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Are Robots Destroying our Education System?

As a child I thought that an AI apocalypse would look like a scene from Blade Runner or Wall-E. I did not predict that the greatest threat artificial intelligence presented to society would surround academic integrity.

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As a child I thought that an AI apocalypse would look like a scene from Blade Runner or Wall-E. I did not predict that the greatest threat artificial intelligence presented to society would surround academic integrity.

Across Australia, schools and universities have grown cognisant of the rising popularity of ChatGPT, a generative AI tool owned by OpenAI. ChatGPT allows internet users to insert written prompts and have complex pieces of writing generated for them in seconds. State governments across Australia have banned the use of the technology at state schools, whilst major universities intend to amend learning and assessment structures to prevent students from submitting AI-generated work in assessments[1].

These institutions have valid concerns surrounding the exploitation of this technology by students. It is blatant academic misconduct to submit work as your own when it was written by anyone – or anything – other than yourself. However, the banning of ChatGPT outside of assessment scenarios suggests a wilful ignorance of learning institutions to the potentials of this technology. In particular, the benefits which may eventuate from allowing students to engage with AI writing generators in controlled learning environments.

ChatGPT presents a unique opportunity for students to learn basic information on topics which they are unfamiliar with[2]. Think of it like Wikipedia: every student knows that the information provided is not reputable, nor acceptable to include in a final assessment. However, it still provides an enormous database of information which can be useful to students who have limited prior knowledge of a topic. If permitted under the guidance of learning professionals, students could effectively utilise ChatGPT to establish direction whilst researching unfamiliar areas of study.

Students could learn a great deal about writing styles through ChatGPT, should it be discussed and analysed in regulated learning situations. ChatGPT is trained by collecting copious amounts of written data and thus is designed to follow the conventions of various writing styles to an exemplary standard. Should this technology be used as a learning tool, students could learn a great deal about the conventions of academic writing, poetry, research reports, novels, professional correspondence, recipes, social media posts, and any other style of writing contained within the expansive training database of OpenAI[2].

Finally, the permittance of ChatGPT in supervised learning environments could allow students to better understand how AI operates, as well as the necessity behind its intense regulation in the education system. Moreover, in educating students of the limitations of writing generators, such as inherent biases against marginalised groups, plagiarism and inequalities in accessibility (to name a few examples), students could better understand the complex array of issues associated with ChatGPT and understand for themselves the dangers of abusing its academic potential. Dr. Chinedu Wilfred Okonkwo and Dr. Abejide Ade-Ibijola, both leading specialists in AI technology in Johannesburg, highlight the vast potential Chatbot technology brings to education systems. “Chatbot technology is a good innovation with the capabilities of improving not only teaching and learning but all other aspects of education”[3].

It must be noted that using this technology outside of assessment scenarios also presents disbenefits. Students may rely too heavily on ChatGPT to explain information where they lack the creativity or motivation to undertake research more independently. The information provided on ChatGPT may be false, taken out of context or driven by underlying biases which students may have difficulty identifying[4].

Nonetheless, I believe that the decision to ban ChatGPT without acknowledging its potentials for learning is both hasty and misinformed. When exploited by students to fraudulently complete assessments it has overt negative consequences. However, should students be taught how to properly engage with this technology, we may yet reduce the stigmatisation surrounding this technology, improving – rather than destroying – our education system.

 

 

 


[1] .Cassidy, C. (2023). Australian universities to return to 'pen and paper' exams after students caught using AI to write essays. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2023/jan/10/universities-to-return-to-pen-and-paper-exams-after-students-caught-using-ai-to-write-essays

[2]Baidoo-Anu, D., Owusu Ansah, L., (2023). Education in the era of generative artificial intelligence (AI): Understanding the potential benefits of ChatGPT in promoting teaching and learning. Social Science Research Network. 1-20. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4337484.

[3] Okonkwo, C. W., & Ade-Ibijola, A.  (2021). Chatbots applications in education: a systematic review. Elsevier, 2, 1-10. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666920X21000278.

[4] Rudolph, J., & Tan, S.  (2023). ChatGPT: Bullshit spewer or the end of traditional assessments in higher education?Journal of Applied Learning and Teaching, 6(1), 1-22. https://journals.sfu.ca/jalt/index.php/jalt/article/view/689.

 
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