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  • Danielle Blair

ChatGPT: A Peril to Academic Integrity?

With its tailored responses, ChatGPT has revolutionised the learning experience. However, its efficiency has raised plagiarism concerns. The key question I ask here is: should ChatGPT be banned?

Illustration by Taichun Zheng (IG: @taichun_zheng)

Vast advancements in computational power, machine learning, and datasets have increased the accessibility of artificial intelligence. Developed by OpenAI, ChatGPT has amassed over 100 million users (many of whom are students) since its launch in 2022. With its tailored responses, ChatGPT has revolutionised the learning experience. However, its efficiency has raised plagiarism concerns. The key question I ask here is: should ChatGPT be banned?

Efficiency is the foremost advantage of ChatGPT. Students spend hours scouring the Internet, their textbooks, and the library for answers. AI offers the benefits of an immediate and personalised response. ChatGPT delivers responses based on its training data, which is a dataset derived from a culmination of Internet sources. It centralises a wide range of information, offering a personalised, yet comprehensive answer. At this level, ChatGPT is similar to Google, because its primary function is information retrieval. However, unlike your typical search engine, ChatGPT condenses its response to what is relevant which ensures there is no need to sift through redundant websites for the answer to one question, because this information is available at any time. There are no time constraints when using AI for research. This is in contrast to strict loan times for books or library opening hours which can limit students.

Furthermore, ChatGPT is an effective study tool. Firstly, it can be used for planning. Students can ask AI to develop study plans, condense notes, and create active recall questions or flashcards. This does not compromise academic integrity. It facilitates effective approaches to revision and ultimately enhances scholarly practice. AI analyses and adapts to the user's questions. Students are able to ask for clarification on any subject matter. Alternatively, students can ask ChatGPT to rephrase a source in simpler language or ask for context-specific examples to reinforce their learning. This is particularly useful in improving written literacy and language proficiency. Students can converse with AI in a foreign language, practising conversational skills, sentence construction, and vocabulary. ChatGPT can provide students with inspiration for creative essay titles, and structures for essay plans. Students can also use ChatGPT for feedback. By asking the software to analyse their work, students can identify any weaknesses or knowledge gaps. AI, when used appropriately, has the capability of acting as a tutor; an accessible tool available to all students globally, as long as they have internet access. 

However, the accessibility of ChatGPT increases the ease of plagiarism. Its history of being interlinked with plagiarism is the primary concern for overreliance on AI. Due to the speed and convenience of ChatGPT, students are more likely to resort to an AI-generated response for graded assignments. This negatively impacts critical thinking skills. The widespread use of AI also decreases the creativity of student literature. Additionally, ChatGPT relies on a vast dataset. This is based on information both accessible and inaccessible to the public. Students may blindly rely on information that has not been factually verified or accurately cited. With a training dataset based on Internet sources, ChatGPT inherently reflects societal biases, and is more susceptible to bias in general. Furthermore, AI adapts to user input, and at times, it reinforces bias if influenced. Finally, ChatGPT’s knowledge does not extend beyond January 2022. The information offered  is therefore relatively limited. 

The concern for plagiarism is warranted. It is estimated that 47.3% of students at Cambridge used ChatGPT in April 2023. At least 8 out of 24 Russel Group Universities have banned the use of ChatGPT. However, I believe completely banning ChatGPT is unjustified. 

It is ultimately user discretion that determines whether ChatGPT is beneficial or harmful to education. AI can massively enhance the learning experience through tailored feedback and efficient information retrieval. Although there is potential for abuse, this risk can be seen in many other study tools. For instance, plagiarism is easily accessible via Google articles. Similar to AI, Google results also include inaccurate, biassed or outdated information. An overreliance on Google could arguably result in a decrease in key analytical, critical thinking and research skills. Despite this, it would be incredibly restrictive to ban Google. 

It is unrealistic to completely ban ChatGPT. Its positive impact on accessibility and efficiency means a ban would hinder key advancements in education. Furthermore, AI is quickly being integrated into various facets of society. Exposure to such developments is necessary to prepare for future careers. The focus should be on regulation; finding a balance between enhancing student experience and upholding academic integrity is crucial.



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