Potentials of ChatGPT in Computer Programming: Insights from Programming Instructors

Anas Husain
Journal of Information Technology Education: Research  •  Volume 23  •  2024  •  pp. 002

This study aims to investigate the perceptions of programming instructors among the Information Technology faculty members at AL al-Bayt University regarding the effectiveness of ChatGPT in supporting the programming instructional process. This study also aims to explore their experiences concerning the potential benefits and adverse impacts of such technology on students and instructors.

Successfully integrating ChatGPT into programming instruction requires addressing its advantages, disadvantages, and concerns of such emerging AI-based technology. However, balancing the advantages and disadvantages, as well as addressing the concerns of using ChatGPT, poses critical challenges. This research posits that the appropriate use of ChatGPT for programming instruction, along with a careful weighing of its potential benefits against potential negative impacts, presents a promising solution and is essential for its success. However, little is known about integrating ChatGPT into programming instructional methods and their possible effects because of insufficient results from the literature for generalization. Pedagogical designs considering teaching strategies and appropriate measures should be added to the literature on integrating AI chatbots for programming instruction.

The research data were collected in this study through in-depth interviews with programming instructors from the School of Information Technology at AL al-Bayt University. A qualitative research design was adopted in this study to arrive at in-depth perceptions of IT programming instructors on integrating ChatGPT into programming instruction. Convenience sampling was used to select 12 programming instructors among IT faculty members who had familiarity with ChatGPT during their programming instruction experience. A total of 26 one-on-one interviews with the participants were conducted personally to elicit detailed and precise information on the advantages and disadvantages of using ChatGPT for programming instruction. Each interview consisted of questions that aimed to investigate the opinions and experiences of programming instructors on ChatGPT’s potential and capabilities to complement traditional teaching methods, enhance students’ programming learning, and support instructors in their instruction. The data were accurately read and coded to identify relevant themes and patterns from the participants’ answers to the research questions. A qualitative thematic analysis was conducted to analyze the collected transcribed data through participant interviews.

This study is the first to focus on the perceptions of programming instructors and contributes to the ongoing discourse on the integration of AI, particularly ChatGPT, in programming education. The contribution lies in highlighting the positive and negative aspects of using ChatGPT and discussing the potential complementary role of ChatGPT alongside traditional teaching methods. The participants’ perceptions reported by this study provide valuable insights and evidence that could serve as a guide for the programming instructional process.

The perceptions result in this study demonstrated several advantages of ChatGPT that make it useful for the programming instruction process, including practical code applications, personalized and interactive learning, a wide range of programming problems and alternative solutions, accessibility, no programming knowledge required, debugging and feedback capabilities, and clear code explanations. Indeed, the perceptions of the participants revealed that ChatGPT can enhance students’ learning by providing personalized and interactive programming practices, assisting them in coding and program writing, helping them practice the best solutions for real-life programming problems, and creating their own programs and solutions. The participants’ perceptions also revealed the ability of ChatGPT to support the efficiency of programming instructors and save their time and effort by providing new instructional practices, helping address the individual learning needs of their students, assisting in performance assessment, and recommending lesson plans and teaching strategies. By contrast, several perceptions on the potential drawbacks and negatives of using ChatGPT in programming education were reported, including inaccurate responses, undesired responses, response integrity, limited programming resources, technology limitation, unstructured learning, and a lack of real programming elements. Similarly, several concerns were revealed, including ethical and transparent use, privacy and security of students’ data, social impact and replacement of human interaction, over-reliance, and controlling students’ online behavior. Overall, the participants suggested a complementary role for ChatGPT that balances its potential benefits against its negative impacts to best enhance traditional programming teaching methods.

The perceptions recommend practitioners develop new teaching strategies, curriculum designs, in-class activities, and course outlines for programming curricula incorporating ChatGPT efficiently. Practitioners also need to mitigate the adverse effects of ChatGPT and embrace such AI technologies rather than banning them in several ways. Additional effort is required from instructors to assign programming tasks that require applying programming knowledge and critical thinking instead of simple or trivial tasks that can be obtained directly. Instructors and students should be upskilling their competencies and practices to meet the critical thinking and question-asking competencies required to satisfy the new demands of AI technology with appropriate support from their institutes. IT faculties need to adopt a teaching approach with a complementary role for ChatGPT that balances its potential benefits against its negative impacts to best enhance traditional programming teaching methods and maximize its benefits for students and instructors.

Researchers need to understand the factors enhancing the integration of ChatGPT and the ways of designing and implementing teaching strategies compatible with such AI technologies. Researchers are recommended to explore the impact of ChatGPT on other learners and subjects and its effects on their critical thinking and creativity.

The perceptions in this study are helpful for instructors, students, and curriculum developers, provide additional knowledge on integrating AI chatbots into their courses, and offer valuable input for developing effective use of AI in programming instruction and pedagogical practices. The perceptions could positively influence the job market and contribute to the development of human capital by equipping learners with the latest technologies and programming technologies.

Additional research should be conducted to explore and measure the effect of ChatGPT on students’ engagement and class collaboration. Further experimental studies on other topics in different environmental variables are also recommended.

computer programming, programming instructors, ChatGPT, programming instruction
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