Over a Quarter of Students Report Using ChatGPT to Complete Assignments

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Cover Image generated by Dall-E in response to the prompt “Create a captivating cover image for an article titled ‘The Rise of Artificial Intelligence: Exploring the Future of Technology and Society.’” which was generated by GPT-4 on 5/24/23 in response to the prompt “Generate a prompt for Dall-E for a cover image for an article on ChatGPT.”

The M-A Chronicle surveyed 111 students across all four grade levels about their ChatGPT usage. 26% said that they had used ChatGPT to complete assignments for their classes, 66% of whom said they had done so more than once.

Since the release of ChatGPT in November of 2022, schools across the country have struggled to adapt, some encouraging students to use the software to help generate ideas for their writing and others trying to figure out how to prevent students from using it. At some points last year, M-A blocked ChatGPT for all students using the school’s WiFi, but this doesn’t prevent students from using hotspots or from using ChatGPT at home. Additionally, students might not always be caught when they use AI to complete their homework. In an M-A Chronicle survey given last fall, teachers were only able to correctly identify 62% of essays as either student-written or ChatGPT-written.

Most students, though, reported only using ChatGPT to help give them ideas for what to write. Only three students out of 111 said they had submitted an altered version of an AI-generated response and none of the students surveyed said they had submitted a word-for-word AI response.

The number of students using ChatGPT was less than that of students who had copied assignments from their peers. 18 students said they’d asked their friends for a copy of their homework, but didn’t repeat exactly what they said and one student said they’d submitted someone else’s assignment as their own.

Students’ perceptions of ChatGPT usage among their peers didn’t match their self-reporting of whether or not they were using AI on their assignments. 39% of students said they thought either almost all of their peers, most of their peers, or some of their peers were using ChatGPT, 27% said they thought a few of their peers were using ChatGPT, and 5% thought none of their peers were using ChatGPT.

Some students mentioned feeling like, even if they weren’t using ChatGPT, they were at a disadvantage because their peers were. One student said, “The problem is that a lot of the AI detection software is really faulty, so students who actually did their homework may be accused of having used AI on it, and there’s no set way to disprove the accusations. When so many students use AI, it casts suspicion on everyone.”

22% of students said they thought using ChatGPT was extremely wrong, 41% said they thought it was somewhat wrong, and 23% said they thought it was neither wrong nor right.

Many students thought using ChatGPT was only wrong if people submitted a word for word or slightly altered ChatGPT response, but not if they only used it to generate ideas. One student said, “I feel like it’s only wrong if you copy and paste, or if you understand the topic but are too lazy to write it. If you use it to give you ideas, like an outline or something, I feel like it’s okay. Or if you just don’t understand the topic and have tried other ways to try to understand, but you still don’t. It’s a useful tool, but it shouldn’t be abused.”

Another said, “AI is a tool a student can use like Google. Like a search engine, it can assist in developing ideas; however it can also be used to simply copy someone’s (in this case the AI’s) ideas. If used properly it can probably be very helpful and assist in education. However, defining what ‘proper use’ is, is very difficult.”

A few students (7%) said they thought using ChatGPT was either somewhat right or extremely right. One student said, “It’s not AI that will take over, it’s the ones who use AI. To compete with others today and in the future, AI is one of the greatest tools one will use.”

Another said, “I think instead of banning AI, we should take advantage of it and learn how to use it instead of avoiding it. In the near future, AI is going to be used frequently all over the world, making jobs easier.”

Even if students are only using ChatGPT to generate ideas, by using an algorithm designed to calculate the most likely answer to a question, they may still be missing out on the chance to develop their own unique ideas, which is a crucial aspect of the learning process. One student said, “I think using AI on assignments is wrong because not only are you betraying the trust of your teachers, you aren’t learning, so you won’t be as knowledgeable as you need to be.”

Cleo is a senior in her third year of journalism. She enjoys writing about issues impacting the M-A community, particularly environmental issues. She is also on the M-A cross-country and track teams.

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