AI & Cheating in Classrooms: What’s Really Happening?
Whether you’re a student, an educator, or just someone who reads the news, you’ve probably heard some of the panic currently going on around AI being used to cheat on essays. Is this true? If it is, can learning institutions do anything to prevent it? As the experts, we’re here to say: yes, and yes. Here’s a rundown of what’s happening around AI-written assessments right now, and how educators can shake things up to make sure it doesn’t impact their learners.
How Can AI Be Used to Cheat Assessments?
“Artificial Intelligence” is something of a catch-all term being used to refer to a number of recently-developed technologies. For the topic of essay writing, the technology being used is also known as a “Large Language Model”, “Generative Pre-training Transformer”, or more simply, generative AI. The most well-known product providing this technology is called ChatGPT, created by AI research lab OpenAI – but competitors in Google, Microsoft, and smaller start-ups are also seeing wide use.
These tools allow users to provide the AI with questions (and any supporting information needed), and the AI will give the user an answer that reads in a completely natural way. For example, a secondary student may input the following for their History class:
“Write me a 1500 word essay on the daily lives of early Australian settlers. It should include some comparisons to their former British lives, and some names of historical figures who were important at the time.”
From there, the AI will start to write exactly that: a 1500 word essay on the daily lives of early Australian settlers. It will take all of two minutes, and read like it was written like a human. The student can then edit this a little to correct any mistakes the AI might have made (or, if they’re particularly detached from the course, just leave it as-is), submit it to their teacher, and get a decent grade. There is no real, concrete way to detect if something has been written using AI (no matter what some software startups may say), so educators essentially have to worry that every essay they get submitted is fake, their students aren’t internalising the content being taught, and they’re ultimately wasting their time. Ask any teacher you know how they feel about AI, and most likely, you’ll immediately see a look of despair in their eyes.
So What Can Be Done?
Since any services claiming to be able to detect AI writing have been proven to not work, explicitly banning AI from being used in assessments is impractical. Even if governments were to require some kind of detection tool like watermarks to be added to an AI product, other AI products that aren’t under regulations could just be used to remove them.
Instead, the solution lies on the side of institutions: if a student doesn’t need to write an essay, they can’t use AI to cheat on them. Role plays, presentations, practicals, and similar assessment styles will need to become the norm to reduce the risk of cheating. These kinds of assessments promote practical, hands-on learning that helps learners really internalise the content, while also building their flexible thinking skills and ability to adapt to changing situations.
AI can also be used in more ethical and constructive ways in the classroom. UK-based Eton College, for example, has built an AI-powered version of Isaac Newton that students can chat with to learn all about his life and achievements. Some institutions are developing teaching assistants that students can talk to while teachers are engaged in one-on-one time with other students; or a flexible tool for building more personalised lesson plans that tailor to the needs of particular students.
AI isn’t the end of teaching as a profession. But it has arrived in the world, and is impacting our industry, so we do need to adapt. The ethical, regulatory, and systematic questions raised by AI won’t be solved overnight, but on the ground level, we can swiftly change the ways that we deliver and assess our content to really help learners achieve their goals.If you’re looking for ways to incorporate new assessment methods into your curriculums, Ardacious are the educational role play experts, and we’d love to help you incorporate this transformative teaching style into your work. Reach out to us today through https://ardacious.com/contact/ to organise a time to chat.