ChatGPT threatens learning

Caroline Hendrix, Opinions Editor

Just as teachers are getting better at detecting plagiarism, students are getting better at cheating. The cycle repeats itself, and the emergence of platforms like ChatGPT aren’t helping. ChatGPT is an A.I.-generator that has the capability to write texts when given any type of subject or question. Students are using this generator to their advantage for school assignments and essays. 

If students are aimlessly using ChatGPT to do their homework, without an ounce of their own input and perspective, then they are cheating themselves just as much as they are on their assignments. They are not actively absorbing information in the way intended by the assignment given to them, and they are not acquiring the skills that will help them after graduation. 

More than the information in the assignment itself, students that are cutting corners with ChatGPT are not learning how to manage their time or work through projects from start to finish. These two facets of a school assignment are essential for many postgraduate jobs. The lessons learned from collaborating on work in addition to taking on projects individually will be lost if students turn to generators. And the stakes are much higher if a person fails on a project in their work relative to the classroom, where cheating is not an option. Rather than a bad grade, they risk their job. 

Students are also missing out on one of the most rewarding feelings. There is something so special about the moment when an assignment clicks and you can finally get writing. You’ve spent hours pulling information from your class resources and dissecting an essay question. The process itself goes from trying to get through an indestructible web of questions and uncertainties into a lit path leading to the finish line, when the assignment hits the professor’s desk. The lightbulb turns on and the words come flooding out. Regardless of career opportunities, the self-fulfillment from submitting a seemingly impossible assignment is unmatched. 

Even teachers are taking advantage of ChatGPT. The New York Times details a teacher who used the text generator to provide feedback on his students’ papers and found that its feedback was stronger than what he felt even he could provide. Not only are text generators jeopardizing education from the students’ side, but also from the teachers side. 

These text-generating resources are not going anywhere. The New York Times reports some school districts trying to block them from use on their school laptops, but that won’t stop students from accessing them. They note that a Princeton student has even developed ChatGPTZero, a platform set out to detect A.I. in students’ writing. But platforms like these have their limits and as A.I. continues to improve, they will have to improve themselves to detect what work is from a human and what is from a generator. 

Therefore, it is imperative that schools rework their own structure to accommodate the emergence of A.I.. The New York Times offers some solutions. Teachers should allow access to generators for the rest of the year as a resource rather than a tool that will complete the entirety of a students’ work. After this school year, teachers and faculty can spend time reworking their curriculum to replace at-home assignments with in-person assignments where teachers can ensure that text generators aren’t being used. They need to ensure that learning goals are still met so that future generations obtain the adequate skills and experience that the world requires of them. 

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