New AI tool raises education concerns globally

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A new Artificial Intelligence tool, ChatGPT, has raised concerns globally over its impact in education with its ability to produce high-quality essays with minimal human input.

ChatGPT is the latest chatbot from OpenAI, founded in 2015 by Elon Musk, Sam Altman and others, but has only been publicly available since November. It also generates text on any subject in response to a prompt or query.

The new AI has already been banned across all devices in New York’s public schools due to concerns over its “negative impact on student learning” and potential for plagiarism.

While universities in Australia are considering returning to conventional pen and paper for examinations, lecturers in the United Kingdom universities have been urged to review the way in which their courses are assessed.

According to the Guardian UK, ChatGPT has been described as “a gamechanger” that will prove a challenge in universities and schools. Though GCSE and A-level courses are assessed through traditional end-of-course examinations, experts are concerned pupils who use the technology to do their homework will become dependent on AI-generated answers without acquiring the knowledge and skills they need.

The General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders,Geoff Barton, meanwhile, acknowledged that schools would have to get to grips with how to utilise ChatGPT’s benefits while guarding against negative implications.

“As with all technology, there are caveats around making sure that it is used responsibly and not as a licence to cheat, but none of that is insurmountable,” he said.

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A computer scientist working at Imperial College London, Dr Thomas Lancaster, best known for his research into academic integrity, contract cheating and plagiarism, said it was in many ways a game changer. He was quoted as saying, “It’s certainly a major turning point in education where universities have to make big changes.

“They have to adapt sooner rather than later to make sure that students are assessed fairly, that they all compete on a level playing field and that they still have the skills needed beyond university.

“There’s been technology around for several years that will generate text. The big change is that this technology is wrapped up in a very nice interface where you can interact with it, almost like speaking to another human. So it makes it available to a lot of people.”

Also, the University of Sydney’s latest academic integrity policy now specifically mentions “generating content using artificial intelligence” as a form of cheating.

A spokesperson said while few instances of cheating had been observed, and cases were generally of a low standard, the university was preparing for change by redesigning assessments and improving detection strategies.

“We also know AI can help students learn, and will form part of the tools we use at work in the future – so we need to teach our students how to use it legitimately,” they said.

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