple librarian testing AI tools for their capabilities to aid in research.

This technology could benefit a user in the brainstorming, or “presearch” stage, as Shanley calls it. AI can come up with keywords to help students navigate library research tools, offer examples of a writing style the student may be unfamiliar with and provide a start to a project or assignment if the student is stuck on a blank page.

“It’s just these tools are not very good at writing,” Shanley said. “They can write something that sounds very generic, but that’s not what you want. That’s not the type of writing that you want to be generating. It’s sort of like the average of all of the rest of writing that already exists.”

The softwares do have some additional downsides. AI tools can be prone to bias and “hallucinating” facts, occasions where the tool will make up information. ChatGPT once gave Fiore an entire essay and analysis on a painting that didn’t exist, she said.

It also can’t acquire any paywalled information from library databases, which can prevent the user from understanding the scope of their research.

Despite these findings, Temple has yet to find exactly how the rapidly growing technology fits into higher education.

Temple became one of fifteen universities involved in the “Making AI Generative for Higher Education” study beginning in the Fall 2023 semester. The two-year collaboration project seeks to assess emerging AI applications most likely to impact teaching, learning and research activities and explore the needs of institutions, instructors and scholars as they navigate this environment, according to Ithaka S+R, an organization that works with and advises academic institutions, who leads the study.

“Whenever we are a part of groups like [this study], you’re helping to foster discovery and helping to do some thinking around what this disruptor means for higher ed,” Fiore said.

The participating universities are collaborating with each other in the study’s first year, discussing their experiences with AI tools. This semester, the involved Temple staff, like Fiore, will determine a research question they’ll pursue for the remainder of the study.


Temple has added an “AI guide” to the university library website, which lists various AI tools that have free versions and could be useful for research. Each tool is recommended for a different purpose like finding research, summarization and quantitative and qualitative data.

“All of these tools have rhetoric on their websites, they do direct marketing to students, and they kind of claim to be the one tool that you need, like ‘This tool does everything, it’s gonna make your research so great,’” Shanley said. “But none of them are really a perfect solution. We just want people, if they are going to use them for their research, to make sure that they do a little digging into how the tool works.”

The “AI report card” available in the guide describes the criteria for assessing a helpful AI tool. The library recommends tools which receive a “good grade” in areas like accessibility, data usage, relevant and accurate information and proper sourcing.

Shanley is working with the first-year writing program to find a useful AI research tool for its students as they learn how to do research. She will present her results to the first-year writing faculty in February.

The library is also in the final draft stage to publish its “AI tutorial,” a tool designed to help students figure out when they should use AI in their research in the first place.

“[We want students] to think critically about the information sources they do use, depending on what it is that they need to accomplish and then to be able to think for themselves, ‘Sure, here’s where AI or Google or Wikipedia or any other information resources going to be important to me and helpful to me, but also, what are the tools that I need to present my instructor with well thought out, well researched, well-written research paper?’” said Steven Bell, associate university librarian. 


On Jan. 18, Arizona State University became the first university to partner with OpenAI and purchase a license to access and distribute the full version of ChatGPT to students.

While Temple won’t be taking those steps for a while, if at all, further integration of AI into academic life is likely, Bell said.

Ex Libris, the company that develops the library’s catalog, announced its interest in AI’s capability for article summarization and conversational discovery, a search tool that allows the user to “talk” to the search bar when researching in October 2023. EBSCO, the parent company to dozens of library databases Temple uses, is looking into the same technology — including generated content recommendations. 

The challenge with encouraging students to use library databases is its learning curve, which is why many students might not use the library at all. AI could help students find the databases they need or identify good search terms for their topic, Bell said.

“We’re building into what we already do, and what we’ve done for a long time: helping students learn how to be effective, critically thinking researchers and building AI into all of that,” Bell said “And I’m sure there’s a long way to go. We’re really just getting started. I think that’s a challenge for all of us in higher education. We’re just getting started with this. We’ll have to, as we go along, figure out how we make the best use of it and help students do the same.”

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