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Can ChatGPT Replace Student Essays?: Professors Restructure Essay Writing to Eliminate Cheating with AI

by Caitlin Cruser

Photo Courtesy of Aaron Burden on Unsplash

ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence chatbot developed by OpenAI and launched in late 2022, has become a topic of conversation everywhere from social media to college English departments. The AI service is capable of writing human-like responses to prompts given by its user. 

While some consider this chatbot an extreme success in terms of furthering artificial intelligence’s abilities, others are concerned for ways that this technology could be abused. For example, with the correct prompt, ChatGPT could be used to generate an entire college-level essay.

Teachers and professors across the country are scrambling to adapt the way in which they teach, with some teachers foregoing essays all together.

Dr. Kristen Asplin, assistant professor of Psychology at Pitt-Greensburg and the director of the Community for the Advancement of Teaching, took a different approach. 

Asplin spoke to CNN in January regarding her plans going forward.

“I am emphasizing and being more vigilant about the early steps in the writing process so I can see their progress,” Asplin said.

This approach not only allows Asplin to follow along in the students’ progress, making it difficult to convincingly use the AI for their final paper, but it also gives students more confidence.

“So they are less likely to be desperate enough to cheat,” Asplin said.

ChatGPT can also be used for creative writing, even being able to imitate well-known writers.

When given the prompt: “write about the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg in the style of William Shakespeare,” the chatbot wrote this in seconds:

“Oh hark! What light through yonder campus breaks?

‘Tis University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg!

A noble seat of learning, full of grace,

Where students strive for knowledge, day by day.

The very stones of its great halls resound

With scholarly pursuits and thoughtful words,

As teachers guide young minds in paths profound,

And shape their future with a guiding sword.

Here blooms the flower of knowledge, bright and fair,

And wisdom’s tree takes root in fertile soil.

The scholars here doth learn with utmost care,

And seek the truth with diligence and toil.

Oh let thy heart be filled with pride and joy,

For University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg

Shall stand as beacon, steadfast and aloft,

And nurture the future’s bright and shining stars.”

While convincing, ChatGPT is not completely undetectable. In fact, a service able to detect AI-Involvement, GPTZero, has already been developed.

GPTZero has been trained using both human-written and AI-generated text. When used as recommended, 99% of human documents were classified as human, and 85% of AI documents were classified as AI.

ChatGPT is available to demo here.

Read CNN’s article “Teachers are adapting to concerns about a powerful new AI tool” featuring Pitt-Greensburg’s own Kristen Asplin.

Read about GPTZero’s capabilities here.

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