ChatGPT Enterprise could be a game changer for universities
The new enterprise version of ChatGPT addresses security, privacy and accessibility issues that could lead to transformative uses in student learning and research
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in conversations recently where the the question came up: “why can’t we make ChatGPT freely accessible to all of our students?”
This has not been possible up to now. But the availability of Enterprise ChatGPT from OpenAI could change everything.
One of the driving issue behind these questions of access is equity. ChatGPT can be transformative for students when used smartly — whether in self-directed and curiosity-driven learning, or in more structured educational settings. But to get the full benefits of the platform, users have to fork out $20 a month for the “plus” version. And that’s too much to expect from every student — especially those who are already on the margins and struggling with making ends meet.
As a result, students who can afford to subscribe to ChatGPT Plus (and recognize its benefits) are at an advantage as they get access to features such as the underlying GPT4 large language model and OpenAI’s Code Interpreter (now renamed advanced data analysis).
Yet despite a growing need for equitable access to ChatGPT, security and data privacy issues have proved to be insurmountable stumbling blocks for universities making the full suite of capabilities broadly available to students.
On Monday, OpenAI announced the availability of Enterprise ChatGPT. The enterprise version of the platform addresses the security and privacy concerns that have so far made blanket adoption by universities impossible. And it potentially paves the way for a substantial shakeup in how generative AI is used equitably and effectively in education.
But the possible opportunities go far beyond the use of ChatGPT in the classroom.
One of the biggest barriers to widespread adoption of text-based generative AI in universities has been data privacy. Up to now, everything anyone types into ChatGPT has been potentially accessible to OpenAI and useable to train the platform. This may not seem a big deal if you are simply asking questions. But as soon as users upload personal or sensitive information — drafts of papers for instance, or grant proposals, preliminary research findings, intellectual property they don’t want shared, or private and sensitive data — there’s a problem.
From a student perspective, this is a vulnerability that simply cannot be sanctioned through institution-wide access. But for a research university it also creates serious issues where students want to use ChatGPT in their research.
Already there are a growing number of anecdotes flying around of researchers who have naively uploaded human subjects data or drafts of papers into ChatGPT — and even draft grant proposals — oblivious to the reality that they are giving away protected data and their intellectual property to OpenAI.
To counter this, some universities are developing their own internal large language models — the University of Michigan for instance recently announced the release of U-M GPT.
Yet ChatGPT still has the edge over most alternatives when it comes to ease of access and use combined with powerful capabilities.
Enterprise ChatGPT promises to overcome many of these limitations. Data uploaded to the enterprise version is not used for training by OpenAI, and remains the property of the subscribing institution. This removes a substantial barrier to enterprise-level use by students.
More broadly, the new enterprise platform enables provisions to be put in place that ensure the platform doesn’t open up subscribing institutions to vulnerabilities from data breaches and other security challenges.
This is good news for researchers looking for easy access to generative AI tools like ChatGPT. But the real game changer here is the possibility for all students to have safe and secure access to a tool that could transform their own research and learning.
Of course, this will come at a cost. Whether this is justified by the opportunities it opens up remains to be seen. But ensuring every student in a university has access to ChatGPT for personal learning, professional use, class assignments, and research, will mark a significant step forward in the tools we can offer them that support their long term success.
More than this though, universal access to ChatGPT within universities is likely to become a forcing function in how we teach.
Generative AI is already a reality that instructors are having to grapple with. Where access is optional, educators have considerable flexibility in how they respond to ChatGPT and similar platforms, and whether they embrace or reject them. But where universities subscribe to Enterprise ChatGPT, it’s use is likely to become a default option in learning.
I’m a huge proponent of this — especially after seeing how ChatGPT can be transformative in the classroom. But it’s a move that will force many instructors to re-evaluate how they teach, and even the purpose and nature of education and learning. As AI becomes increasingly ubiquitous though, I don’t think this will be such a bad thing.
For students and instructors alike, universal access to ChatGPT will open up incredible opportunities to learn differently, faster, and more effectively. It’ll also mean that our graduating students have real-world skills that are increasingly in demand by employers.
More than this though, I’m convinced that platforms like ChatGPT and others will transform how many of our students learn — especially those who don’t fit the standard model of an average learner, who struggle with conventional class-based education, and who have “jagged profiles” when it comes to learning.
And this is where I suspect that Enterprise ChatGPT could be a game changer for universities — at least, where they have the vision to adopt it.