Turnitin, ChatGPT and you: FIU’s response to AI in education

Courtesy of Matt Zwolinski

Conor Moore | Staff Writer

According to a recent study from Intelligent, nearly one in three college students have used ChatGPT to assist them in writing their essays. Of those students, nearly 60 percent reported that they use the AI software “frequently”.

Schools such as FIU have already begun to respond.

ChatGPT is a generative AI software that takes nearly any prompt thrown at it and gives a response crafted from its enormous range of data and sources that it draws from. 

Moreover, users can direct the AI to generate the response in a specific writing structure, such as the commonly assigned 500-word essay.

Turnitin has now added an AI detector in addition to its similarity score. The AI score detects whether or not a student’s submitted work is similar to an AI’s style of writing, such as a ChatGPT.

If a student earns greater than a 25 percent AI score on their essay, they will be liable for penalization that significantly affects one’s academic standing. The similarity scores and AI scores are not correlative.

FIU has not released an official statement on AI, owing it to be handled on a class-by-class basis. It is informally considered cheating, but there is no statement made regarding it.

Sara Moats, associate teaching professor of politics and international relations, stresses that in the long term, a student’s academic career will be significantly affected.

“Students are putting themselves at an extreme disadvantage by using AI and ChatGPT for essays,” said Moats in an interview with PantherNOW. She added that AI usage has become commonplace among departments that rely heavily on the written form, such as liberal studies, English and the humanities.

Students also have their own perspectives on the matter.

Archer Amon, a computer science, international relations and political science student who has personally studied AI policy for the past three years feels there should be a stronger and more cohesive policy regarding the use of AI in education.

“I think that it needs to be seen as a much more complicated issue than just black and white,” Amon said. “I think that they should make it more of a system where rather than seeing AI as just one thing, they outline a few different tasks. Is it okay to have AI help edit an assignment versus helping you write the full thing?”

Archer’s criticisms examine the numerous ways that AI can be used, many of which do not entail plagiarism – yet FIU does not officially differentiate these methods in its statement on AI.

Many syllabuses only include a passing reference to these technologies and how they are used, despite all the changes behind the scenes in regard to Turnitin and detection software.

Despite the rapid mobilization against ChatGPT, these responses have come with shortcomings that may prove more troublesome than the software.

While Turnitin claims to have a 98 percent successful detection rate, there are flaws in its detection based on the method utilized.

For instance, Turnitin’s AI detection software has no direct reference for what constitutes as an AI written text. Instead, as Turnitin Vice President Eric Wang said during an interview with The Washington Post, Turnitin considers AI written text to be “extremely consistently average”. However, if a student writes in a way that Turnitin senses as “extremely consistently average”, it will be flagged as AI.

While in some cases, it may be obvious if a student is using ChatGPT, such as a student who does not come off as a fluent English speaker, there is a sizable margin for error in its flagging.

At that point, it is up to the student to convince the teacher that it was in fact them.

In a recent poll, academic integrity was the top concern for professors and college faculty regarding the dangers of FIU.

Despite this, there were positive responses regarding AI’s efficiency in teaching certain concepts and creating a more adaptable learning environment, signaling progressive developments for the future.

Just like cell phones and the internet, it is another major change to the way education is practiced, with policies that will have to adapt to reflect its ever-changing nature. 

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