Artificial intelligence is improving in writing and universities should be worried about plagiarism


The dramatic increase in online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted concerns about the role of technology in exam supervision – and also in student cheating.

Some universities have reported no more cheating during the pandemic, and these concerns are manifested in a climate where technologies allowing the automation of writing keep improving.

Over the past two years, the capacity of artificial intelligence generate writing jumped move forward in a meaningful way, especially with the development of what is called the GPT-3 language generator. With this, companies such as Google, Microsoft and NVIDIA can now produce “human” text.

AI-generated writing raised the issues of how universities and schools will assess what constitutes an academic fault, such as plagiarism. As interested academics in academic integrity and the intersections of work, society and the work of educators, we believe that educators and parents should, at the very least, pay close attention to these important developments.

AI and academic writing

The use of technology in academic writing is already widespread. For example, many universities are already using text-based plagiarism detectors like Turnitin, while students can use Grammar, a cloud-based writing assistant. Examples of writing support include automatic text generation, extraction, prediction, exploration, form filling, paraphrase, translation and transcription.

Advances in AI technology have led to new tools, products and services offered to writers to improve content and efficiency. As these improve, soon whole articles Where the trials could be generated and entirely written by artificial intelligence. In schools, the implications of such developments will undoubtedly shape the future of learning, writing and teaching.

What if an essay is 100% AI-written, but a student does a lot of the coding themselves? (Shutterstock)

Already widespread misconduct issues

Research has shown that concerns about academic misconduct are already prevalent in all higher education institutions in Canada and internationally.

In Canada, there is little data regarding rates of misconduct. Research published in 2006 based on data mainly from undergraduates at 11 higher education institutions found 53 percent reported committing one or more serious cheating on written work, which was defined as copying material without a footnote, copying material almost verbatim, submitting work done by someone else, the forging or forging of a bibliography, the submission of a paper that they bought or obtained for free from someone else.

Academic misconduct is in all likelihood underreported in Canadian higher education institutions.

There are different types of academic integrity violations, including plagiarism, fraud contract (where students hire other people to write their papers) and exam fraud, among others.

Unfortunately, with technology, students can use their ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit to cheat. These concerns also apply to faculty members, academics, and writers in other fields, bringing new concerns about academic integrity and AI, such as:

  • If a text was written 49% by AI, the remaining 51% being written by a human, is it an original work?
  • What if an essay is 100% AI-written, but a student does some of the coding themselves?
  • What can be called “AI assistance” as opposed to “academic cheating”?
  • Do the same rules apply to students as to academics and researchers?

We ask these questions in our own research, and we know that in the face of all of this, educators will need to consider how writing can be assessed or assessed effectively as these technologies improve.

Increase or decrease integrity?

Currently, little guidance, policy, or oversight is available regarding technology, AI, and academic integrity for teachers and education leaders.

Over the past year, COVID-19 has pushed more students into online learning – a sphere where teachers can become less familiar with their own students and therefore, potentially, their writing.

While it remains impossible to predict the future of these technologies and their implications for education, we can attempt to discern some of the broader trends and trajectories that will impact teaching, learning and research.

Technology and automation in education

A major concern for the future is the apparent movement towards increasing teaching automation where educational technology companies offer products such as writing tools as proposed solutions for the various “problems” within education.

An example of this is the automated assessment of student work, such as automated grading of student writing. Many commercial products already exist for automated scoring, although the ethics of these technologies have not yet been fully explored by academics and educators.

Overall, the traditional landscape surrounding academic integrity and authorship is rapidly being reshaped by technological developments. Such technological developments also raise concerns about a shift in professional control away from educators And more and more new expectations of digital literacy in precarious work environments.

These complexities, concerns and questions will require further reflection and discussion. Education actors at all levels will have to react and rethink the definitions as well as the values ​​surrounding plagiarism, originality, academic ethics and academic work in the very near future.

The authors sincerely thank Ryan Morrison, George Brown College, who provided considerable expertise, advice and assistance in the development of this article.The conversation


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