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AI causing concern among professors at Utah Tech University – St George News

ST. GEORGE — Professors at Utah Tech University are worried about AI technologies being used for classwork.

Utah Tech University received more than $2.5 million in performance funding as well as support for a number of community outreach initiatives from the Utah State Legislature during the 2023 legislative session | Photo courtesy of Utah Tech University, St. George News

Launched on Nov. 30 by OpenAI, ChatGPT is an artificially intelligent chat box that gives human-like, computer generated responses to any prompt it is given.

ChatGPT, Moonbeam and Jasper are just a few websites where members can log in, input a prompt or question, and receive human-like artificially generated speech, marketing messages or even full essays.

Professors are concerned that this could lead to cheating that is virtually impossible to detect, as well as a decrease in critical thinking among students. Randy Jasmine and Jim Haendiges, English professors at Utah Tech University, addressed the topic in an episode on their podcast, “Being Human UTU Podcast.”

They looked at the use of AI and considered if its use would be similar to tools such as calculators.

When students use calculators in complex equations they must first have a general understanding of how to solve an equation. With AI generated content, no critical thinking or unique thought about the topic would have occurred from the student.

The teachers came to the conclusion that a writing tool that would be comparable to the use of a calculator would not be AI, rather something like grammarly or spellcheck that is available on many devices.

“We expect unique thought and unique writing,” Jasmine said.

He added that when it comes to writing, critical thinking is “the meat of the pie and grammar is the crust.” Haendiges agreed that the use of AI tools like ChatGPT could take away the critical thinking aspect of learning.

“It’s gone too far in the sense that it’s made the whole argument on their behalf,” Haendiges said in the podcast.

Snow falling at the corner of University Avenue and 100 South right outside Utah Tech University, St. George, Utah, Jan. 30, 2023 | Photo by Stephanie DeGraw, St. George News

The new AI technology also introduces questions of ethicality and whether or not the use of AI in the classroom should be considered plagiarism or cheating.

“It may not be cheating,” Jasmine said.

Since the work created by AI is generated from the internet and not directly copying another individual’s work, it might not be considered plagiarism, he explained.

“With AI, it’s not technically plagiarism if its originated language, but it is technically plagiarism in the fact that it’s not the student’s words,” Haendiges told St. George News.

Jasmine said he has taught for more than 25 years. In the past, he was able to tell when students were plagiarizing. He could detect a shift in tone throughout writing assignments, something that might not work if students generate all assignments through AI.

“If they’re going to take a shortcut and not fully develop their skills, then they’re gonna do that,” Jasmine said.

Haendiges said he had a similar viewpoint on students that decide not utilize homework as an opportunity to learn, rather than a checklist they need complete to pass a class.

“It’s always a struggle as an instructor that deep down you can’t force anyone to learn,” he said. “And if they find the shortcuts, I can’t stay up at night being upset that they worked really hard to not learn.”

Many professors have shifted to in-class generated work to ensure students can understand concepts without the use of technology. The professors were speaking on behalf of their own classrooms and stating their own opinions, and not for the University as a whole.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2023, all rights reserved.

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