Within seconds, ChatGPT can write essays, cover letters, and provide answers to complex questions with a high degree of accuracy.

The free artificial intelligence tool has exploded in popularity since it launched in November, and some educators are concerned students are using ChatGPT to cheat.

Vered Shwartz, a computer science assistant professor at the University of British Columbia, says she’s impressed by the quality of work the tool can produce.

“We’re going to have to maybe come up with assignments that make it more difficult to just copy the answers from ChatGPT,” she said.

When asked to write an essay for school, the tool will warn the user of plagiarism, she discovered.

“It’s just warning you against how unethical it is to use ChatGPT to generate an essay, but it still goes ahead and generates it,” Shwartz pointed out.

And while the writing might be human-like, she said the tool doesn’t always present accurate facts and it only knows current events dated before 2021.

Liane Gabora, a psychology professor at UBC, echoes Shwartz while pointing out the tool’s limitations.

“They’re not creative the way we’re creative,” she said.

She told CTV News that she’s caught one student cheat through ChatGPT and has already warned her students about using the tool this semester.

“I just sort of said at the beginning of class, ‘I know this might be a temptation, especially if you leave things to the last minute, but I just want you to know that we’re on to it and we have programs that can detect the presence of ChatGPT generated essays,'” Gabora said.

Shwartz worries those programs could be risky to use.

“I’m concerned about having an automatic tool that detects if somebody copied from ChatGPT or wrote something on their own because it’s not going to be 100 per cent accurate and then we’re just risking accusing students of cheating when they didn’t,” she said.

Some UBC students, like Justin Konechny, say students have tried cheating with it.

“I’ve heard of people trying but not succeeding,” he said. “It often does more harm than it does help.”

Another student, Chris Mitchell, thinks more people will use it eventually.

“Most people probably haven’t been using it, but I think in a couple years as it gets better, which it will, I’m sure it will be a serious problem,” he said.

Experts agree, adding that it’s time to embrace the tool and incorporate it into classes to help students, but it’s still unclear how that can be done.

In a statement to CTV News, the Ministry of Education said it’s aware that “programs like ChatGPT may make it easier for students to be academically dishonest and could be a concern for teachers.”

The statement included some strategies teachers can use to ensure students are doing their own work, including submitting drafts and asking students to summarize aspects of their research in class without the use of a computer.

“Decisions about incorporating AI into learning methods, like ChatGPT, would ultimately be a decision made by individual teachers based on their knowledge about AI and the needs of their students,” the statement read.

In the meantime, educators are recommended to build trustful relationships with students, and assign projects that focus less on regurgitating information and more on critical thinking.

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