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AI software forces universities such as MSU Billings to rethink how to evaluate student work

ChatGPT has a million users in 2 months
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Posted at 7:07 PM, May 22, 2023

BILLINGS — Artificial Intelligence models such as ChatGPT are changing the way universities, including MSU-Billings, evaluate the work of their students.

Users can just type a prompt into the ChatGPT generator, and it’ll produce a full-blown essay in seconds, making it easy for students to pass its work off as their own.

It only took two months for ChatGPT to reach a million users.

“It is becoming the most used aspect of the Internet in record time,” said MSUB City College computer programming instructor John Pannell on Monday.

As more universities implement the artificial intelligence language processing tool in their classrooms, more students are also using it to plagiarize work.

“It’s very difficult for us as instructors to figure out, 'is this the student's work or is it not?'” Pannell said.

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And he said that using computer software to detect plagiarism won’t always be accurate.

“There’s a couple of tools on the market right now that purport to, oh it’ll detect if it’s been used. There are so many false positives associated with that,” said Pannell.

He’s one of the many college professors now tasked with going the extra mile to make sure assignments are actually being done by his students and not artificial intelligence. That means one on one conversations with students to ensure their work is legit.

“By making it more than just taking that work but actually asking or working with the student, we’re able to achieve much better learning and make sure the learning is taking place,” Pannell said.

MSUB also now has two committees in place tasked with trying to figure out how to tackle the challenges that ChatGPT poses.

MSUB isn’t alone. Universities nationwide have seen a spike in plagiarism because of the technology. Some are now making students write essays the old-fashioned way using pen and paper as one possible solution.

“What it’s really caused us to do as a university to take a deeper look at, 'how do we evaluate student work?'” said Pannell.

There’s no arguing ChatGPT is revolutionary. Launched last November, the technology has the potential to save businesses and companies thousands if not millions of dollars.

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Nicholas Anderson and John Pannell

MSUB City College graduate Nicholas Anderson is among the many who also view the tech as a useful learning tool.

“Programming specifically, I would say it was an enormous help,” said Anderson.

“Having a better form of search and discovery at my fingertips allowed me to understand things much faster than I would have been able to do without it,” Anderson said.

Anderson just earned his associate's degree in computer programming and knows the possibilities it could bring to his future career and computer programming in general.

“It brings me never-ending excitement to think of all the sort of stuff that you can implement with it. I truly do see it as a tool that’s going to bring a lot of good,” said Anderson.