ChatGPT causes controversy of academic integrity

Carson Bonner, Campus Carrier news editor

Innovative artificial intelligence  technology has led to a wave of increased concern amongst universities. Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer (ChatGPT), a tool developed to accurately generate natural language and understand interactions with humans, has raised concerns related to plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty.

Less than a month after its Nov. 2022 launch, ChatGPT already had over a million users and its developers have since been approached by Microsoft with a $10 billion investment offer. However, ChatGPT’s controversy within the education world has slowed any drastic growth in the last several weeks as universities and the public school systems have put up methods of detecting its use in their students’ work.

“I think [determining how Berry faculty] will respond to ChatGPT is an ongoing question,” Provost David Slade said. “My home department in the language department has had to deal with an interesting version of this already with Google translate which has become very effective in its foreign language use. It comes down to just teaching our students the proper use for these tools that isn’t an academic integrity violation.”

According to Slade, ChatGPT can be prompted to generate any form of writing in any language, although its sophistication is limited and results would likely be a C grade. He said he signed up for the tool to gain a better understanding of its uses and capabilities in order to find a way to communicate with students about it.

“A lot of the discussion within the education system hasn’t just been academic integrity, but also what it means to have a tool like this,” Slade said. “Is there a responsible way to engage with it? Can we integrate it into our classrooms? I think answering those questions is a big part of figuring out how to interact with it.” 

From a Berry teaching perspective, ChatGPT is a tool that needs to be understood before it can be used. Director of the Writing Center Melissa King said in experimenting with the tool, she and several deans have realized the need to address the program. They will be facilitating a discussion for faculty at the end of Jan. so educators can be better equipped to detect and identify its usage in a classroom setting.

“It’s a thing that we are aware of and I think the general approach is to educate,” King said. “I think the first step is to get a sense of who amongst us has heard of this and get a sense of what it is before we get really reactionary about it. The workshop will give us a chance to talk about ChatGPT and what it can and can’t do and brainstorm ways to deal with it if it comes up.”

Although ChatGPT is new technology, the concerns from educational institutions have prompted quick response to aid in the detection of its use in the context of academic integrity. According to National Public Radio (NPR), Princeton student Eric Tian has developed an app that can detect ChatGPT generated responses in student work. In a tweet introducing his program, called GPTZero, Tian said that as humans, people deserve to know when AI is being used in any context. The hope is that detection like this will soon be common.

“It’s not going to be long before there are watermarks and ways of easily detecting [ChatGPT} but as of right now, that program is a big part of how we can identify AI usage,” King said. “Plagiarism is always a difficult thing to govern because unless you can identify it without a shadow of a doubt that it’s been done, it can be hard to prove. Program developments will be a big part of this process.”

As both ChatGPT and programs used to detect it continue to evolve, the question remains whether or not students will take the risk of being caught using ChatGPT in a writing context. According to Slade, the disciplinary action taken would be treated the same as any other type of academic dishonesty, which is outlined in Berry’s catalog. While as of now, there have been no definite occurrences of students using this program at Berry, staff and faculty will continue to learn more about ChatGPT in order to act in a way that prevents dishonesty rather than reacting to it.

“What it all comes down to is understanding the technology and how we can use it or fight it,” Slade said. “Technology changes all the time, this is just another example of that.”

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