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Plagiarism challenge or opportunity?: AI platform ChatGPT has academics & tech analysts divided

With the chatbot quickly gaining popularity among students in India, academics are worried about the tool ‘killing creativity’ while cybersecurity analysts call for better regulatory norms. 

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New Delhi: From essays and emails, to writing poems and computer codes, US-based OpenAI’s artificial intelligence powered tool,  ChatGPT can do it all with such ease that it’s difficult to differentiate whether the content is written by a human or a bot. With the AI tool fast gaining popularity with students across the world as well as in India, the higher and secondary education institutions stare at a big challenge — detecting plagiarism.

Launched on 30 November last year, the platform garnered over one million users within the first week. But several schools in New York have already banned the chatbot from their campus servers to prevent cheating.

In India, while some private schools feel that the tool is “killing creativity” and will “hamper learning process” in the long run, several higher education institutes have switched back to the age-old pen and paper model to prevent plagiarism. 

However, cybersecurity analysts believe that the AI tool presents itself as an opportunity as well as a unique challenge, which can trigger groundbreaking solution-based entrepreneurship. They also say that the tool calls for better policy regulations rather than a blanket ban.

Also Read: AI technologies poised to take on our jobs from basic writing to digital art

‘Easing the burden’ on students 

Aditya, a 20-year-old pursuing Masters in Political Science at the Delhi University, who goes by one name, says he has been using ChatGPT to deconstruct difficult passages and has taken help to write his Statements of Purpose (SOPs) for college applications. 

“It is extremely fascinating to see what AI can do. I asked it to write a poem on state repression and the result was a beautiful piece of work that could rival experienced poets,” he said.

He added that had he gotten assignments in his college so far, he would have definitely used the tool.  

A Class 12 science student of a private school in Ahmedabad, who wished not to be named, said that since the chatbot is free and the school curriculum vast, it has helped him with clearing several deadlines. 

“We have to attend school, extra classes and doubt solving sessions. Amongst all this, finding time to finish assignments is difficult. ChatGPT has solved that problem for us. [It] Gives us precise answers to prompts and good quality assignments. A lot of us are using it regularly now.”

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Schools: ‘Takes away from learning’

Shalini John, head of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme at Aditya Birla World Academy, Mumbai, told ThePrint that the introduction of the ChatGPT, though in its preliminary stages, has pushed educators to address the elephant in the room. She said that not only is the tool a great facilitator for cheating, it is also killing the creativity of students. 

“We have found its usage increasing in classrooms. Although the IB mandate requires us to run all the assignments through a plagiarism checking tool, we found that the content can easily bypass the tool undetected,” she said. 

Education boards across the globe are trying to find a solution to the problem and empower stakeholders.

“Creating awareness amongst students regarding the drawbacks to using these simpler shortcuts is the most effective solution we have at hand for the moment,” she said.

In the VIBGYOR group with schools in Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai, the classrooms are so small that the teacher is familiar with the students’ caliber that cheating for them will be extremely difficult, said Shim Mathew, director, academic operations.

Deepti Malhotra, the Computer Science teacher at the Modern Public School in Delhi’s Shalimar Bagh, said that for now she focuses on making sure that she lays the emphasis on the moral responsibility of the students when they are learning to code. 

“My first classroom session is always a lesson on the ethics of coding. Getting code online is extremely simple for them but in the long term it takes away from their learning,” she told ThePrint.

Colleges switch to pen and paper 

Sharad Sinha, Associate Professor and Coordinator, Indian Institute of Technology Goa, said that in order to keep a check on plagiarism, the institute has been asking students to write their assignments in pen and paper. And since writing takes time and effort, he said that the chances of copying reduces drastically.  

However, he is not averse to the idea of AI tools being used to conduct research. “Since we do not have the tools to find the true source of content, that is whether it is machine generated or written by a human, it is important that academics look at avenues wherein there is acknowledgment of the amount of content sourced from AI.”

Meanwhile, not all academics are completely convinced of the accuracy of ChatGPT. 

V Ramgopal Rao, former director of IIT Delhi, said in a post that pedagogy and evaluation in academia will need to be relooked in the light of ChatGPT and other such AI tools. However, he added, “ChatGPT can be a valuable tool for research writing. It can help for a quick search of the background material. Because it’s basically a language tool, it writes as well as humans. However, the data sources need to be carefully checked. Though the references look authentic, there is still a need for cross verification.”

He believes that the chatbot will pose a greater threat to the study of humanity related fields since the tool in essence is language focused. To overcome this he says, “Academics may want to resort to the traditional pen and paper style of evaluation in the short term. Open book exams which are often home exams, the types IITs use for evaluation, may get greatly impacted by the ChatGPT kind of tools.” 

He added that teachers need to be aware of such tools so they can use them as aids in improving the teaching-learning methodologies. 

Also Read: Why netizens are ‘creeped out’ & concerned over Alexa’s mimicry of ‘grandma’s reading’

What cybersecurity analysts say

Dr Rahul Gopinath, a Computer Science lecturer in University of Sydney and an expert working at an intersection of software engineering and cybersecurity, said that creating a proxy matrix (a matrix to check AI based plagiarism) to counter AI is a waste of effort, the AI can simply emulate behaviors bypassing it in sometime. 

Finding parity in the AI tool with the popular language tool Grammarly, he said, “The two tools work on the same concept of large language models. The only difference is in the scope of changes to the original text. Grammarly is specifically limited to rephrasings while ChatGPT etc. are not so limited (the limitation is externally imposed).”

Comparing the ChatGPT tool to a personal assistant, he added, “The novelty of the idea and guidance given to the AI tool is coming from a human mind. It would be taking away from the idea and effort by calling the content unoriginal.”

Dominic Karunesudas, a tech entrepreneur and cybersecurity expert, called for better policy regulation for such tools. 

“Law and policy in India will now have to catch up with the speed of technology. Banning this tool is not an effective solution, instead regulatory systems need to be in place for ethics and engagement.”

He added that the tool also presents itself as an entrepreneurial opportunity, he said, “The solutions being built will have to be on a use case basis.”

Plagiarism checking platform Turnitin claims that they are actively collaborating with partners and customer advocates to address the evolving needs, increase understanding of the AI-writing, and determine whether its use benefits or hampers student learning.

In a Turnitin blog, Turnitin CEO, Chris Caren said, “We have technology that can detect AI-assisted writing as well as AI writing generated by tools like ChatGPT. One of our in-market products, Turnitin Originality, can investigate the authenticity of a student’s work by reporting on indicators of contract cheating and detecting some forms of AI-assisted writing. Additionally, other product enhancements are capable of detecting AI writing in our R&D labs.”

We will incorporate our latest AI writing detection capabilities — including those that recognise ChatGPT writing — into our in-market products for educator use in 2023.”

Meanwhile, Chaitali Moitra, regional director of South Asian works of the organisation, said that the bigger challenge is AI-based writing is more accessible and a lot cheaper, given the availability of the internet for students. The educators need to be aware of this and together we need to create awareness on how we can leverage AI to benefit students and educators in grading, feedback, etc and not use it in disruptive forms like cheating, she added.

(Edited by Anumeha Saxena)

Also Read: Learning from Covid, Modi govt plans big AI push for disease surveillance across India


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