Ever since ChatGPT wormed its way into exam answers, assignments and even research papers, it has raised some suspicion and concern in the academic community. The chatbot was first released in November 2022 by OpenAI, and can pull from a large amount of data to generate human-like answers to the user’s questions. It has vast potential across industries – content creation, customer service, and now maybe even education.
A Bengaluru university banned the use of ChatGPT and other AI agents like it for examinations over concerns of cheating and plagiarism. Likewise, science journals are banning researchers from listing the chatbot as an author in their papers due to its questionable ethics.
While one cannot deny the possibility of students pulling answers and assignments entirely from the chatbot, there is also some merit to the claim that ChatGPT could simplify teaching and learning in many ways.
We asked Indian students and teachers to share their thoughts on ChatGPT as a potential tool in academics, and here’s what they had to say.
Nobin Raja, a doctoral student at the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Bengaluru, believes there are both pros and cons to it. “We went from writing on pen and paper to typing on a computer, so why are we drawing the line at AI? If the whole idea of us working is to make life comfortable, then why are we saying that we don’t want to be too comfortable, we want to suffer a little?”
Given the massive reservoirs of data it pulls from, it has the potential to provide information that even experts may have missed. However, Nobin pointed out the downside of this. “ChatGPT can change the world of medicine, because it can work in multiple locations and can stay constantly updated. However, if there is a wrong publication or incorrect data, ChatGPT will suggest it for everybody, and that can become extremely dangerous.”
There are also some ethical concerns about OpenAI trying to monetize the chatbot. “Because of the amount of users that have gotten onto ChatGPT, they’ve started a subscription service that you have to pay for,” Ishaan Menon, a BMS student at SIES said. “But they’ve fed the algorithm they made with everyone’s content on the internet that’s publicly available. And now they’re commodifying that content.”
Educational institutions have already expressed their concerns about ChatGPT being used for cheating in exams and assignments. However, teachers and professors do seem to see how it might be an efficient teaching and learning tool as well.
“It is fascinating and frightening at the same time as it can think like you and me,” said Bhavna Gupta, an English language trainer and the founder of Learning Sutra LifeLong Learning. “Done correctly, it can help learners read between the lines rather than memorising and reproducing pages and pages of facts. Likewise, ChatGPT can throw up facts as required, but to analyse the facts and evaluate them against rational and logical thought is not something AI can do. I’d say the only concern is this – who owns the text produced by ChatGPT? Can it be quoted as a validated source/resource?”
“I think it is a very powerful tool to give you an outline and show you a direction, especially if you are stuck,” Dr Megha Agarwal, a specialist in English and Comparative Literature said. “But that is not how it is used. I have already seen one assignment that was entirely written off of ChatGPT. The genius of it is such that it cannot be detected on plagiarism software yet. I could tell since I had also been toying with ChatGPT that the writing style was certainly not the student’s. And any sort of direct quotation without acknowledging the source is plagiarism and academic dishonesty.”
Dr Agarwal has been trying the chatbot out along with fellow academics, and said it was quite fascinating to them. But at the same time, they wondered if it would make them redundant soon.
“If you ask ChatGPT for lesson plans, it provides you with pretty decent ones. So then the question arises, what is the role of a teacher? Maybe if you are completely new to the discipline of teaching, or are struggling with a particular topic, it does give you a direction and then you can build upon it. What a teacher can add is nuance, insight and reflection. So I’m open to it being used as a teaching tool and it may in fact improve learning outcomes. It does the groundwork for you and leaves the human being free to tackle the higher order thinking.”
Finally, we thought we’d hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. When asked its thoughts on being used for academic purposes, here’s what ChatGPT had to say:
“As a language model created by OpenAI, I do not have personal opinions or beliefs. However, ChatGPT can be used for a variety of purposes, including academic research and education. It has the ability to generate human-like text based on patterns it learned from large amounts of data, making it a useful tool for tasks such as summarization, question answering and language translation. However, it’s important to note that while I can provide information based on the data I was trained on, the accuracy of my responses may vary and should be critically evaluated before use in academic contexts.”