By Larry G. Martin, PhD
The continuing evolution of Large Language Models (LLMs) provides a generational opportunity for adult learners to incorporate powerful artificially intelligent (AI) chatbots into their digital learning hubs. Some of the most innovative technology companies in the world (e.g., Open AI, Microsoft, Google, etc.) have invested billions of dollars in developing LLMs and generative AI chatbots that can be accessed via computers and cell phones. Since the highly successful launching of ChatGPT-3.5 in November 2022, the availability of AI chatbots has expanded to four more advanced systems (i.e., ChatGPT-4, Claude 2, Bing ai, and Bard ai) that can be considered for adoption by adult learners.
Incorporating AI chatbots into a personalized digital learning tool kit is like adding an intelligent digital compass with the ability to understand your individualized personal learning needs and assist you in charting learning pathways to navigate life’s changing circumstances. Notwithstanding the widespread availability of AI chatbots, only about 19 percent of adults have used ChatGPT, and less than 9% have used Bard AI (Business Insider, 2023). Consequently, most adults are not reaping the benefits of this innovative technology. With the ability to interact with people in text and spoken language, these AI chatbots can serve as conversational partners invested in lifelong learning by streamlining the provision of complex and nuanced information.
AI chatbots can assist learners to rapidly navigate through vast amounts of data to inform their search for specific knowledge and information. This is a remarkable change from the era of Web 2.0 when adult learners could feel lost as they navigated the vast ocean of knowledge and information available on the Internet. AI chatbots can now provide personalized learning content, digestible explanations, resources, and insights on-demand. However, these systems are in a constant evolutionary churn, which makes it difficult to determine the extent to which they support lifelong learning, the best practices for using AI chatbots, and their limitations and safety concerns.
Attributes of LLM AI Chatbots Supporting Lifelong Learning
Like the inventions of writing, the typewriter, and the personal computer, generative AI chatbots (e.g., ChatGPT-4, Claude 2, Bing ai, and Bard ai) were invented for more general purposes; however, they offer powerful attributes as potential self-directed learning partners. These four models were launched in 2023 and share some common characteristics and abilities. All of them were trained on large volumes of digital data, such as books, articles, and web pages, from diverse text and code domains that allow them to make accurate predictions. For example, given the breadth and depth of its training, the excellence of ChatGPT-4’s performance on a wide range of tasks approaches that of an artificial general intelligence (AGI) system (Bubeck et al., 2023). Similarly, all the models have problem-solving abilities to analyze, comment on, and create text and content from diverse data sources; generate and edit text, and engage with self-directed learners on creative and technical tasks. Some can combine different data types, describe images, summarize screenshots, and generate creative content. These AI chatbots can also assist adult learners before, during, and after enrolling in educational and training programs.
AI Chatbots Before Enrolling in Education and Training Programs. Chatbots can serve as virtual assistants for adults considering degree or certification programs. Through application assistance, they can offer guidance on writing effective personal statements, gathering required documentation, and completing applications. ChatGPT-4 can help applicants prepare for entrance exams (such as the GRE, GMAT, or the LSAT), and to practice writing essays. Because they are connected to the Internet, both Bing ai and Bard ai can assist adults with academic and training program research by gathering real-time, up-to-date information on specific educational and training organizations, admission requirements, core courses, electives, and graduation outcomes.
AI Chatbots During Education and Training Programs. As digital assistants, AI chatbots can offer a wide range of academic support to students. All four models can support coursework study through personalized explanations, coursework-related resources and answering study-related questions. Nevertheless, ChatGPT-4 is more likely to create helpful quizzes and flashcards. All the models have the potential to generate ideas and inspire learning by providing fresh ideas when learners are stuck while writing essays. They can also help learners develop their writing skills with personalized feedback on grammar and spelling, structuring essays, citing sources, and evaluating arguments. Claude-2 ai is particularly helpful for creative and literary assignments (Models, 2023). For homework assistance, these chatbots can quickly offer solutions to complex assignments (such as math problems or coding tasks) by explaining the steps involved. ChatGPT-4 or Bard ai can serve as virtual foreign language partners to provide simulated conversations for students to practice their language skills.
Using AI Chatbots After Education and Training Programs. After completing degree and certification programs, adults can use AI chatbots as career advancement coaches, virtual partners, and personalized tutors. For career development, Bing ai and Bard ai can serve as career advancement coaches to identify potential job openings, tailor both resumes and cover letters, and assist job interview preparation. For continuing education, these chatbots can provide insights into (and the location of) ongoing learning opportunities such as certifications, seminars, or advanced degree programs. As virtual partners, all models can help identify the required certifications for relevant job markets, generate lists of resources, identify recommended certifications, and assist in updating resumes and LinkedIn profiles. As personalized tutors, these chatbots locate networking opportunities to further career growth by identifying relevant professional associations, conferences, and networking events.
Best Practice for Adopting Chatbots
Before adopting LLM AI chatbots, adults should carefully evaluate the extent to which the features and capabilities of the models complement and align with their learning preferences and goals. These AI chatbots are not mutually exclusive. They can be adopted as complementary tools, providing a comprehensive digital assistant ensemble for new knowledge and skills. Because many AI chatbots are financially free, learners can explore their capabilities and suitability by asking sample questions and engaging them in conversations. Learners should consider the model's ability to generate accurate and relevant responses, encourage active engagement, foster critical thinking, and support conversational and personalized learning experiences. By experimenting with different models over time, learners can determine the extent to which they duplicate or complement the features of other models and identify the most appropriate model(s) for their learning goals.
LLM Chatbot Limitations and Safety Concerns
As tools in your digital learning toolkit, AI chatbots should be employed as supportive structures rather than standalone teaching devices. They are not substitutes for human intuition and expertise, and they have limitations that should be observed to utilize them safely and effectively.
- First, evaluate the datasets upon which the LLMs were trained. Some models were trained on general knowledge, while others used more specialized datasets.
- Second, check if the model is connected to the Internet. Some have real-time Internet connections, while others cannot provide current information.
- Third, the models can produce untrustworthy data. Unreliable outputs are also red flags in academic settings. These organizations require accurate, reliable, and factual content, which some models cannot guarantee (Fernandes, 2023).
- Forth, because they can hallucinate and provide misinformation, AI chatbots should not be used as sole data sources for academic work (Fernandes, 2023). To ensure accuracy, any information generated by AI chatbots should be cross-verified with up-to-date and trusted sources (Models, 2023).
- Fifth, accurate and reliable AI chatbot responses depend on well-designed prompts (i.e., prompt engineering). By providing clear instructions and context, prompt engineering helps ensure the generated content aligns with your purpose (Fernandes, 2023).
The widespread availability and generational power of AI chatbots allow all adult learners to break through structural barriers to adult education participation. These chatbots can assist learners in navigating the ever-expanding ocean of digital knowledge by placing in the hands of every adult with a cell phone easy access to the recorded digital history of homo sapiens. The widespread integration of AI chatbots into personal digital learning toolkits and their appropriate use can offer adults flexibility and highlight the learner's control over their learning journey.
Up Next: Online Learning Platforms
In my next blog post, I analyze online digital learning platforms' key features and capabilities, and which platforms should be considered for adult learners’ digital tool kits.
Larry G. Martin, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, UWM
Anthropic. Anthropic: Claude 2, 2023. https://www.anthropic.com/index/claude-2
Bubeck, S., Chandrasekaran, V., Eldan, R., Gehrke, J., Horvitz, E., Kamar, E., ... & Zhang, Y. (2023). Sparks of artificial general intelligence: Early experiments with gpt-4. arXiv preprint arXiv:2303.12712.
Business Insider (2023). There aren't actually THAT many people using ChatGPT. https://www.businessinsider.com/chatgpt-ai-adoption-slow-google-bard-morgan-stanley-2023-6
Fernandes, D. (2023). Why Not to Use ChatGPT for Academic Writing.https://paperpal.com/blog/news-updates/product-updates/why-not-to-use-chatgpt-for-academic-writing
Microsoft. Microsoft: Bing, 2023. https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/bing/do-more-with-ai?form=MA13KP
Models, C. Model card and evaluations for Claude models. https://efficient-manatee.files.svdcdn.com/production/images/Model-Card-Claude-2.pdf?dm=1689034733 Accessed on: (11-18-2023).
Google. Google: Bard, 2023. https://bard.google.com/?utm_source=sem&utm_medium=paid-media&utm_campaign=q4enUS_sem7&gclid=CjwKCAiA9ourBhAVEiwA3L5RFuEHltqo4V_VSoafE84Mz01tBx3bRXQXNFu5tYQTI025o_X2eMbc0RoCBdIQAvD_BwE
OpenAI. OpenAI: GPT-4, 2023. URL https://openai.com/research/gpt-4