Students have started using ChatGPT to cheat in assignments, tests. How are professors catching them?

ByChetana Belagere

Published Jan 27, 2023 | 2:25 PM Updated Feb 21, 2023 | 9:57 AM

ChatGPT has made its entry into Indian universities, and professors have caught students who have used it to cheat in tests and exams

 ChatGPT! This has been the buzzword in academia in many parts of the world recently and south Indian states are no exception.

Less than two months after its launch in late November, the artificial intelligence (AI)-powered chatbot has made its entry into Indian universities, with several students submitting assignments generated using ChatGPT in tests and exams.

“We have caught quite a few assignments submitted using ChatGPT in the recent past. I have been submitting plagiarism reports already. There are several discussions happening amongst the faculty and with the students also on the use of this AI-powered tool to write assignments,” Prof Aditi Chaturvedi from the Department of Philosophy at Azim Premji University told South First.

R Krishnamurthy, a student from Bengaluru, told South First that he is using ChatGPT as a tool similar to Google search to garner information. But the AI tool is just much better, he said.

He was careful to add that he used ChatGPT to learn more about a topic, then verify it, and write about it in his own words.

What is ChatGPT?

Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer, or ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI and released for public use in November 30, 2022, is a powerful language model. It has the potential to generate human-like text.

It has also been seen to be capable of engaging in natural language conversations. This technology can revolutionise the way humans interact with computers.

ChatGPT (OpenAI.com)

ChatGPT (OpenAI.com)

“While several countries have already banned their students from using it, in India it has still not reached that phase,” a professor from a university in Bengaluru, who did not want to be named, told South First.

ChatGPT has cleared several tests and exams in the US including law examinatons in four courses at the University of Minnesota and a management course exam at Wharton School of Business. It is even reported to have passed a test in that country for a medical licence.

“We have been seeing some of the students already cheating on homework with ChatGPT. Some have begun to play with the technology to understand how it works, some have tried submitting topics for scientific papers to see how the chatbot performs, and so on,” the professor from Bengaluru added.

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How to detect cheating in tests, exams using ChatGPT

“This is like the new age of academic dishonesty and we are trying to beat the technology and catch students using the new artificial intelligence chatbot,” said Niranjan Aradhya, an educationist.

The students are using this technology, which can quickly digest and spit out information, for almost every subject. ChatGPT is especially being used by those students who are in writing-intensive courses such as communication, philosophy, etc., to cheat in tests and exams.

“But it’s recognisable,” said Prof Chaturvedi.

“For the moment, it all rests on how well you know your students. As teachers, we understand how our students speak, we know what their knowledge is. We are familiar with their verbal patterns. Especially in subjects that involve writing, if someone writes in a way or uses vocabulary that’s not their usual one, that itself is a red flag,” she explained.

Agreeing with this, Prof Usha Raman, head of the Department of Media Communication at the University of Hyderabad, told South First, “When I was talking about this technology with my students, a few of them said they have played with it, just to understand how it works. One of them said he has used it to write a paper for his friend. So clearly, this technology has seeped into the assignments!”

However, she too is confident that she will be able to catch the ones cheating.

“For my kind of course, which involves a lot of writing, it is easy to identify such assignments. As a public university, we have got students from all over the country. There are many first-generation learners pursuing higher education. Obviously, their language will not be as perfect as an answer that a technology like ChatGPT generates,” Prof Raman said.

“In plagiarism cases without ChatGPT, even if a tool such as Grammarly doesn’t detect it, I can still tell that it is not my student who has written it,” she explained.

What faculty members fear

Using ChatGPT to write assignments would also be considered plagiarism using AI — just like using content from Wikipedia or other websites.

“So far there is no official communication from the university, but we as faculty members are adding a note at the end of assignments saying that the students cannot use ChatGPT for their assignments. They also have to sign off saying the content is their own,” Prof Proteep Mallik from the Department of Physics at Azim Premji University told South First.

As far as challenges are concerned, professors from various departments agree that there might soon come a time when they are inundated with fraudulent work.

However, other than the issue of morality and the fact that the student is not producing his/her original content, the fear is that the technology may learn the way to write like different people for different audiences. Especially, since the language used by students is the major red flag to identify such assignments.

“The more it learns, the closer it’s going to sound like natural language,” noted Chaturvedi.

ChatGPT can already write poems in the form of Shakespearean sonnets or even generate Trump-speak if given the right prompts. So perhaps the students can send in samples of their earlier work to ChatGPT and ask it to generate answers to assignments using their writing style.

ChatGPT as Donald Trump

(Screenshot from a piece in The Washington Post)

Chaturvedi added that there is a legitimate concern from students: If ChatGPT can produce something that a human brain can do, then isn’t it a waste of one’s time, the students ask.

“The value of human mind vs a technology will have to be debated,” she added.

What more are professors doing?

The professors themselves are now trying to understand how the technology works.

“I am spending time playing around with the technology, to understand it. When I give questions, I actually put them into ChatGPT myself and see what kind of answers I get, to see what kind of questions it does a bad job of,” Prof Chaturvedi said.

Usha said that she has asked her faculty members to use ChatGPT and understand the technology well. Not just to catch such assignments but also to critically evaluate the content it produces.

The professors are also thinking of giving assignments asking students to write assignments based on the discussions that happened in class.

Some of the private institutions have already invested in counter software such as GPTZero, which says it can reliably identify content generated by the chatbot.

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Countering ChatGPT exam cheats using ChatGPT

The professors are also having discussions amongst themselves to arrive at various ways of beating this technology. While a few have changed the way the questions are asked, some of them have changed their assignment topics to personalised ones.

Interestingly, professors said ChatGPT itself tells them if a part of the assignment was written using the technology.

Prof Chaturvedi has tried typing out the content from submitted assignments that seemed like a ChatGPT-produced one and has asked the chatbot to confirm it.

“I had a couple of cases where I fed the ChatGPT text that the students had submitted and asked it whether this was written by you or similar AI. It has admitted to the content and when asked to prove it, the technology pulls out the other sentences,” she explained.

AI tool fabricates quotes, sources

Many are also trying to understand if this technology has been overhyped.

“There is content that is being shared off the internet about how there is no reason for worry and how ChatGPT can never replicate the syntax of an undergraduate paper where the student has not been to class or read more than the abstract of a paper,” said a professor from Bengaluru.

He also explained that the AI even fabricates sources and quotations.

Play with ChatGPT, professor tells students

Meanwhile, professors argue that students should be allowed to explore the AI tool.

“I encourage my students to know the software well. I have told them to use the technology and see what are some of the things that it has failed to give answers to and check where the reply was not convincing. We cannot shun such a powerful technology,” said Prof Raman.

She argued that there was no harm in getting to know the technology and noted that it may even help them in critical thinking and information gathering.

Since ChatGPT fabricates quotes and even cites journals and research papers that don’t exist, it is a good way for students to learn to fact-check too, professors added.

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Things teachers can do with ChatGPT around

Make assignments engaging: Professors told South First that they have to try and assign work that will make the students feel more connected to their assignments.

Importance of original content: Professors should brief students on how this is a process that empowers critical thinking. Expressing their original ideas will also help them form judgements, evaluate the claims that they are making, and argue their ideas better.

Talk about the tech and its limitations, including bias: Profs Chaturvedi and Raman both agree that it is important to talk to students about the AI and also on the technology to detect such content. Also, students should be told about the instances of inaccuracy, bias, and lack of logic in AI-generated content.

“Students I have talked to are excited by the possibilities. They believe that apart from cheating on homework, ChatGPT can simplify things. They can use it as a learning tool. What we need to do as professors is respond to that part as well,” said Chaturvedi.

“When advanced calculators came in, that changed maths pedagogy but didn’t replace teaching. We have been designing problems around these calculators. Similarly, we can design problems around ChatGPT. It is still not perfect,” she explained.

‘Change the education system’

Educationist Niranjan Aradhya insisted that it is high time that the education system is reoriented.

He said technologies such as these have been a challenge and will continue to be, and the only way to address this is to get away from the stereotypical, marks-oriented business.

“As long as you are designing assignments to incentivise students based on their marks, these challenges will remain. One must look at the knowledge of the child, their ability to critically think, analyse, interpret, and solve problems,” he said.

Agreeing, Prof Raman added that “we have to move away from marks-based performance and recognise the use of such a technology as a tool to aid learning”.