Balancing Innovation and Tradition

21 Nov 2023


ai The rapidly growing influence of AI (Artificial Intelligence) in almost all sectors of the industry, as well as in the academe, particularly in Software Engineering, is deeply rooted in its capability to speed up the process of a job that would usually take one hour, days, weeks, months, or in rare case, years, to accomplish. In ICS 314, various AI tools such as ChatGPT and Github Co-Pilot have been introduced to aid students in their learning journey. In this essay, I will reflect on my experiences with AI in the course, examining its use in Workouts of the Day (WODs), in-class activities, essays, and other aspects of the curriculum.

Personal Experience with AI

My personal experience with AI throughout ICS 314 is somewhat limited. Upon establishing the rules for the upcoming WOD (Workout of the Day) activities, our professor clarified that using AI tools like ChatGPT and GitHub Copilot is not discouraged. However, he cautioned us against relying on AI, especially for the WODs, as it may be unhelpful and even cause problems as we solve these in-class activities. In connection with this, I opted not to use AI for various coursework elements, including the WODs, in-class activities, essays, and the final project. The decision to prioritize real-time exercises that require quick decision-making and hands-on experience drove the decision. Also, I wanted to gain an in-depth understanding of the concepts in this class.

Although I attempted to use AI for debugging a specific deployment issue, the tool’s lack of domain-specific knowledge hindered its effectiveness. Overall, my coursework experience predominantly relied on traditional methods, with AI playing a minimal role due to the course’s dynamic and practical nature.

Impact on Learning and Understanding

The absence of significant engagement with AI in my coursework within ICS 314 has influenced my learning experience in distinctive ways. Traditional learning methods, characterized by hands-on problem-solving and manual exploration, have been the primary drivers of comprehension. While AI tools may offer quick conceptual overviews, the possibility of experiencing more trouble due to their inaccuracy rather than help has underscored the importance of traditional approaches in fostering a deep and nuanced understanding of software engineering concepts.

The practical aspects of the course, such as coding exercises and real-time problem-solving, have been better addressed through direct engagement without reliance on AI. This lack of dependency on AI has highlighted the significance of active participation and critical thinking in the learning process, emphasizing the need for a balanced approach incorporating both traditional and emerging technological tools to optimize learning outcomes.

Practical Applications

While my direct engagement with AI in ICS 314 coursework was limited, the broader exploration of practical applications beyond the course revealed intriguing perspectives. In particular, the Hawaii Annual Code Challenge (HACC) provided a platform to witness the potential of AI in collaborative projects. Despite not utilizing AI for developing the user interface (UI) of my group project, “Sustainer,” in the HACC, I observed its impact on other teams tackling complex challenges. AI showcased its data analysis, pattern recognition, and decision-making prowess, contributing to innovative solutions.

The experiences of fellow participants demonstrated that when appropriately harnessed, AI applications could significantly enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of real-world software engineering projects. The HACC experience broadened my awareness of AI’s versatility. It stimulated contemplation on its potential incorporation in future collaborative endeavors beyond the confines of traditional coursework.

Challenges and Opportunities

One notable challenge arose when leveraging ChatGPT to debug a deployment issue using the “mup deploy” command for the meteor-application-template-react app. Despite initial optimism, the tool’s lack of domain-specific knowledge hindered problem resolution. Recognizing the limitations, I sought assistance from my professor, whose expertise and guidance successfully resolved the issue. This experience underscored the challenges of relying solely on AI for specific, nuanced problems within software engineering. It also highlighted the opportunity for human intervention and expertise, emphasizing the complementary role of AI alongside human problem-solving skills. Refining AI tools to address such domain-specific challenges presents an opportunity for improving their efficacy in software engineering contexts.

Comparative Analysis

Opting not to depend on AI throughout my experience in ICS 314, the comparative analysis between traditional teaching methods and AI-enhanced approaches unveils a nuanced perspective. Traditional methods, which emphasize hands-on exploration and independent problem-solving, have played a pivotal role in fostering an in-depth understanding of software engineering concepts for me. While AI tools offer quick conceptual overviews, they often lack the specificity required for the nuances present in coursework.

My engagement with traditional methods has proven instrumental in achieving better knowledge retention and practical skill development. The balance lies in recognizing the complementary nature of both approaches—AI’s speed and accessibility versus traditional methods’ depth and hands-on experience. Ultimately, the choice depends on the specific learning objectives and the complexity of the software engineering concepts being addressed.

Future Considerations

Looking ahead, the role of AI in software engineering education prompts thoughtful considerations. While AI has the potential to enhance accessibility and speed in certain aspects, addressing its current limitations is crucial. Future advancements should focus on refining AI tools to better align with the intricacies of software engineering coursework. Opportunities lie in incorporating AI as a supplementary tool for quick overviews and basic tasks, maintaining a balanced approach. Challenges include ensuring AI’s adaptability to the evolving landscape of software engineering concepts. Striking this balance will be vital for optimizing its integration in future courses, contributing to a more effective and comprehensive learning experience.


In conclusion, my journey through ICS 314 has reinforced the importance of a balanced approach to AI integration in software engineering education. While AI tools offer quick insights, my preference for traditional methods, rooted in hands-on exploration, has fostered a deeper understanding of concepts. The challenges faced, such as the limited applicability of AI in specific problem-solving scenarios, underscore the need for refinement. Moving forward, a strategic blend of AI and traditional methods, coupled with ongoing improvements in AI tools, is essential for an optimized and enriching learning experience in software engineering courses.