The University of Michigan is the first major institution of higher education to implement its own AI model, U-M GPT. The custom generative artificial intelligence tool is accessible for students, faculty and staff at the Ann Arbor, Flint and Dearborn campuses, as well as Michigan Medicine.
University President Santa Ono announced the release of U-M GPT in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“Just in time for the start of the fall semester, (Information and Technology Services) is releasing a suite of custom GenAI tools unlike anything currently offered in higher education, providing our users with AI tools that firmly emphasize the importance of equity, accessibility, and privacy,” the post read.
The University, in partnership with Information and Technology Services and Microsoft, now offers three AI services: U-M GPT, U-M Maizey, and U-M GPT Toolkit. U-M GPT specializes in providing academic and U-M-specific information such as course enrollment data, campus information and faculty details. Much like ChatGPT, a popular generative AI tool released last year, U-M GPT is also capable of answering questions, summarizing information, producing written work and can even provide personalized movies and music recommendations.
Access to U-M GPT is free to the campus community, though there is a limit of 25 prompts per hour per person.
U-M Maizey is an AI tool that can be connected to a user’s Google, Dropbox and Canvas accounts to analyze users’ data to provide advice, create organization-specific projects and answer questions. U-M Maizey is free to use to campus community members through Sept. 30, though students will have to pay for it after that point.
The U-M GPT Toolkit is available to U-M community members upon request, and is intended for AI designers at the University who want full control over their AI environments and models. After a request is submitted, ITS will set up a consultation with potential users and grant access to the toolkit at a cost.
ITS worked on developing these custom AI tools for nearly eight months following the release of ChatGPT, according to Ravi Pendse, vice president for information technology and chief information officer. In an interview with The Daily, Pendse said generative AI technology represents an exciting new tool in higher education, though it should be used with caution.
“I compare generative AI similar to the impact the world wide web had on the internet,” Pendse said.“When the world wide web was introduced, anyone could use it. Similarly, with the introduction of generative AI, anyone can use it. We still have to be very thoughtful about how we use it. If you are leveraging this tool, you have to make sure the answers are accurate and double and triple-check your sources.”
Are faculty for AI?
Without a campus-wide AI policy governing the use of U-M GPT and other generative AI tools, individual departments and professors have been left to decide how to incorporate it into their classrooms — or how not to. While several professors have embraced the new technology and are encouraging students to experiment with it, some faculty have warned students against using AI to complete course assignments.
Most syllabi handed out during the Fall 2023 semester include a section on the use of AI in the classroom, with policies varying from class to class. In Anthropology 101, for instance, students are discouraged from using AI to fabricate data and are disallowed from submitting AI-generated responses as their own. Arabic 201 has a highly restrictive AI policy, with students not allowed to use AI on any assignment.
Other courses explicitly encourage, or even require, students to use AI. David Jurgens, associate professor in the School of Information and the College of Engineering, works on the technology that makes generative intelligence work and helped advise the U-M GPT project. Jurgens said he hopes to teach students to take advantage of AI in their educational and professional careers.
“I teach this course on Fridays: How To Use AI Effectively,” Jurgens said. “We (are) working on how to improve cover letter writing and resume writing to spruce them up, tailor them to jobs and provide feedback. It’s an always on, always there assistant to help students do the task they want.”
Pendse highlighted the University’s role in being at the forefront of AI in educational systems, though he said the University now has to consider the impact the technology will have on campus and on society at large.
“We have to approach this very thoughtfully with our eyes wide open and feet on the ground,” Pendse said. “My opinion is that this kind of generative AI is there to augment human beings, not to replace us. It is going to make us more productive, it is not going to take our place.”
Laura Aull, associate professor of English and the director of the English Department Writing Program, told The Daily she believes AI can be used effectively in writing classes to complement the department’s educational goals.
“Well, a couple of things that I think can be productive about AI tools: one, they emphasize the goal that we in this program have long-emphasized, which is that assignment design is really important,” Aull said. “We want assignments to be equitable (and) valid, meaning that they can be consistently applied in ways that give every student the opportunity to succeed.”
Aull emphasized, however, the uniquely human component to literature that generative AI cannot replace. Since the release of ChatGPT, writers, artists and others employed in creative fields have expressed concerns that AI might make their careers obsolete. Aull said she doesn’t think that AI content will replace human-produced writing, though part of her tasks as a linguist and humanist will now include comparing original writing with AI content.
“I think our job in writing courses and in the humanities and many other parts of the University is to engage with the human processing element (of writing) that sets it apart from AI writing,” Aull said. “We analyze linguistic patterns in human writing and in AI writing. But it is different. Human processing is different from AI parsing.”
Michael Wellman, U-M division chair of computer science and engineering, also described how his department has been engaging with AI in classrooms this semester. Though the EECS department hasn’t set a department-wide policy about the use of AI, Wellman said he believes a major benefit of introducing AI to educational spaces is the ability to create individualized learning plans for students.
“I think ultimately, there’s tremendous potential for how the technology can really accelerate education in various ways,” Wellman said. “(AI) can customize and give people that customized learning experience, it’s actually really exciting. … Basically we’re just trying to encourage experimentation in terms of research. Researchers will be able to use these tools in their own projects and also develop their own techniques and in teaching.”
Students remain divided on University-endorsed AI
Just like University faculty, several students are excited to see how AI will affect their day-to-day experience in the classroom. LSA junior Asad Khan, member of the Michigan Student Artificial Intelligence Lab, said he sees AI as an educational tool that could supplement, or even replace some forms of instruction. Khan said he believes AI could be effectively used to simulate some of the traditional teaching methods used on campus — especially if the AI tools expand to include generative voice production.
“Instead of scheduling an interview, you could have a chatbot such as ChatGPT,” Khan said. “When you go to office hours, you have to wait for the instructors … with an interface like a chatbot, you could essentially simulate this type of environment. Arguably, it’s maybe not as efficient now because you have to write tags, but in the future, it may be through voice.”
Some members of the U-M community are less enthusiastic about the growing prevalence of AI at the University and in their respective fields of study. Art & Design sophomore Yuri Cho expressed concern for both her future career as an artist and the way AI can automate creative processes.
“AI can be a tool theoretically, and I personally think that you should use AI if it helps you, but I don’t think it should touch anything creative,” Cho said.
Cho said she does not believe AI should be integrated into the School of Art & Design’s curriculum because it completely changes how art is made. Cho argued that art shouldn’t always be something instantaneous, but should remain a testament to the physical, emotional and creative work of the artist behind it.
“So much of art is about creating, not about the end product,” Cho said. “And, to me, AI kind of takes out that creative part and only gives you what you want, and I think it’s a representation of how people don’t really care about that part of the art but instead only want the finished product.”
Correction 9/21: U-M GPT has a limit of 25 prompts per hour per person.