Thursday, 2 March 2023

ChatGPT and Higher Education

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As the arrival of ChatGPT has opened up new possibilities for students to complete written assignments, universities must carefully consider how to approach this new tool in their policies. This careful consideration is even more important for universities where the students are not native speakers of English, where linguistic proficiency is part of the evaluation of student performance. There are several options available, each with its own advantages and drawbacks, but my preference is some forward-looking option.

One option is to ban the use of ChatGPT and to implement severe punishments for any students caught using it. This a choice made by a few educational institutions worldwide, and the advantage is that this is clear and simple. However, this approach may not be practical, as it may be difficult to monitor the use of this tool effectively, even if there have been tools developed to spot the use of ChatGPT. Moreover, some students may still find ways to use ChatGPT discreetly, making it difficult to enforce such a policy effectively.

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Another option is to do nothing and to treat ChatGPT as a tool similar to spell, grammar, and style checkers. If students can use the latter tools, why not let them deploy a somewhat more advanced tool as well. While this approach may seem reasonable at first glance, it raises several issues. For one, it makes it challenging to evaluate the student's actual writing ability, especially in the case of non-native speakers of English. Moreover, ChatGPT's ability to produce perfectly written papers may be a threat to academic integrity, as it could be difficult to differentiate between work produced by students and that produced by AI. Thus, when it comes to evaluation, it is difficult to tell who is evaluated.

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A third option is to abandon written assignments that are not done in class altogether. This is again a simple and effective choice. However, this approach may not be beneficial, as written assignments are often an essential part of many courses and can provide valuable opportunities for students to develop their writing skills, skills that are transferable skills, so can be used in every walk of life. And if the future of content creation is the use of applications similar to ChatGPT, then the educational programme enforces a methodology that is alien to real life.

A more forward-thinking approach may be to teach students how to use ChatGPT effectively, responsibly, and more importantly critically, recognizing that AI-generated texts may well be the way of the future. This approach may involve revising the evaluation of written assignments to take into account the use of AI tools, emphasizing the importance of critical thinking and the ability to integrate information from multiple sources in the writing process. It may also involve teaching students how to evaluate the reliability and accuracy of information generated by AI. And when the students’ linguistic abilities

NightCafé Studio 02/03/2023
are to be evaluated, the in-class methodology can be used. So teaching the responsible use of ChatGPT and revising the evaluation methodology go hand in hand.

Whatever the chosen approach, universities must also consider what to do with students who choose not to use ChatGPT. This is even more so, if students’ choice is motivated by the lack of technological resources. Instructors must make it clear that students have a choice in how they complete their assignments, but that they will be evaluated on the quality of their work, regardless of the tools they use. But again, the quality of the product may well depend on the students financial background or technological interests, so the avoidance of deepening the digital divide should be in the focus of our attention.

In conclusion, the arrival of ChatGPT presents both opportunities and challenges for universities in their approach to written assignments. While it may be tempting to ban the use of this tool, it is essential to recognize its potential benefits and to find ways to integrate it effectively into the learning process. This requires careful consideration of the implications of AI-generated texts and the development of policies that promote responsible use of this technology. What would be your choice?

 PS. I have given very detailed prompts and introduced quite a few sentences, clauses. So again, it is rather difficult to differentiate what is mine and what is exclusively that of ChatGPT.

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