ChatGPT: Friend or foe?

ChatGPT: Friend or Foe?

The new AI text bot could be helping students cheat, but it may not all be bad.
Published: February 27, 2023
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The AI text bot is making waves for its remarkable conversational abilities and vast library of knowledge.

One day, Syracuse junior Megan Riley became well acquainted with the latest AI text bot, ChatGPT. Word around town is that the platform is almost too perfect to help students cheat with their assignments, so she wanted to test it out. Knowing absolutely nothing about the topic, she and her roommates gathered around and wrote, “Write an essay about the differences in efficiency between coagulation and flocculation in wastewater treatment.” This was not a real assignment that needed to be completed, but the results were astonishing. The text bot produced a 700-word essay, perfectly organized in a format that any professor would consider giving an A. Riley was spooked. “Does this mean that doing work is over?” she said. “I feel like I wouldn’t know who or what to trust.”

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The conversation around AI text bots and its utilization in schools has stirred a lot of controversy. ChatGPT was developed and launched by OpenAI at the end of last November. Since then, most concerns arising from its development was the usage of helping students cheat in school. Riley believes that using AI to complete assignments will become more common, unless there is an opposing tool that catches students using the software.

“After experimenting with it, I can understand how students may become reliant on using ChatGPT as a reference point,” she said. “I mean, it is scary how perfect it is, and the writing itself is so neutral that anyone can use it and rearrange according to how they write.”

However, ChatGPT isn’t perfect. Although it can instantaneously produce a well-written paper, there are flaws that perhaps a student would not want to use it for. Senior Veronica Henein believes that ChatGPT may not necessarily be worth it for completing written assignments, as it does not productively express literary devices, or credibility.

“One of the flaws about this is that there are no sources cited for the work presented,” Henein said. “This is a problem regarding intellectual property as well as validity of the information when contradicting perspectives are presented.” WhileChatGPT does display strong arguments for its essay, it fails to provide cited facts and sources. It may require a bit more research for the student, but most of the dirty work is off their hands.

ChatGPT may be a progressively evolving cheating mechanism, but the AI software has something potentially good to offer to educators and students. Professor Adam Peruta, Director of the New Media Management graduate program at Newhouse, has been experimenting and working with ChatGPT since its initial launch. Peruta teaches an introductory course for web development and design, where students learn how to code. He plans on eventually teaching his students how to utilize ChatGPT, as he finds it an efficient way to produce code. However, he won’t do this until the mid-way through the semester because he believes whatever one is using ChatGPT for, they need the knowledge to understand how to prompt it and what to ask for.

The usage of ChatGPT has been in conversation between Newhouse professors, and how they plan to address the text bot in their syllabi. Peruta thinks it is important to incorporate into class as technology is constantly evolving, and to be successful means knowing how to use new technology responsibly and efficiently. He also emphasizes that how ChatGPT usage is taught is also up to professors.

“I’m on the side of, we have to embrace it, we have to teach students how to use it responsibly and not say, ‘No, you can’t use this.’”he said. “Granted, I don’t teach classes where I have students doing a lot of writing, like papers and essays, but overall I think the way that we teach has to change. I think that the way that students learn and use tools also has to change. This is a very big turning point and it’s going to change everything.”

The power that AI holds is something that society is still trying to figure out, and may for a long time. In regards to education, it may forever be both friend and foe, but that is up to how students and professors decide to use it.