The Daily Telegraph

No point banning essay-writing AI chatbot, says Cambridge don

- By Louisa Clarence-smith EDUCATION EDITOR

A CAMBRIDGE University provice-chancellor has warned there is no point banning CHATGPT, the artificial intelligen­ce chatbot capable of writing convincing essays.

Universiti­es and schools have been scrambling to work out how to respond to the AI chatbot, which can write convincing essays, pass doctors’ exams and write scientific articles.

Some universiti­es are said to have already tried to ban the technology, with students already accused of using it to complete assignment­s.

Prof Bhaskar Vira, Cambridge University’s pro-vice-chancellor for education, said that bans on AI software such as CHATGPT are not “sensible”.

“We have to recognise that this is a new tool that is available,” he told Varsity, the university’s student newspaper. “I’m of the opinion that we have to recognise that [AI] is a tool people will use but then adapt our learning, teaching and examinatio­n processes so that we can continue to have integrity while recognisin­g the use of the tool.”

Cambridge is in the process of reviewing its guidelines on AI platforms to department­s and students in light of the emergence of CHATGPT, which was released shortly before Christmas.

The technology, created by Openai in Silicon Valley, is free.

Mike Sharples, emeritus professor of educationa­l technology in the Institute of Educationa­l Technology at The Open University, previously told The Daily Telegraph that some British universiti­es are already banning the use of CHATGPT.

“It’s going to be very hard to detect whether students are using it, particular­ly if they write a first draft using it and then rewrite it or check it,” he said.

A Cambridge University spokesman said: “We recognise that CHATGPT is a new tool being used across the world. The university has strict guidelines on student conduct and academic integrity. These stress the importance of a student being the author of their own work. Content produced by AI platforms, such as CHATGPT, does not represent the student’s own original work so would be considered a form of academic misconduct.”

Schools have also been reviewing changes to homework activities to stop children from cheating. The head of Alleyn’s, an independen­t school in London, has said CHATGPT threatens to make traditiona­l after-school essays obsolete. School leaders have said that teachers will consider whether to carry out more “flipped learning”, where pupils do research outside the classroom and write more essays in class.

‘We have to recognise this is a tool people will use but then adapt ... so we can continue to have integrity’

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