‘It seems to be kind of uncatchable’: UVic professors alarmed by AI use among students

'It seems to be kind of uncatchable': UVic professors alarmed by AI use among students

As students cram in preparation for their exams, fears of a new cheating method are circulating among some staff at the University of Victoria.

It’s the use of artificial intelligence to generate exams, answers and otherwise gain an academic edge.

Currently, the school’s academic integrity policy doesn’t account for using artificial intelligence, specifically.

“It’s a completely new kind of cheating, to be honest, and it seems to be kind of uncatchable,” said UVic English Professor Stephen Ross.

He worries there’s no way to know how widespread the issue is, and there’ll never be a way to find out.

“I think people are genuinely freaked out about it, to be honest,” he added.

The university’s administration would not share any details about how many students are under investigation in the matter. Still, one of the school’s top administrators says the use of any new technology needs to be carefully considered.

“We need to prepare our students to understand and embrace technology through the lens of critical analysis and ethical and equity principles,” said Elizabeth Croft, UVic Vice-President Academic and Provost, wrote in a statement.

Currently, one of the most common AI technologies used is called ChatGPT, and its use on campus is no secret.

“A lot of my friends are using ChatGPT, not for plagiarizing but for getting some ideas for their homework,” said one student.

But the question of its use remains a contentious one. Many wonder to what extent its use is permissible and at what point someone is breaking one of the rules outlined in the school’s academic integrity policy.

There are several rules that cover some of the grounds that AI-generated content would cover. Those rules, as outlined by the university, are:

  • Using an editor, whether paid or unpaid, unless the instructor grants explicit written permission
  • Using work prepared in whole or in part by someone else (e.g., commercially prepared essays) and submitting it as your own.
  • Using a quoted reference from a non-original source while implying reference to the original source.

And while these rules do cover several aspects of plagiarism, they don’t necessarily say you can’t use AI to augment your own ability.

“Yeah, it’s just not fair, I guess, for us who do our own work. What are you going to do about it?”

A closer look at the rules doesn’t say anything about using the software to outline an essay, generate good ideas for a new topic or review something you’ve already written and suggest improvements.

Despite all this, UVic says it’s working on updating its policies to reflect the dilemma of machine learning and its use in the academic realm.

And in the meantime, some professors are suggesting a return to in-class testing might be needed.

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Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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