Katie Priest | The Poly Post

Artificial Intelligence and academia clash as CPP adapts to a new digital age

By Katie Priest, Feb. 14, 2023

ChatGPT is raising concerns throughout the academic sphere, not only about students’ use of the chatbot but also about the future of writing with many Cal Poly Pomona professors and staff  adjusting to the new technology.  

Released on Nov. 30, 2022, ChatGPT is a prompt-based artificial intelligence model that focuses on language output. “A conversational AI that can chat with you,” as OpenAI, the creators of ChatGPT, refer to the AI on its website.  

ChatGPT was released as a free research preview by OpenAI to allow users to learn about its strengths and weaknesses. The AI’s capabilities raised some questions for professors on how the AI would affect students’ work and the learning process as a whole. 

CPP English Professor Kristin Prins is fine with students using ChatGPT as a tool. She stresses that students need to be upfront about their use of the chatbot as they would be with any other resource. 

Karen Tellez-Trujillo, a CPP rhetoric and composition assistant professor, is more focused on students learning the foundational functions of writing than any shortcuts they may take by using ChatGPT.  

She likens the use of the chatbot without foundational skills to making cupcakes. 

“You made the cupcakes with all the toppings and then you go out to Costco and buy the cupcakes when you have everything sitting right in front of you, and then you find out that those cupcakes (you bought) are stuffed with turkey,” said Tellez-Trujillo 

Both Prins and Tellez-Trujillo agree that while the chatbot may be good at outputting a piece of writing that sounds great, the piece itself can lack substance or even correct facts. Both professors want students to come away from classes with an understanding of the process of writing. 

The Department Chair of CPP’s English & Modern Languages Department, Kent Dickson wants the department to take a progressive approach.  

“This is something that we’re going to have to deal with,” said Dickson. “Let’s not be regressive and try to ban it.”  

“As the use of ChatGPT, the advanced language model developed by OpenAI, continues to spread in colleges, concerns are growing about the potential harm it may pose to students’ critical thinking skills and future job prospects. Critics argue that relying on AI for information and research can lead to a lack of creativity and independent thought, while also threatening the value of a human-powered workforce.” This paragraph was written by ChatGPT, and while it may look good, it’s full of inaccuracies. The chatbot is skilled but not perfect, and the speed at which the bot can answer prompts is what makes it so fascinating. 

Katie Priest | The Poly Post

Dickson thinks that faculty will develop a second sense for recognizing what is human-generated writing and what is artificial. OpenAI has released an AI classifier to help detect AI-generated writing. On its website, OpenAI admits, “our classifier is not fully reliable,” and can only correctly identify 26% of AI-generated writing. 

Dickson knows that while the bot may be good at outputting writing, it is still up to students to hone the skill of distinguishing bad writing from good writing. As for dealing with excessive use of the chatbot, Dickson refers to the Office of Student Conduct & Integrity for its guidance. 

 Araceli Guzmán, the interim director of SCI, acknowledges that ChatGPT is a great toolbut her focus is on the outside factors that might make students want to use ChatGPT as a shortcut.  

For Guzmán, helping students through their academic journey boils down to two details.  

“It comes down to really setting those expectations for students and reminding them of why they’re here as college students,” said Guzmán. 

Antonio Quezada, assistant director of SCI, warns against students fully relying on the chatbot and other online resources.  

Students just have to be careful with how they use technology because, ultimately, when they submit an assignment, they’re attesting to the fact that what they submitted is their own work,” said Quezada. 

One main concern with ChatGPT is where it falls on the spectrum between plagiarism and academic dishonesty.  

For Guzmán, the office “plays it case by case,” and rather than it being on one end or the other “it’s all under that same umbrella of academic dishonesty. 

Both Guzmán and Quezada want students to know what resources are at their disposal. They want students to view the office as a resource and not just the “referees of academic dishonesty. 

While faculty and staff have been having in-depth conversations about how ChatGPT will affect the future of academia, the real question is if students are even using the chatbot.  

“It feels sketchy, it feels wrong. Like it just feels weird,” said philosophy student Aime Alvarado.  

For many students like Alvarado there’s a chance the chatbot might be used in the future. 

“I think maybe I would use it as like a tool like a starting point, especially if it’s a topic I’m not too sure about and use it basically as another source,” said Alvarado. 

Tellez-Trujillo thinks people will learn to live side-by-side with AI technology, just as we have with any other technological advancements. She does not think it will ever replace human writing in the future.  

On Feb.1 OpenAI announced ChatGPT Plus — a “new subscription plan (that) will be available for $20/month.” ChatGPT is still currently available as a free research release. 

Feature image by Katie Priest

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