How ChatGPT is disrupting the academic integrity of college campuses

ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence chatbot that can generate text on any topic, given a few words or sentences as input. It was released in November 2022 by OpenAI, a research organization dedicated to creating and promoting beneficial AI. ChatGPT uses a deep learning model called GPT-3, which has been trained on a large corpus of text from the Internet, including books, articles, blogs, social media posts, and more.

ChatGPT has been hailed as a breakthrough in natural language processing, as it can produce coherent and fluent texts that often sound like they were written by humans. It can also answer questions, write essays, create stories, compose emails, and even generate code. ChatGPT has many potential applications in various domains, such as education, entertainment, business, and journalism.

How ChatGPT is disrupting the academic integrity of college campuses
How ChatGPT is disrupting the academic integrity of college campuses

However, ChatGPT also poses a serious threat to the academic integrity of college campuses, as some students may use it to cheat on their assignments and exams. College professors have reported that they have noticed some of their students submitting essays that were clearly generated by ChatGPT, as they contained fabricated quotes, cited sources that did not exist, or had irrelevant or inaccurate content.

The challenges of detecting and preventing ChatGPT cheating

One of the main challenges of detecting and preventing ChatGPT cheating is that the chatbot is not perfect. It can make grammatical errors, logical inconsistencies, factual mistakes, or nonsensical statements. These flaws can sometimes be spotted by human readers, especially if they are familiar with the topic or the writing style of the student. However, some of these errors may be subtle or overlooked, especially if the text is long or complex.

Another challenge is that ChatGPT can be customized and fine-tuned by users to produce texts that match their preferences and needs. For example, users can adjust the parameters of the chatbot, such as the temperature, which controls the randomness and creativity of the output; the top-k or top-p sampling, which controls the diversity and quality of the output; or the frequency penalty or presence penalty, which controls the repetition and novelty of the output. Users can also provide specific prompts or keywords to guide the chatbot to generate texts on a certain topic or style.

These features make ChatGPT more flexible and adaptable, but also more difficult to detect and prevent. For instance, users can tweak the chatbot to produce texts that are more coherent, relevant, accurate, and original than the default output. They can also mix and match different parts of texts generated by ChatGPT with their own writing or other sources to create a hybrid text that is harder to identify as cheating.

The responses of college professors and administrators

College professors have been alarmed by the emergence of ChatGPT cheating and have been seeking ways to cope with it. They have been flooding listservs, webinars, professional conferences, and online forums to share their experiences and strategies on how to deal with this new form of plagiarism. Some of the common suggestions include:

  • Using plagiarism detection software, such as Turnitin or Copyscape, to check for similarities between students’ texts and online sources.
  • Asking students to submit drafts or outlines of their assignments before the final submission.
  • Asking students to explain or defend their arguments or claims in oral presentations or exams.
  • Asking students to cite their sources properly and provide evidence for their statements.
  • Asking students to reflect on their learning process and outcomes in metacognitive essays or portfolios.
  • Designing assignments that are more authentic, creative, personalized, or open-ended, rather than generic, factual, standardized, or closed-ended.
  • Developing a culture of academic honesty and integrity among students and faculty members.

College administrators have also been aware of the issue of ChatGPT cheating and have been waiting for guidance from university leadership on how to handle it. Some universities have already updated their academic policies and codes of conduct to include AI-generated texts as a form of plagiarism. Others have been conducting research or surveys on the prevalence and impact of ChatGPT cheating among their students and faculty members. Some have also been exploring ways to educate and inform their academic community about the ethical and legal implications of using AI chatbots in education.

The future of AI chatbots in education

ChatGPT is not the first nor the last AI chatbot that can generate texts on any topic. There are already other similar chatbots available online, such as GPT-2 (the predecessor of GPT-3), GPT-J (an open-source version of GPT-3), GPT-Neo (a replication of GPT-3), EleutherAI (a collective of researchers working on large-scale language models), etc. There will likely be more advanced and sophisticated chatbots in the future that can produce better and more diverse texts than ChatGPT.

AI chatbots have both positive and negative effects on education. On one hand, they can be used as powerful tools for learning, teaching, and research. They can help students and teachers to access, analyze, synthesize, and communicate information on various topics. They can also inspire students and teachers to be more creative, curious, and critical in their thinking and writing. On the other hand, they can also be used as deceptive tools for cheating, fraud, and manipulation. They can undermine the academic integrity, quality, and credibility of education. They can also pose ethical, social, and legal challenges for students and teachers.

Therefore, it is important for college professors and administrators to be aware of the potentials and pitfalls of AI chatbots in education. They need to be proactive and vigilant in detecting and preventing ChatGPT cheating and other forms of AI plagiarism. They also need to be responsible and respectful in using and teaching AI chatbots in education. They need to balance the benefits and risks of AI chatbots in education and ensure that they are used for good, not evil.

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