As predicted, #ChatGPT, launched by OpenAI in November, quickly reached classrooms. Today many of my Bachelor students were discussing how to automate assignments for the coming submission period.
And what exactly is ChatGPT? Well, let it describe itself:
“ChatGPT is a conversational artificial intelligence (AI) technology that allows users to engage in natural language conversations with a computer-generated entity. It uses machine learning algorithms to generate responses to user input, allowing for a more dynamic and interactive conversation. This technology can be used in a variety of applications, such as chatbots for customer service or virtual assistants for personal use“.
In short, it can be used to generate any form of original text. For example, university assignments such as essays, reports, research proposals, articles, theses and much more. Can you understand the magnitude of the problem that education and educational institutions are now facing?
IT. CHANGES. EVERYTHING.
And I am not alone in thinking this. It is very early to tell how it can be used in a positive way, but here are my initial takes for universities and educational sector:
1. Educational curriculum and evaluations need to change URGENTLY.
Assignments and evaluations that require pure text writing (essays, reports, articles, proposals, theses), without clear assurance of the author, will be easily automated without solutions that guarantee authorship. So perhaps we need to return to old methods until we understand exactly what to do. For example, written exams in person, oral exams, and other forms of evaluation where the assurance of authorship is guaranteed. Or perhaps, in this case, the past is the future.
2. Disconnect, to connect.
Technology innovation is fascinating, and when applied correctly in the classroom, can be extraordinary. But students currently struggle with limited attention spans, live off short term memory and are surrounded by distractions. And worryingly, now having a tool to automate assignments. Perhaps we need to create learning environments that are often fully disconnected, to be transformative. Mature the use of technology in education.
3. Access to information is NOT education.
Content is widely available, and now, scalable production of original content is also available. Education will lose completely its value if we continue to consider access to information, as education. It is not. Thus, I assume that with the automation of written content, human interaction will become even more crucial. If replication of content is already useless, it will now become even worse.
4. The value of online degrees will be severely impacted.
If there is already an ever-growing concern over the value of online degrees and their effectiveness, how will they be perceived if most assignments can be automated? Depending on the course, students will be able to automate much of their progress until the diploma.
5. QUALITY, QUALITY, QUALITY.
Universities need to urgently prioritize quality if they aim to remain relevant. Pressure for publications, aligned with pure focus on student recruitment, has led to a drastic drop in quality standards in the last decades. After years of debate, the change needs to happen.
To conclude, I have many more questions than answers. It is all so fast and new. So, if you are an educator, at any level, I strongly recommend you extend this discussion with colleagues. We are witnessing a true turning point and AI-induced changes will be even faster from now on.