Over time, artificial intelligence tools have been steadily developing and emerging into people’s lives. Now, many of them are now easily accessible to anyone with a decent wifi connection. While this seems like a feat of innovation for engineers, scientists, and technology as a whole, the implementation of AI in academia has raised concerns that could cause some to think otherwise. For example, ChatGPT is an AI chatbot developed by OpenAI that aims to generate immediate conversational-style responses to prompts– including but not limited to prompts regarding questions, text-translations, and summarization (Cotton et al., 2023). The software launched in November 2022, and has since seen growing popularity in the classroom, forcing both students and educators to reconceive traditional ideas of learning standards that have been complicated by ChatGPT. While ethical controversies have proliferated surrounding ChatGPT in academia, alternate suggestions for how to best take advantage of AI resources have naturally arisen as well. In this essay, I will address common concerns about students using ChatGPT, and offer suggestions for how to appropriately use it in consideration of both the challenges and benefits it provides.
Concerns About ChatGPT
With ChatGPT being banned in schools across the world, it is evident that educators are worried about what students will be capable of with access to the chatbot. According to a qualitative study that evaluated the relevance, accuracy, originality, depth, and additional factors of ChatGPT’s responses to various prompts, it was well supported that it could easily assist students in cheating on assessments and exams (Susnjak, 2022). This impressive proficiency demonstrated in the AI’s output seems to have incited a widely-shared concern about its implications for academic integrity. For instance, as researchers describe, the ease of plagiarism with the use of ChatGPT seems to undermine the need for higher education (Cotton et al., 2023). As students can quickly complete assignments with a simple software, the focus on rigorous research and writing at post-secondary institutions seems to lose its worth, since much of the work can easily be written by ChatGPT– sometimes to a higher quality than students are capable of. Furthermore, ChatGPT can ultimately contribute to the loss of creativity and critical thinking, due to the fact that one can have their work completed for them, rather than needing to rationalize and create solutions themselves. This will lead to future failures, as it will prevent students from properly developing their researching and writing skills, and fields of study will be flooded with work that the software itself warns might include incorrect and biased information that is limited to a certain date or framework (OpenAI, 2023). Additionally, as students continue to use ChatGPT, it will inevitably create inequities in assessments (Cotton et al., 2023). This is due to the fact that some students will be making honest attempts at completing assignments, using their own background knowledge, experiences, research, and skills to conceive of their solutions, while other students will be turning to technology’s efforts, resulting in students earning higher or lower grades than they potentially deserved. Those who attempted to use their skills themselves will be at a disadvantage, putting in far greater effort than their ChatGPT-using counterparts. Ultimately, these concerns surrounding ChatGPT may lead to the “devaluation of degrees” (Cotton et al, 2023), due to the aforementioned impacts on post-secondary education.
Benefits of ChatGPT
While these concerns thoroughly explain why many feel hesitant to accept (or outright reject) ChatGPT as a resource in academia, this does not mean that there are no conceivable benefits and opportunities that ChatGPT can provide to both students and educators. One benefit is found in its text translation feature (Lund & Wang, 2023). This aspect can aid individuals in language learning, since multiple studies have found it to be quite accurate, including Susnjak’s. This will help those attempting to navigate environments in which they are unfamiliar with the language, contributing to the expansion of global boundaries. Furthermore, ChatGPT functions to increase efficiency in research and literature review. This is done because it can extract, summarize, and analyze large data sets, faster than the time it would take for human individuals to do so (Lund & Wang, 2023). This aspect allows for the software to selectively synthesize documents within entire fields of study, greatly accelerating the pace at which potential advancements can be made and referenced. In addition, educators who have been using ChatGPT as a learning assistant in their classes have found that it has helped their students gain deeper understandings of the materials, and that it offers them a way to restructure and clarify their own ideas with the assistance of an external source (Roose, 2023). This gives them a foundation to be able to create their own work, and demonstrate their knowledge in richer ways. As explained, ChatGPT provides many benefits when being used as a tool to further education, rather than a direct source for plagiarism.
Suggestions for ChatGPT
As described in this paper, the concerns regarding ChatGPT can be prevalent enough to outweigh the potential benefits, leading to the enforcement of restrictions on the use of ChatGPT in academic environments. Nonetheless, studies have shown that there are indeed ways to use ChatGPT in effective and educational ways while being mindful of the potential for plagiarism and unsavoury consequences. Warner (2023) emphasizes that “learning is rooted in experiences”, and it seems likely that ChatGPT can be used to enhance experience rather than replace it, as these concerns have suggested. When utilizing ChatGPT as a resource to deepen learning and provide different approaches to understanding, it allows for students to take advantage of such an innovative technology without sacrificing the authenticity of their work and the purpose of their education.
Additionally, as technology continues to advance, avoiding the use of these revolutionary resources would be unwise, since AI will only continue to progress and implement itself in various ways in people’s everyday lives. Choosing to altogether deny younger generations the use of ChatGPT and other AI tools like it would be to ineffectively counteract the natural progression of innovation and technology. While it is important to use AI appropriately– for example, in ways I have previously suggested– it is not productive nor realistic to discount AI on account of its possible misuses.
With ChatGPT only beginning to establish its place in academia, this type of discourse regarding its upsides, downsides, and appropriate usages is important to have if there is hope for AI to be effectively used by scholars. Given what we have seen from AI thus far and the outstretched path of technological advancements, it seems we have good reason to remain hopeful. Despite the challenges it brings to academic integrity and education, the benefits of using ChatGPT to assist and elevate research and work should encourage people to use it wisely, rather than not at all.
Cotton, D. R. E., Cotton, P. A., & Shipway, J. R. (2023). Chatting and cheating: Ensuring academic integrity in the era of ChatGPT, Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1080/14703297.2023.2190148
Introducing ChatGPT. Introducing ChatGPT. (2023). Retrieved March 18, 2023, from https://openai.com/blog/chatgpt
Johnson, A. (2023). ChatGPT in Schools: Here’s Where It’s Banned-And How It Could Potentially Help Students. Forbes. Retrieved March 18, 2023, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/ariannajohnson/2023/01/18/chatgpt-in-schools-heres-where-its-banned-and-how-it-could-potentially-help-students/?sh=667ae6bd6e2c
Lund, B. D., & Wang, T. (2023). Chatting about ChatGPT: how may AI and GPT impact academia and libraries?, Library Hi Tech News, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/LHTN-01-2023-0009
Roose, K. (2023). Don’t Ban ChatGPT in Schools. Teach With It. The New York Times. Retrieved March 18, 2023, from https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/12/technology/chatgpt-schools-teachers.html
Susnjak, T. (2022). ChatGPT: The End of Online Exam Integrity? arXiv Forum, https://doi.org/10.48550/arXiv.2212.09292
Warner, J. (2023) How About We Put Learning at the Center?: Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved March 18, 2023, from https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/just-visiting/how-about-we-put-learning-center
Poth, R. D. (2019, September 3). Artificial Intelligence: Preparing students for the future with ai. Getting Smart. Retrieved March 18, 2023, from https://www.gettingsmart.com/2019/09/03/artificial-intelligence-preparing-students-for-the-future-with-ai/