Professors at UK universities have been urged to overhaul the way their courses are assessed as students are already using a powerful new AI tool capable of producing high-quality essays with minimal human intervention.
ChatGPT, OpenAI’s latest chatbot, founded in 2015 by Elon Musk, Sam Altman and others, has only been publicly available for a few weeks, but has already raised concerns about the potential for hard-to-detect plagiarism and questions about the validity of the essay as a future form of assessment.
He has been described as ‘a game changer’ who will prove a challenge in universities and schools. Although GCSE and A-level courses are assessed through traditional end-of-course exams, experts fear that students who use technology to do their homework could become dependent on AI-generated answers without acquiring the skills. knowledge and skills they need.
Working groups have been set up in university departments to assess the challenge of this latest iteration of AI text generation technology, in the perspective that the evaluation methods of certain courses will have to be updated. Experts admit to feeling both excited and alarmed.
In one case, staff in the computer science department at University College London recently decided to change an assessment. Previously, students had the option of an essay-based or competency-based assessment as part of the final course, but the essay option has been removed.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, meanwhile agreed that schools should understand how to use the benefits of ChatGPT while protecting themselves against the negative implications.
“As with any technology, there are caveats to ensure it is used responsibly and not as a license to cheat, but none of this is insurmountable,” he said. . In contrast, New York City schools have already banned the use of ChatGPT on all devices and networks, for fear that it encourages plagiarism.
Dr Thomas Lancaster, a computer scientist working at Imperial College London, best known for his research into academic integrity, contract fraud and plagiarism, said it was a game-changer in many ways. He said: “This is certainly a major turning point in education where universities need to make big changes.
“They need to adapt as soon as possible to ensure that students are assessed fairly, that they all compete on an equal footing and that they still have the skills needed beyond university.
“There has been a technology that generates text for several years. The big change is that this technology is integrated into a very pleasant interface where you can interact with it, almost as if you were talking to another human. So that makes it accessible to a lot of people.
Because ChatGPT is able to come up with countless original combinations of words, Lancaster said it would be harder to spot and prove plagiarism, although work is already underway to improve the detection software. “This is an incredibly tricky problem because it almost appeared out of nowhere…I would be absolutely shocked if there weren’t already students using GPT for assessments.”
Australian universities have already signaled a return to greater use of in-person examinations in an attempt to protect the integrity of assessment. Lancaster said, however, that a massive return to exams was not the answer, instead suggesting the use of oral presentations and defenses to allow students to demonstrate mastery of a subject.
Although ChatGPT marks a huge step forward in the evolution of AI text generation, it is not foolproof. “That may sound very plausible, but the more details or facts you need as part of your question, the more likely the algorithm will produce something that looks good, but is completely wrong,” said said Michael Draper, professor of legal education. at Swansea University and an expert in academic integrity and cheating.
He said universities could try to ban it, just as they ban other forms of cheating like essay mills, which students pay to produce original work which they then submit. Draper said: “The other alternative is that you allow students to use it. If we are preparing students for the outside world of work and if this kind of technology is available to us in the workplace, I think we need to embrace it rather than ban it.
Michael Webb, director of technology and analytics at Jisc, which provides networking and computing services to higher education, agrees. He said: “The knee-jerk reaction might be to block these tools to prevent students from cheating, but that’s neither feasible nor desirable. We really should think of them as just the next step in spelling or grammar checkers: technology that can make everyone’s life easier.
“We don’t need to go back to in-person exams: it’s a great opportunity for the industry to explore new assessment techniques that measure learners on critical thinking, problem solving and reasoning skills. rather than essay writing skills.”
A ChatGPT trial
Q to ChatGPT: Write a college-level essay on the causes of World War I. The essay should be written from a UK perspective and use UK English.
A: World War I, also known as the Great War, was a global conflict that lasted from 1914 to 1918 and resulted in the deaths of millions of people. The causes of war are complex and varied, but can be broadly categorized into long-term, short-term, and immediate causes.
One of the main long-term causes of the war was competition for colonies and resources between the major European powers. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the British Empire and other European nations were expanding their empires and seeking new territories to exploit for resources and markets. This led to tensions between the major powers, as they vied for control of the same areas.
Another long-term cause was the arms race between the great powers. In the years leading up to the war, countries like Germany, France, and Britain had invested heavily in their military capabilities, including building large armies and navies. This arms race has created an atmosphere of distrust and fear between the great powers, each fearing that the others will become too powerful.
Short-term causes of the war include the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary in 1914 and the system of alliances that existed between the major European powers. The assassination of the Archduke, carried out by a member of a Bosnian Serb nationalist group, led Austria-Hungary to declare war on Serbia, which led to the involvement of other countries as a result of their alliances.
The immediate causes of the war include the mobilization of armies by the Great Powers in response to the outbreak of war, and the Schlieffen Plan, which was a military strategy developed by Germany to quickly defeat France before turning its attention to the Russia.
In conclusion, the causes of the First World War were complex and varied. The competition for colonies and resources between the great European powers, the arms race between the great powers, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the system of alliances, the mobilization of armies and the Schlieffen plan all contributed at the outbreak of war in 1914.