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Schools need to have a clear definition for what constitutes cheating when using ChatGPT

Written by April Zhang on Friday, 24 March 2023. Posted in Front Page

Schools need to have a clear definition for what constitutes cheating when using ChatGPT

Despite harsh penalties, cheating has never been stamped out in schools. The advent of ChatGPT, or generative AI in general that is widely available, is making the situation worse. 

Before ChatGPT, the following ways are considered cheating: students pay someone to write papers for them; they copy papers from other students; they plagiarise sections from other sources; they present translated materials from a foreign language as their own; they describe ideas of others as their own; they do not give proper credit to others.

Now with ChatGPT’s dazzling abilities to pass exams and to generate coherent papers, all the above can be replaced by typing some simple questions in a chat box. 

Teachers used to run softwares to detect plagiarism. Now teachers are helpless.

There are schools that ban the use of ChatGPT. Others recognise the benefits it brings and encourage students to use it.  

While banning ChatGPT is not enforceable, embracing answers generated by ChatGPT as students’ own is also troublesome.

As a Chinese teacher in the humanities, I think it is high time for schools to have a consensus on what constitutes cheating and what not when using ChatGPT.

And fortunately there is a good place for teachers and schools to learn a few things. That is the chess world. 

Chess players have had decades to learn how to deal with superior computers. They have long conceded to the fact that, chess engines, a type of computer software, have infallible calculation and can beat even the best human players every single time.

The first shock came in May 1997. That was when computer Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov, the best human chess player ever. People’s initial reaction was amazement and disbelief. But gradually, it is accepted that, when playing chess, humans will always be inferior to computers. 

Now chess engines can be installed on smartphones, helping players analyse positions and come up with moves. They are great tools, and nobody proposes to ban them.

And coincidentally, chess players follow a ranking system that is similar to schools. From novice to grandmasters, players must play in different tournaments to gain points. It’s like passing exams.

Therefore, what chess players have experienced can be translated into school systems. 

Chess had the initial shock decades ago. With ChatGPT, it is just beginning for schools. 

ChatGPT was released by the end of 2022 and it caused an immediate anxieties among teachers and school administrators. It is such a great software and it outperforms most students.

Although people are quick to point out some factual errors it has made, we all know that it’ll become better second by second, literally. There’s no telling what kind of perfection it can reach in a year or two. 

Like chess engines to human players, ChatGPT also brings benefits to human students. It can summarise articles, come up with ideas, write the whole piece and provide good feedbacks.

Different from schools, the chess world knows where the boundaries are between cheating and studying. There is a clear rule for players that they can not use chess engines during matches. To use chess engines during a game is cheating.

Once the rule is clear, anti-cheating mechanisms can be implemented, such as broadcast delay and players scanned by a metal detector. For online events, cameras must be installed in players’ homes and screen sharing is mandatory. 

Clear rules has benefits. For one, players know they can not rely on chess engines to win. They must study and get a deeper understanding of the game.

Unfortunately, such a clear rule is absent in schools right now. If unregulated, the worst scenario is that ChatGPT will spare students’ learning efforts. 

Learning is hard work. Writing papers that read well is hard work. Often good ideas only come after a period of struggles, and the thought only becomes clear with the help of writing. 

However, with ChatGPT, the pain disappears. Well written has become a basic hallmark of ChatGPT’s work, which can receive a passing grade at the least or a full mark at the best. 

This will be a huge loss in learning.

In chess, despite all the anti-cheating measures, cheating still exists. Dozens of chess grandmasters have been caught cheating. What they do is to use a phone in the bathroom, wear a small earpiece or receive signals from someone in the audience.

The same thing will also happen in schools. 

We must come up with a clear guideline for what constitutes cheating and what not. Only then can the anti-cheating measures be designed and implemented, and can students benefit from this great tool as chess players benefit from chess engines.

About the Author

April Zhang

April Zhang

April Zhang is the founder of MSL Master and she enjoys teaching and interacting with students. She constantly explores new and interesting ways of teaching Chinese through creative and imaginative activities.

With her help, many students have achieved outstanding result, which has enriched their understanding about China and has significantly contributed to their work.