We all love technology that makes our lives easier, fun and perhaps more interesting in some aspects. The tools of artificial intelligence (AI) have definitely offered us these benefits, and more. Some AI is used to help enhance performance, but there have been increasing use of AI authoring material, adding to issues of plagiarism and cheating.
We look at this major shift in assessments and coursework for teachers and students and how learning approaches have been affected.
Covid-19 and AI
Yes, there it is again. We’re still reeling from the effects of the pandemic, and AI has offered us plenty to chew on.
The long lockdowns forcing schools and universities to close moved classrooms online, and led to many students and teachers to work alone.
Working in isolation and often with limited access to libraries or labs, students may have had little options but to turn to AI tools to help them with their coursework.
We know that AI-generated text can now be found in novels, fake news articles and real news articles, marketing campaigns, and dozens of other written products. The technology is either free or cheap to use, making it attractive and accessible for those who desire it.
As teachers, the use of AI streamlines the course creation process, speeding up the process and reducing costs. Whether lecturers opt for premade templates or are starting from scratch, AI software can help create interactive content seamlessly. For example, the teaching community can efficiently work with entire teams via in-app comments from reviewers and co-authors to create perfect training material.
It’s clear that AI simplifies and accelerates course development. By assessing student learning history and abilities, AI gives teachers or lecturers a clearer picture of lessons and subjects requiring reevaluation. Teachers alter their courses by evaluating every student’s specific needs to address common knowledge gaps. This enables teachers to develop the best learning programs for all students.
The same benefits can be enjoyed by students who are at the receiving end of AI. Incorporating AI into the classroom offers the chance for students to enjoy a more personalised learning experience. We know there are many AI algorithms that crunch student data and adapt to their learning styles, providing feedback and recommendations that are tailored to their individual needs and abilities.
AI’s quality of content
A point to note is that using AI programmes may not constitute “plagiarism” in the traditional sense as there are no previous works for students to copy, and thus no original content for plagiarism detectors to catch.
The process happens when a student first feeds text from either a single or multiple sources into a software to begin the process. Software is sophisticated to generate content by using a set of parameters on a topic, which then can be personalised to an assessment’s requirements. With a little bit of practice, a student can use AI to write his or her paper in a fraction of the time that it would normally take to write an essay. How assessments are then graded changes now with this new development.
It may not be clear at first, but content generated by AI tools tend to not have a style of writing that is unique to its creator. Writing may sound flat or even like another author, and it is unethical to take full credit for how a particular work was produced.
This in turn could result in essays that are less effective or persuasive than those written by humans. Additionally, AI-written essays may be more likely to contain errors, since they are not written by native speakers of the language. And, AI essays may also be less creative than those written by humans, since they are limited by the data and information that they have been fed.
Using AI for assessments – is it blatant cheating?
The jury is still out on this, while outright cheating and plagiarism remains serious offences in universities, the use of tools to enhance coursework remains in the gray area. There are many language softwares that help fix grammar and typos, and often your email software offers predictive text to complete your work. All these are accepted at university and at the workplace.
So, while technology and detection tools are being refined to fish out academic cheats, students are likely to be able to use AI so long as they keep their university goals and maintain academic integrity.
Some people believe that AI takes away the opportunity for students to learn and improve their writing skills. Others believe that AI can be used as a tool to help students learn and improve their writing. Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to use AI to write essays is up to the individual student, and their understanding of the importance of learning outcomes, academic performance and experience of university as a whole.