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SA university profs recognised for ChatGPT research

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 09 Oct 2023
The research recommends lecturers use AI tools to innovate and strengthen their lesson planning and presentation.
The research recommends lecturers use AI tools to innovate and strengthen their lesson planning and presentation.

Two Nelson Mandela University professors received a top award at an international business conference for their research paper that showed ChatGPT can pass an MBA in South Africa.

Department of Computing Sciences distinguished professor Andre Calitz and his wife Margaret Cullen, a professor to MBA and DBA students at the Nelson Mandela University Business School, beat over 283 other papers that were submitted to the conference.

Their paper, titled: “ChatGPT: The new MBA student in your class”, received the Best Paper Award at this year’s 16th International Business Conference (IBC 2023) hosted in Swakopmund, Namibia, in the last week ofSeptember.

The IBC 2023 Conference is a multi-disciplinary platform, where research on recent developments in an ever-turbulent business environment is presented and debated among academics and industry professionals from across the Southern African region and abroad.

Since the emergence of ChatGPT in November, the generative artificial intelligence (AI) bot has become one of the most discussed technological developments across all industries.

While such emerging technologies are expected to unlock infinite business opportunities, many questions have been raised as to the impact of AI-assisted chatbots − which can generate high-level text on a wide range of topics − in the field of education.

The award-winning Nelson Mandela academics set out, through their research, to establish whether ChatGPT could pass the examination papers of MBA modules presented at business schools in SA.

After ChatGPT passed an MBA operational management module exam in 2022 in the US, the South African-focused research question addressed in this paper was: Can ChatGPT pass MBA modules in SA?

The 2022 examination papers for MBA modules from different business schools in SA were presented to ChatGPT, and answers were generated by the bot and marked by the specific course examiners.

ChatGPT passed 12 of the 15 modules, according to the research paper.

“The feedback provided by the examiners was that ChatGPT successfully provided facts; however, when new case studies were used, the application could not produce correct answers nor insight and application,” says Calitz.

“Presently, none of the academics at South African business schools indicated they are using ChatGPT in their courses. The results indicate ChatGPT can indeed pass some MBA examinations and therefore academics need to be aware of the capabilities and limitations of ChatGPT.”

According to Nelson Mandela University, the paper is the first study of this nature conducted in SA and Africa. The paper also provides educational guidelines for the use of ChatGPT in educational programmes.

It recommends that academics and educators adapt their instructional approaches to meet students’ unique needs.

“The latest generative AI tools have disrupted and transformed the education sector globally,” comments Cullen.

“ChatGPT, one of the large language model platforms, has challenged and changed the educational landscape for educators and students. Many priorities for improvements to teaching and learning in today’s world are unmet, which has resulted in educators turning to technology-enhanced approaches that would be safe, effective and scalable to address these priorities.”

According to the paper, educators spend less than half their time in direct interaction with students, as the bulk of their time is spent on marking and administrative functions.

The research recommends lecturers use AI-supported tools and technologies to innovate and strengthen their lesson planning and presentation, to engage the students. The paper also provides guidelines for the use of ChatGPT in educational programmes.

“The most important reason to work with ChatGPT is that students will graduate into a world full of generative AI programs. We need to prepare them for the world of work, and how to best leverage technology for their chosen career paths,” adds Cullen.