Author: Margaret Poncin Reeves
Date published: 2024
Course level: Upper level
Course title: WRD 242: Writing with AI
Course description: In this course, you will learn how to use AI as a writing tool. We’ll create compositions in a variety of genres using AI to assist in various stages of the writing process. Further, we’ll consider how AI is influencing individuals’ behavior and our larger culture. In doing so, we’ll explore its strengths and limitations as well as the ethical concerns these tools raise.
Course philosophy/motivation: I developed this course because, following Beveridge, Figueiredo, and Holmes (2020), I believe that students need to learn to both critique and compose with algorithms, especially the immensely complex algorithms powering genAI tools. This means understanding the ethical concerns around how LLMs are created and what they produce, as well as their impact on the economy, social inequality, and the environment. However, we can’t stop there. As Johnson (2023) points out, ‘Learning about technology by investigating, playing, breaking, and remaking technology is essential if students are to form critical digital literacies.” Therefore, I designed the course to provide students this opportunity to explore different AI tools, to use them as writing assistants, and to probe their limitations. One additional consideration that shaped my philosophy for this course was that it had to be interdisciplinary. While it is housed in my home department of Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse, it is also crosslisted with English and Communications. Further, the course fulfills our university’s Social, Behavioral, and Cultural Inquiry graduation requirement, which means students from across the university can enroll. In addition to the writing majors, I also have students from computer science, psychology, education, math, and marketing enrolled in the course. I wanted to ensure that the course materials represented a broad range of disciplines and that students had enough freedom to adapt the course to their needs.