Author: Chase Bollig
Date published: 2024
Course level: First Year
Course title: Writing (ENGL 101)
Course description: This section of English 101 is going to be a little different than the others. With the advent of generative AI technology like GPT, DALL-E, and Stable Diffusion, in the next few years I believe we will witness significant transformations to learning institutions and the workplace, especially for knowledge workers. Moments of transition afford us an opportunity for reflection. This class will investigate the role that AI could or should play in learning about writing. In this course, we will explore the intersection of writing, rhetoric, and artificial intelligence. Through a combination of readings, discussions, and writing assignments, you will develop an understanding of how AI writing assistants can support your writing processes as well as the implications of AI for how we talk about literacy and the construction of knowledge in academic contexts and beyond. The goal of the course is to help you not only grow as a writer but also to develop a critical framework for writing with AI, including its potential benefits and limitations. As part of the first-year Core experience, this course asks, “How do we pursue knowledge and cultivate understanding?” Our course will take up this question by participating in focused, extended inquiry and through the production of analytical and argumentative texts.
Course philosophy/motivation: This course invited first-year students to be active researchers in writing studies by focusing specifically on how our campus should respond to the emergence of generative AI. They were introduced to AI early in the semester (Week 3) and then invited to use it as they deemed appropriate for assignments through the midterm, excluding writing process reflections where they examined how AI interrupted or amplified their own writing practices. The premise behind the class is that generative AI like ChatGPT is a literacy technology, and that the downstream effects of its introduction will include shifting expectations or standards for literacy. By asking students to interrogate AI use at the scale of their own writing as well as university policy, the course seeks to reproduce in microcosm some of the emerging debates about AI’s effects on the political economy of literacy. Readings and assignments provided context for these discussions and helped surface recognizable themes for first-year writing such as metacognition, style and voice, and best practices in evaluating sources.