OpenAI and The Evolution of Academic Cheating

November 2, 2022

Once considered too dangerous for public release, OpenAI’s text generator first ventured forth as a private beta. Now a version called Playground is available to everyone and is even free for the first three months (or the first 1,200,00 characters, whichever comes first). Leave it to the free market to breeze past considerations of misuse. We learn from Vice Motherboard that one key concern has materialized: “Students Are Using AI to Write Their Papers, Because Of Course They Are.” It did not take students long to realize this cheat slips right past plagiarism detecting software—because it is not technically plagiarism. Reporter Claire Woodcock writes:

“George Veletsianos, Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning & Technology and associate professor at Royal Roads University says this is because the text generated by systems like OpenAI API are technically original outputs that are generated within a black box algorithm. ‘[The text] is not copied from somewhere else, it’s produced by a machine, so plagiarism checking software is not going to be able to detect it and it’s not able to pick it up because the text wasn’t copied from anywhere else,’ Veletsianos told Motherboard. ‘Without knowing how all these other plagiarism checking tools quite work and how they might be developed in the future, I don’t think that AI text can be detectable in that way.’ It’s unclear whether the companies behind the AI tools have the ability to detect or prevent students from using them to do their homework. OpenAI did not comment in time for publication.”

It was inevitable, really. One writing instructor quoted in the story recognizes today’s students can easily accumulate more knowledge than ever before. However, he laments losing the valuable process of gaining that knowledge through exploration if writing assignments become moot. The tutor has a point, but there is likely no turning back now. Perhaps there is a silver lining: academic institutions may finally be forced to teach like they exist in the 21st century. Students are already there. One cited only as innovate_rye states:

“I still do my homework on things I need to learn to pass, I just use AI to handle the things I don’t want to do or find meaningless. If AI is able to do my homework right now, what will the future look like? These questions excite me.”

That is one way to look at it. Perhaps the spirit of exploration is not dead, but rather evolving. Colleges and universities must find a way to keep up or risk becoming irrelevant.

A failure means than students will learn that cheating is the norm. Such progress.

Cynthia Murrell, November 2, 2022


One Response to “OpenAI and The Evolution of Academic Cheating”

  1. OpenAI Working on Proprietary Watermark for Its AI-Generated Text : Stephen E. Arnold @ Beyond Search on January 24th, 2023 5:10 am

    […] word. For example, what is to keep students from handing their assignments off to an algorithm? (Nothing, as it turns out.) How would one know? Now OpenAI has come up with a solution—of sorts. Analytics […]

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