UAE: AI chatbots help students cheat; what teachers are doing about it

Increasing number of students use ChatGPT and other AI models to complete assignments

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Nandini Sircar

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Image used for illustrative purpose. Photo: AFP file
Image used for illustrative purpose. Photo: AFP file

Published: Sat 20 Jan 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Sun 21 Jan 2024, 4:36 PM

Institutions across different levels in the UAE have implemented policies to prevent ‘cheating’ through the use of ChatGPT and other natural language processing tools driven by AI technology.

An increasing number of students are using it to complete home assessments with the controversial writing tool generating content of human-like text.

To hinder bot-enabled plagiarism, some institutions in the country blocked ChatGPT on school-issued laptops and Wi-Fi while others have implemented the practice of citing or referencing when submitting work to address the issue of AI-supported assignment submissions.

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Professor Manda Venkatraman, Vice Chancellor, Academics and Dean of Gulf Medical University's College of Medicine, said: “To address this challenge, various tools have been employed, such as plagiarism checkers to identify similarities in work. Additionally, there are software solutions capable of assessing the percentage of work generated by a system. These tools play a crucial role in mitigating the impact of ChatGPT on assignments, allowing educators to ensure the integrity and authenticity of students’ work.”

Manda Venkatraman. Photo: Supplied
Manda Venkatraman. Photo: Supplied

AI chatbots redefine ways to cheat

According to educationists, popularisation of AI chatbots has not boosted overall cheating rates in the institutions although they highlight AI technologies, including GPT models, have made it easier for students to find ways to cheat.

“The issue of academic dishonesty predates these advancements. Even before the emergence of AI tools, we observed instances of plagiarised assignments and various methods of cheating. It’s important to recognise that while technology has evolved, the underlying challenge of maintaining academic integrity remains consistent. AI has simply changed the landscape, making it more crucial than ever to develop robust educational frameworks that emphasize ethical use of technology,” he added.

They explain it's worth noting that the style adopted by the AI in its responses can be trackable, providing a level of transparency in understanding the origin and nature of the generated content.

James Picowye. Photo: Supplied
James Picowye. Photo: Supplied

James Picowye, Dean of Zayed University’s College of Communication and Media Sciences said: “I think AI is an opportunity but everyone needs to be on the same page as to what it does and what it does not do. While there are some educators embracing AI there are many looking at how to put up walls.”

However, he stressed the importance of students embracing AI in the industry that required them to stay abreast of developments. “Covid gave us an opportunity to rethink how we educate on a global scale and for the most part we have fallen back into the way things were. AI, in. my opinion, is going to force us to rethink all parts of our education from KG through PhD and time is not on our sides,” added Picowye.

Educators experience instances of similar responses

Meanwhile, educators at the school level highlight they have anticipated instances of similar responses among students using AI.

Lisa Johnson. Photo: Taaleem
Lisa Johnson. Photo: Taaleem

Lisa Johnson, Principal, American Academy for Girls, said: “But this isn't necessarily negative. It encourages us to design assignments that require more personalised and creative input, pushing students to think beyond the standard responses generated by AI. Talking to students about their assignments and gauging their deeper understanding of topics is often a good way of assessing whether our mutual learning goals have been achieved. We emphasize that AI should be a tool for learning enhancement rather than a shortcut to completing tasks.” By doing so, educators hope to cultivate a sense of integrity and responsibility among students.

Therefore, instead of blocking these tools, some institutions are working to integrate them into their learning framework.

Abhilasha Singh. Photo: Supplied
Abhilasha Singh. Photo: Supplied

Abhilasha Singh, principal, Shining Star International, said: “Banning it in school will not help. ChatGPT presents the question of academic integrity and that's where we need to focus. We do have submissions which we identify as the language and the content doesn't match the students calibre and child faces consequences.”

She added, “In our school, we have introduced citing or providing references, to work around the challenge of AI supported assignment submissions. It is part of HW policy (homework policy) and classes have to cite "WHF" (with help from) with the name of the person or the source.”

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