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Educators have just completed their first year of teaching students who have access to generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools such as ChatGPT, but huge questions remain.

Most Australian university students are using the technology but many are unsure of what is considered cheating, new research claims.

A study tracked 154 students and 89 academics’ use of generative AI across various Australian universities this year and found students wanted more clarity on the rules around using it.

The ease that ChatGPT could answer questions and assist with other assignments sparked a panic among some educators.
ChatGPT was developed by OpenAI and launched on November 30 last year. (Adobe Stock)

In the first semester of this year, just over half of students had tried or used generative AI and by the end, 82 per cent of students had tried it or were actively using it.

Deakin University Director of Speech Pathology Jemma Skeat said universities had been putting together policies and student communication around how AI could be used but it was “not giving students what they needed”.

“They want the detail around… How can I use it for this assignment? What is cheating? What is not? And where is the line?” Skeat said.

“It’s not very clear… It’s not black and white what is cheating.”

Skeat said there was a split between some universities using software that aimed to detect the use of AI and others that chose not to.

“A lot of universities have taken onboard specific software that aims to detect generative AI in written assignments and some universities haven’t because they feel that the level of false positives, so students who are detected as cheating when they haven’t actually cheated, is too high.

“And so we end up with too many students accused of it, having to follow up those students, the time wasted in that and the wellbeing of the students as well.

“The technology for detecting it will always have to be ahead of the technology for generating. And some unis are not convinced that will happen.”

Skeat said universities needed to start embracing the use of generative AI to prepare students adequately for the workplace.

“We are really just starting to understand the implications of generative AI for some of the industries and fields that we are preparing students for at university,” Skeat said.

“So what will this look like in health settings in the future?

“What will this look like for people who are training to be teachers in the future?

“As we start to understand this, I think we’ll see university courses having to integrate teaching around generative AI because they need to prepare students to work with it in the future.”

‘The rules are a bit vague’

It’s been proven that ChatGPT can pass graduate-level US university exams but a Sydney computer science graduate believes a novice programmer could pass most first-year university programming classes by using generative AI and academics would not be able to tell.

Andreas Gwyther-Gouriotis finished his honours two weeks ago and could not use ChatGPT for his assessment as it involved complex critical thinking beyond the AI program.

But he said those at lower levels could.

Andreas Gwyther-Gouriotis finished his honours in computer science two weeks ago.
Andreas Gwyther-Gouriotis believes students can pass university subjects using AI bots like ChatGPT. (Supplied)

“People who don’t really know how to program are able to pass those (lower level) classes by just asking ChatGPT how to solve these typical programming problems that they teach at lower levels,” he said.

“It’s very reliable when it comes to difficult university problems.”

Gwyther-Gouriotis believes there are easy ways to trick the AI detection tools so students could use generative AI and it wouldn’t be picked up by the software.

He said some classes allowed students to use ChatGPT and others banned it. Some academics told students to reference the use of AI, he said.

“What students would do is that they wouldn’t source it (ChatGPT) because that means that they’re going to have to say that this whole report was written by ChatGPT, which obviously is not going to get a good mark anyway.”

“The rules are a bit vague.”

Gwyther-Gouriotis said the technology helped students who have English as a second language as it could correct their grammar.

“I think that using ChatGPT levels the playing field a little bit for international students.”

The researchers are concerned that technologies like ChatGPT might become paid services, which could disadvantage lower socio-economic students.

The joint study by researchers at The University of Melbourne and Deakin University shows students were using the new technology for a variety of reasons.

Some were using it to summarise long texts, improve their writing or grammar, brainstorm ideas and work out essay structure.

Some students were using it to summarise readings to help them better prepare for lectures.

Others were using it for fun or to simply test it out.

The focus for academics using it was more to understand the technology and how students might be using it.

Another study will be conducted next year to assess how generative AI usage has changed.

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