Meet your learning buddy, ChatGPT: keen, creative, tireless – and not quite trustworthy

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Artificial Intelligence software can be a great tool to help your team upskill, but it has to be used responsibly, write Greg Fried and Jimmy Winfield, founders of skillfully.co.za.

As an HR professional, you may be involved in learning and development. You might also know that ChatGPT, the AI software that will converse with you in an amazingly human way, can be a powerful learning partner. This growing range of AI software can be a useful assistant to enhance upskilling but must be used with caution.

The hallucinating software

AI often generates text in a tone of confident authority, as if from an expert. Don’t be fooled: AI understands nothing. There’s no consciousness behind the words; they are produced by a brilliant statistical prediction method based on a vast body of text used for training the software.
ChatGPT will often include facts, clear explanations, interesting ideas, and other useful material. But sometimes AI will hallucinate, to use the industry term: it will generate errors, or even outrageous falsehoods, without altering its self-assured tone.
So don’t take ChatGPT’s information on trust. You’ll need to verify its claims and explanations independently.

Knowing me, knowing you

When you’re seeking information from a conversation with ChatGPT, you want to maximise the chance of getting accurate, precise, up-to-date info – the sort you get from an expert. So it’s good to ask the software to behave as an authority in your field of interest.
If for instance, you were seeking to improve your virtual presentation skills, you could begin your prompt – i.e., the text you enter – like this: ‘As an expert in online presentation, explain…’ (You could alternatively ask ChatGPT to behave in many other ways that shape its output – for instance, as a speaker at an industry conference.)
You’ll also want to see responses that suit you best. For example, are you a complete beginner in the art and craft of presentation? Or are you a highly experienced in-person presenter who now wants to adapt your skills to virtual presentations? You can and should explain to the software who the output is for, and it will adapt its advice accordingly.

A savvy summariser, tireless tester and eager explainer

If you’re studying from an online source, and you need to make notes, you can ask ChatGPT. Copy-paste the text, if this is permissible, and be specific about what you want – for instance, 10 bullet points to summarise the article. Of course, you’ll need to check the output against the original text, but it’s often easier to refine a good first draft than to start from zero.
ChatGPT will also test you on a topic. You can specify the kinds of tests you want to take – like multiple choice questions – and then check your answers with the software.

If you need a careful explanation – for instance, you’re working from a textbook that doesn’t properly explain how it reaches an answer – then you can enter the question and ask for a step-by-step explanation. Part of the joy of software is that it doesn’t get tired or bored. It keeps going way past the point when a human instructor would have moved on.

Making learning fun and easy

Our memories are stimulated by creativity and fun. Suppose you want to remember a key concept in finance – the essential distinction between a call option and a put option – and you keep mixing up the two concepts. You could ask ChatGPT for a rhyme to explain the difference. (The result, when we asked, was pretty catchy – it began: “Think of options as a market dance/Call option’s the chance to buy and enhance...”).
Another way to make learning easier is to have a great study plan. Try giving ChatGPT your constraints and asking it for a schedule. For instance, you could tell it your exam date, your available study times on weekdays and weekends, and other study preferences. It’ll draft a plan for you, and might even wish you good luck!

Asking the software to handle itself

ChatGPT’s answers can be enriched by great questions – and it can even come up with those questions itself.
We asked ChatGPT to explain the latest theories in management and got a pretty good result. Then we asked it to provide the best prompt to explain the latest theories in management. It generated a wonderful prompt requesting cutting-edge theories and practices, their effects on employee engagement and decision-making processes, the most influential thought leaders, and more. That prompt, when we used it, produced a much richer response.

Taking responsibility

When you use AI, be aware that you’re in charge of the process. You needn’t, and usually shouldn’t, be satisfied with a single question and answer. In a conversation with ChatGPT, it’s up to you to take the discussion in fruitful directions for learning, prompting the software to keep improving its responses to suit you.

It can become a valuable assistant, helping you to plan your study, take notes, understand the material, test yourself, and more. But its output is not checked by a human expert, and so comes with an obligation: you need to ensure that what you get is accurate and relevant.

Prompt: Write the final line of a thought leadership piece about how ChatGPT can be a powerful tool for learning if used correctly.
Result: "In a world where knowledge is at our fingertips, harnessing the tremendous power of ChatGPT as a learning tool lies not in its existence alone, but in our ability to navigate with discernment and purpose."

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