A South Carolina college professor is raising the alarm after discovering that ChatGPT, a chatbot with artificial intelligence, was being used by a student to create an essay.
OpenAI released the technology a few weeks ago and made it accessible to the public. This is yet another blow to higher education, which has been plagued by cheating.
“Academia didn’t see this coming. So we are blindsided,” Furman University assistant philosophy Professor Darren Hick explained. “I reported it on Facebook, and my friends said, Yeah! I caught one too.”
Hick instructed his class earlier this month to write a 500-word essay about the 18th-century philosopher David Hume. The paradox of horror examines how people can enjoy something they fear. This was for a take-home exam.
He said one submission contained marks that “flagged AI usage in the student’s “rudimentary answer.” It’s a clean style. But it’s recognizable. I would say it writes like a very smart 12th grader, Hick said of ChatGPT’s written responses to questions.
“There was a peculiar wording that wasn’t wrong, but just odd… If you were to teach someone how to write essays, this is what you tell them before they create their style.
Hick, despite having a background in the ethics of copyright laws, said it was almost impossible to prove that ChatGPT wrote the paper.
The professor first entered the suspect text into ChatGPT software to determine if the written reply was by AI.
He received a 99.9% likelihood of matching. The software did not offer any citations, unlike standard plagiarism detection software.
Hick tried to create the same essay by asking ChatGPT questions that he thought his student would ask. This resulted in similar answers but not direct matches. The tool generates unique responses.
He confronted the student who admitted to using ChatGPT and was ultimately dismissed. The school also handed over the undergrad to its academic dean.
Hick is concerned that others cases may not be possible to prove and that he and his colleagues will soon become inundated by fraudulent work. Universities like Furman struggle to establish formal academic protocols to support technology development.
Hick said he could surprise students with impromptu oral examinations to catch them off guard without tech armor. He said the problem is not convincing a friend or paying someone online to write your essay.
Hick is even more concerned that ChatGPT will continue to learn, and irregularities in its work may become less evident on student papers.
“This is learning software – in a month, it’ll be smarter. In a year, it’ll be smarter,” he said. “I feel the mix between abject terror and what this is going to mean for my day-to-day job – but it’s also fascinating, endlessly fascinating.”