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Nearly a third of college students used ChatGPT last year, according to survey

Megan Henry, Ohio Capital Journal,

As ChatGPT explodes in popularity, professors at Ohio colleges and universities are figuring out how to navigate the emerging technology.

Artificial Intelligence has been around for decades, but ChatGPT burst on the scene after OpenAI made it available to the public for free in late November, which surpassed 100 million monthly users in a couple of months.

ChatGPT can generate essays, answer math problems, come up with ideas and even tell jokes in response to prompts in a matter of seconds. While this can be a helpful tool when it comes to helping with coding or providing a quick summation of lots of information, it can also easily be used for cheating on assignments.

Nearly a third of college students used ChatGPT for schoolwork last academic year, according to a survey by About half of college students agree that using AI tools like ChatGPT on schoolwork is cheating or plagiarism, but 1 in 5 students use them anyway, according to a BestColleges survey.

“The elephant in the room is ChatGPT,” said Kevin Liu, an assistant professor in Ohio State University’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering who researches AI. “Students could easily use ChatCPT to generate some homework answers, even in a few seconds. Many of those kinds of writing or some homework or project assignments become completely meaningless.”

Controversy around ChatGPT

New York City’s Department of Education initially banned ChatGPT in January over concerns it could negatively impact students, but the ban was lifted in May.

“Our students are participating in and will work in a world where understanding generative AI is crucial,” David Banks, chancellor of New York City Public Schools, wrote in an opinion piece for Chalkbeat.

Sciences Po, a university in Paris, and RV University in Bangalore, India, banned ChatGPT over concerns it would cause cheating.

Using it responsibly

Ohio State addressed ChatGPT use in April.

“These generative AI tools should not be used in the completion of course assignments unless an instructor for a given course specifically authorizes their use,” according to Ohio State’s website. “These tools should be used only with the explicit and clear permission of each individual instructor, and then only in the ways allowed by the instructor.”

Nicole Antoinette Smith, an assistant professor at Ohio University’s College of Business, stressed that ChatGPT should be used responsibly.

“It’s a concern across the board because it is something that any student can do,” she said. “One can put in an entire assignment and it can spit it and that’s not using it ethically. The main thing with that is it takes away from creativity, it takes away from research skills, it takes away from critical thinking and it takes away the ability to analyze.”

When using ChatGPT, she encourages students to ask themselves how are they using it and what is the best way to use it?

ChatGPT red flags

There are red flags Smith looks for when trying to figure out if a student used ChatGPT to do the assignment.

“If this is your first time taking this subject, you shouldn’t have mastered this subject in the beginning parts of the semester, so therefore if your writing is like ‘I’ve already mastered this,’ then that’s a flag,” she said. “If it’s perfect, that’s a problem because there’s no way it should be.”

Another red flag is if the student’s writing has no grammatical errors.

“So not only have you mastered it already, you have no grammatical errors,” Smith said. “I need to dig a little deeper into this.”

Smith encourages college professors not to run away from ChatGPT.

“We need to embrace it,” she said. “I love technology. It excites me that we have ChatGPT and AI, but it goes back to responsible use of those tools and why they should and shouldn’t use those particular tools.”

Legislation related to AI

Legislators in 27 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico have considered more than 80 bills related to AI in 2023, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Ohio is not one of those states.

Connecticut passed a bill earlier this year that requires state agencies to assess any government system that uses artificial intelligence.

Megan Henry is a reporter for the Ohio Capital Journal and has spent the past five years reporting in Ohio on various topics including education, healthcare, business and crime. She previously worked at The Columbus Dispatch, part of the USA Today Network. Follow OCJ Reporter Megan Henry on Twitter.