ChatGPT sparks cheating, ethical concerns as students try realistic essay writing technology

A new artificial intelligence chatbot that can generate realistic, human-like text is causing intense debate among educators, with schools, universities and students divided about whether it poses a threat to learning or will enhance it.

Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer, known as ChatGPT, fluently answers questions from users online and has the ability to write bespoke essays and exam responses.

Teachers are worried that students will use the tool to cheat and plagiarize, with some universities moving quickly to rewrite exams, essay questions and integrity procedures.

Three states — New South Wales, Queensland, and Tasmania — have already banned ChatGPT in public schools, and Western Australia’s Education Department will decide next week whether to form a similar policy, in time for the start of the school year.

‘Helpful for initial draft’: student guild

ChatGPT can quickly pump out a multitude of written responses — from explaining a topic and writing speeches and computer code, to composing songs, poems, and short stories.

The tool had over a million users sign up a week after its launch in November.

In Western Australia, Curtin University student guild president Dylan Botica said students were quick to jump on board.

Shot taken from behind of a man at a computer
Curtin University’s student guild president sees advantages in using ChatGPT. (ABC News: Ashleigh Davis)

“For me, it’s still a bit rudimentary in its early stages, but you can definitely see how it will get better and be harder to detect,” he said.

“It is really helpful to start with that sort of initial draft or getting some ideas on paper.

“I think other people see it as a tool that they’re going to use.

[But] there have been a few students concerned their degrees won’t mean as much if everyone is using these tools.”

‘Tertiary experience’ at risk

Mr Botica said universities needed to write assessments in a variety of ways and ensure students were genuinely engaged in the learning process, in order to make them less tempted to use AI.

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