As if educators needed another method of cheating to worry about, tools used by college students to write papers and answer essay questions are allowing them to complete assignments in seconds. And this tech is growing in popularity.
Students are using AI text generators to complete assignments in seconds. The outputs of these generators are largely undetectable by plagiarism detectors, meaning that students can produce high-quality, original work without fear of being caught.
Let’s explore the types of tools students are using to cheat and whether or not they have some place in an academic setting.
How does it work?
Reporting on the rising popularity of students using AI to complete assignments, Slate writer Aki Peritz noted one well-known tool is Sudowrite. The platform is described as an AI writing assistant for creative writers, with Sudowrite’s website detailing use cases like speeding up the time it takes to write your novel or screenplay.
Sudowrite suggests new text to insert into the content you’ve already written, or will help you expound descriptively on that content. There’s no indication that the platform encourages users to use it for homework.
(P.S. this is a really useful platform for creative writers, we encourage you to check it out.)
Other bots are quite overt about their applicability to homework assignments. EssayAILab calls itself a writing assistant as well but has built-in features like a plagiarism checker and paraphrasing functionality to avoid it - demonstrating a clear use for sneaky students.
See this example of the tool when we entered the topic of The War of 1812.
But does using AI-generated text constitute plagiarism?
There are two meaningful debates on this topic; the first is whether AI-generated text used on assignments constitutes plagiarism or cheating. We’ll get to the other later.
AI-generated text is often 100% original - though it pulls from existing sources. These types of tools, like GPT, are trained on huge troves of existing content sources to mimic human language to the point where it’s virtually indistinguishable from text written by a person.
If the writing is original, though produced by AI, does it still constitute plagiarism? This is a good time to invoke a “letter of the law vs. spirit of the law” framing - clearly, in an academic setting, plagiarism rules are meant to ensure students do their own work, at least in part,
Slate interviewed Lise Howard, a professor from Georgetown University, who affirmed this perspective. The professor said that using AI to generate papers is an academic violation - and that all coursework should be the original writing of the student.
Do writing assistants simply augment human ability?
Aki Peritz of Slate offers the other topic for debate - should we consider writing assistants simply additions to the student’s tool kit? Peritz, in an effort to find an apt analogy, offers that we could view writing bots like athletes using performance-enhancing drugs. It’s not a perfect analogy, but we can work with it.
In the context of sports, the debate over whether using PEDs is cheating is pretty much settled. They compromise competitive integrity by giving athletes an unnatural leg-up on their opponents, so they are banned.
But what if writing assistants could be exactly what they claim to be: an assistant to improve your writing? In an academic setting, this isn’t all bad.
Picture this scenario. A student, plagued by writer’s block after endless college papers, thoughtfully creates a prompt for a tool like Sudowrite, which then generates content the student uses to finish a sentence or transition to a new paragraph.
Is that student cheating? Or are the student and the bot working together to produce strong writing?
We don’t know for sure. But what we do know is that when you combine people and technology, you get work done.
Interested in how we can leverage both humans and technology to help you meet business goals? Get in touch.
Tune in next week for more tech fails.