College professors are facing a crisis as they discover multiple cases of plagiarism with ‘ChatGPT plagiarists’.

College professors are facing a crisis as they discover multiple cases of plagiarism with 'ChatGPT plagiarists'.

The Rise of AI Chatbots and the Cheating Crisis in College

AI Chatbots

ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence chatbots have become the go-to source for cheating in college, leading educators to rethink how they teach and assess students. While the technology has the potential to revolutionize the way we learn, it also presents challenges when it comes to maintaining academic integrity.

One of the most pressing challenges is the reliability of AI detectors. Stephanie Laggini Fiore, associate vice provost at Temple University, tested the detector used by the popular plagiarism detection service Turnitin and found it to be “incredibly inaccurate.” It worked best at confirming human work, but struggled to identify chatbot-generated text and hybrid work.

Another concern is the potential for false accusations. Last semester, a Texas A&M professor wrongly accused an entire class of using ChatGPT on their final assignments, only to later exonerate most of the students. With AI-generated text being unique each time, it’s nearly impossible to determine if a student has used an AI-powered chatbot dishonestly unless they confess.

Some cases of cheating are more obvious, with students turning in assignments that are clearly cut-and-paste jobs. Writing professor Timothy Main has seen answers that come in with statements like, “I am just an AI language model, I don’t have an opinion on that.” Main logged 57 academic integrity issues in his first-year required writing class, with AI cheating accounting for about half of them.

To address the rise of cheating facilitated by AI chatbots, educators are implementing new strategies. Many instructors are returning to paper exams, requiring students to show their editing history and drafts to prove their thought process. Others are making assignments more personalized to encourage students to write about their own experiences and perspectives, while strictly prohibiting the use of artificial intelligence.

College administrators are urging instructors to clarify the ground rules of using chatbots in the classroom. Institutions like Michigan State University are providing statements for faculty to modify on syllabi, helping shape new assignments and policies. Instead of asking straightforward questions that AI chatbots can easily answer, educators are encouraged to ask questions that require critical thinking and error identification.

The impact of chatbots on student study habits and information seeking is already evident. Chegg Inc., an online company that offers homework help and has been linked to numerous cheating cases, reported a significant decline in usage due to the spike in student usage of ChatGPT. Students see chatbots as a quick way to find information without the effort or time required for traditional research methods.

However, there are concerns that chatbots are prone to “hallucination,” meaning they can generate false information. Developers are working to improve the reliability of chatbot platforms, but it remains uncertain when or if this issue will be fully resolved. Educators worry that students who rely on AI shortcuts are cheating themselves out of essential skills needed for higher-level classes.

The cheating crisis has prompted some instructors, like Bonnie MacKellar, a computer science professor at St. John’s University, to shift back to paper-based tests. MacKellar believes that a return to traditional exams would force students to truly understand and learn the concepts, as opposed to relying on AI chatbots. This sentiment is echoed by students like Ronan Takizawa, a computer science major at Colorado College, who believe that paper exams would encourage a deeper understanding of the material.

The arrival of AI chatbots has left students uncertain about when it’s acceptable to use them and when it crosses the line into cheating. Some students, like Nathan LeVang from Arizona State University, now double-check their assignments using AI detectors to ensure they haven’t unintentionally relied too heavily on AI-generated text. LeVang acknowledges the need for extra work to maintain academic integrity in the age of AI.

As educators continue to grapple with the challenges posed by AI chatbots, a balance must be struck between embracing technology’s potential and ensuring academic integrity. The rise of cheating facilitated by AI chatbots has prompted a reconsideration of assessment methods and a renewed focus on personalized and critical thinking-based assignments. Ultimately, it’s crucial to equip students with the skills they need to succeed in their academic journey, while also adapting teaching methods to the fast-evolving technological landscape.

The Associated Press education team receives support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The AP is solely responsible for all content.