While Daily acknowledges that this technological development has drawn new attention in academia, she doesn’t see it as a completely unexplored field. “I think we’ve been in this space for a while,” Daily said. “Students who plagiarize usually borrow material from ‘somewhere’—for example, a website with no clear author attribution. I doubt that the definition of plagiarism will expand to include something produced.”
Ultimately, the Daily argues, students who use ChatGPT text will be treated no differently than students who copy and paste chunks of Wikipedia text without attribution.
What students think of ChatGPT is another question entirely. Some, like Cobbs, can’t imagine putting their name on anything robot-generated, but others see it as just another tool, such as a spell check or even a calculator. For Jacob Gelman, a sophomore at Brown University, ChatGPT exists as a handy research assistant and nothing more.
“It’s absurd to call using ChatGPT to get trusted sources from the internet ‘cheating.’ It’s like saying it’s unethical to use the internet for research,” Gelman said. “For me, ChatGPT is equivalent to research [typing assistant] grammatically. I use it for practicality, nothing more. Cobbs expressed a similar sentiment, comparing AI bots to “online encyclopedias.”
But while students like Gelman use robots to speed up research, others take advantage of high-volume prompting to generate complete work for submission. Here, it may seem obvious what cheating is, but different schools across the country offer wildly different views.
Carlee Warfield, chair of Bryn Mawr’s student honor committee, said the school considers any use of these artificial intelligence platforms to be plagiarism. The popularity of the tool just calls for greater attention to assessing the intent behind student infractions. Warfield explained that students who submit papers generated entirely by AI are very different from those who borrow online tools without understanding standard citations. Since the ChatGPT phenomenon is still so new, students are understandably confused about the ethics of the operation. And, because ChatGPT is still so new, it’s unclear which policies will remain the same at any school once the dust settles.
In the midst of fundamental changes in the academic and technological fields, universities have been forced to reconsider their definitions of academic integrity to reasonably reflect the social environment. The only problem is, society isn’t standing still.
“Villanova’s current guidelines for academic integrity will be updated to include language that prohibits the use of these tools to generate text that students then represent as their independently generated text,” Daily explained. “But I think it’s an evolving thing. What it can do and what we need to focus on will also be a moving target.”
Besides the growing complexity of whether ChatGPT is a research tool or a plagiarism engine, there is also the possibility that it can be used for learning. In other educational settings, teachers see it as a way to teach students about the shortcomings of AI. Some teachers are already modifying the way they teach by assigning students assignments that robots cannot complete, such as those requiring personal details or anecdotes. There is also the problem of detecting the use of AI in student work, which itself is a burgeoning cottage industry.
Finally, the Daily said, schools may need rules that reflect a range of variables.
“My guess is that there will be some broad blanket policy that basically says unless you have a professor’s permission to use AI tools, using them will be considered a violation of the code of academic integrity,” Daily said. “That gives teachers broad latitude to use it in their teaching or assignments, as long as they specify that they allow it.”
As for ChatGTP, the program agrees. “Advances in areas such as artificial intelligence are expected to drive major innovations in the coming years,” it said when asked how schools are combating academic dishonesty today. “As technology evolves, schools should continually review and update their academic honor codes to ensure they address the current ways in which technology is being used in academic settings.”
However, the robot will say so.
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