Is AI making cheating easier for students?
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- One of the biggest concerns people have with AI is -- will kids be using AI text generators like OpenAI's ChatGPT to write their assignments for school?
According to students and professors in the Milwaukee area, it is happening, but how big is the problem?
CBS 58 News talked to college students and professors about what they're seeing on the ground in their classes.
Around the cafeteria at UW-Milwaukee everyone seems to have something to say about ChatGPT.
"I use it to sum up articles if I don't feel like reading it," said UW-Milwaukee freshman Pamela Gomez.
"I use it just for idea generation," said UW-Milwaukee student Maddie O'Connell.
"I do have friends who have used it," said UW-Milwaukee senior Gao Her. "I don't know quite a lot about it."
"Everyone uses ChatGPT. I don't think everyone uses it to necessarily cheat or write their papers, but like, it is an insane resource," said UW senior Anders Nelson, explaining what he knows about ChatGPT and how he uses it. "Personally, I use it to just, like, if I'm doing a paper, I'll have to look up the information for me, and then I'll like double check against Wikipedia or something and then put it in a plagiarism checker to make sure it's not like, oh yeah, you just straight up stole this from the internet."
But the big question is, what do they know about people using ChatGPT to just straight up cheat?
"I do have friends, however, who will just be like, oh, here's the whole paper, submit it," said Nelson, describing how people he knows do entire assignments with ChatGPT's output. "And as far as I'm aware, they haven't gotten caught."
Associate Professor of English and Director of the Foundations and Rhetoric program at Marquette University Lilly Campbell says in her first-year writing course it's something she's already addressing.
"I would say I've had about five times at this point where I've called students out on it," said Campbell. "Usually, it's students that are using it wholesale, right? So, it becomes really clear, really early. There'll be a word that you just don't hear out of 18-year-old's mouth in the first sentence of a paper."
Campbell says right now, there's no policy in place for how to deal with this situation, so considering these are freshmen, she treats it as a learning experience.
"They're getting a feel for like, is this going to work for me?" said Campbell, going on to say that's why she'll confront them, like, "'Hey, this doesn't seem like your writing. I suspect this might be AI. It's not gonna get a great grade. It's not doing well on the assignment. Would you like to give it another shot?' And that's been kind of my level of intervention at this point."
Gao Her says while she doesn't use ChatGPT herself, she feels that if you're that bad at cheating, you deserve to be caught.
"I mean, I guess if you're dumb enough to use it, and then not like look it over or edit it or like proofread or anything like that, that's on you," said Her. "If you cheat well, and you get away with it, [that] takes a level of skill."
Campbell says if you're using ChatGPT the way most students use it, like summarizing text, generating ideas, or explaining ideas in new ways, there is something students are learning.
"I think that the rhetorical skills we'll be teaching first-year writing are still going to be really relevant going forward," said Campbell.
She says calling cheating out when she sees it could be helpful to combat things in the now.
"Students I've called out have apologized and said, you know, 'All my friends were doing it', right?" said Campbell. "And so being able to go back to those friend groups too, and say, like, 'Hey, this isn't working great,' is also useful."
Longer-term, she says assignments need to be designed to teach those critical thinking skills and draw from personal experiences, something she says ChatGPT has a harder time with.
"[We, teachers, need to be] thinking about what kinds of assignments work better or worse for this, right? Like what kinds of writing is AI really good at, because that's the kind of stuff we don't want to assign," said Campbell.
Campbell says she thinks this approach is important because these students will likely be working in a world where ChatGPT is something they use on the job as well.
"How do we teach skills that are going to be useful for students who might use this on the job in particular ways? But certainly, I don't think you're going to be able to use it wholesale and not do the job at all," said Campbell.