Prompts // 2 (Prompt Structure)

Following on from my earlier post, and the ongoing discussion around AI, the use of AI, and learning how to craft the prompts, this is what I’m learning.

When crafting a prompt, much like crafting a search term to get the best results, the structure is important – this is ‘prompt engineering’. How you do it will affect the quality of the output and therefore the quality of your engagement:

Note: When I say ChatGPT, I use it as a generic term for any or all AI tools, much like we say we ‘Google’ something it means to search online.

  • Clarity: Prompts should be clear and unambiguous, ensuring that the AI understands the intended request. Avoiding vague, overly broad or industry-specific terminology helps in receiving a more precise response.
  • Specificity: Specify the details you’re looking for in the response. This might include asking for examples, statistics, recent information, or a step-by-step explanation. The more specific your prompt, the more focused the response.
  • Contextual Information: Providing relevant context about the topic or your goal can help ChatGPT generate more contextually appropriate responses. This context might include background information, your audience, or the purpose of the response.
  • Guidance: Sometimes, it’s helpful to guide ChatGPT on how to approach a question. For example, you can ask it to provide pros and cons, explain a concept in simple terms, or provide a balanced view on a controversial topic.
  • Iterative Approach: If the initial response doesn’t fully meet your needs, use an iterative approach – ask follow-up questions or refine your prompts based on the initial responses to get the desired output.
  • Feedback Loop: Provide feedback on the quality of responses. Positive feedback reinforces good responses, while constructive feedback helps the AI improve its performance.
  • Strengths and Limitations: Different language models have strengths and limitations. Understanding these can help you design prompts that align with the AI’s capabilities. For example, ChatGPT 3.5 is trained up to a certain knowledge cutoff date (2021), so won’t have information on events or developments after that date.

Here’s an example of what ChatGPT thinks is a well-structured prompt, based on my user profile:

Dear ChatGPT, I’m a professional in UK Higher Education, with a focus on pedagogy, leadership, and student experience. I’m currently researching the impact of technology on student wellbeing and learning outcomes. Can you provide insights, recent studies, and best practices in this area, particularly within the UK context? I’m particularly interested in any innovative approaches or success stories. Thank you!

Yes, it really did suggest I start with ‘dear ChatGPT’ and end with ‘thank you’.

And, in case you’re interested, this is ChatGPTs response using above prompt:

Thank you for providing the prompt. Based on your professional background and research focus, I’ll provide information on the impact of technology on student wellbeing and learning outcomes in UK Higher Education. Please note that my knowledge is up to date as of September 2021, so I’ll provide information based on that timeframe.

Impact of Technology on Student Wellbeing and Learning Outcomes in UK Higher Education:

Technology has played a significant role in shaping the educational landscape in the UK, with both positive and negative effects on student wellbeing and learning outcomes.

Positive Impacts:

  1. Enhanced Accessibility: Technology has made education more accessible, allowing students to access resources and participate in classes from anywhere, which can reduce stress related to commuting.
  2. Personalized Learning: Adaptive learning technologies can provide customized learning experiences, addressing individual student needs and preferences, leading to improved learning outcomes.
  3. Mental Health Support: Various apps and platforms offer mental health resources and support for students, contributing to improved wellbeing.

Negative Impacts:

  1. Digital Divide: Inequalities in access to technology and the internet can negatively affect students’ wellbeing and learning outcomes, particularly in underserved communities.
  2. Screen Time and Mental Health: Excessive screen time can contribute to digital burnout and negatively impact mental health, particularly when online learning becomes overwhelming.

Innovative Approaches:

In the UK, higher education institutions have been adopting innovative approaches to address these challenges:

  1. Hybrid Learning Models: Many universities are implementing hybrid learning models that combine online and in-person education, offering flexibility while maintaining engagement.
  2. Mental Health Apps: Universities are providing access to mental health and wellbeing apps, offering resources and support to students.
  3. Peer Support Platforms: Some institutions are creating online communities and peer support platforms where students can connect and share experiences, thus improving wellbeing.

Success Stories:

  1. Open University: The Open University in the UK has been a pioneer in online and distance education, providing flexible learning options to a wide range of students, which positively impacts access and wellbeing.
  2. University of Glasgow: The University of Glasgow has implemented a peer support program that has received positive feedback from students, emphasizing the importance of social connections in wellbeing.

These are some general insights and examples based on your prompt. If you need more specific information, recent studies, or additional details, please feel free to ask, and I’ll be happy to provide further assistance.

Follow-up questions can take this and mould it into something more focused or more relevant, and providing new information on the orientation you want ChatGPT to take in its responses can increase the accuracy of the information you want.

Note: I’m checking on the accuracy of the information about the OU and Glasgow, just in case this is an example of AI making it up.

Remember, this is a start but isn’t necessarily going to be the endpoint you’re looking for. Using ChatGPT can put some content on an empty page (which is often the first hurdle in a creative process), but it’s you who will fill the gaps, focus the writing and output, and know when the content is authentic, accurate, and fit-for-purpose.

Photo by Emiliano Vittoriosi on Unsplash