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How Will ChatGPT Impact Higher Education?

Kumiko Saito
February 7, 2023
How ChatGPT Will Impact Higher Education

The world is abuzz about ChatGPT. This versatile tool from OpenAI is way more than a chatbot. It has the potential to supplant Google, render numerous careers obsolete, and disrupt entire industries.

One industry on which ChatGPT is bound to have a substantial impact is higher education. Are colleges and universities ready for this game-changing technology? What threats does it raise, and what policies and practices should be put in place to address them?

Here’s a look at how ChatGPT will impact higher education.

The Risks

The most obvious challenge ChatGPT poses for the education industry is the potential for academic dishonesty (in simpler terms: cheating).

Any student can ask ChatGPT to create an essay for them on any topic – and the application will do it. The output is surprisingly high quality, and since it’s original, educators have no means of identifying it as plagiarized. Students will still have to find sources for all facts presented, and some editing may be required. But the work of researching and writing their term papers can be offloaded to ChatGPT and completed for them in seconds.

There’s already plenty of proof of ChatGPT’s potential as a cheating tool. A report by a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School concluded that ChatGPT could pass the final exam for the school’s MBA program. ChatGPT also wrote a job application that was shortlisted for an interview by a consultancy firm. This proves that ChatGPT can fool screeners, pass off its work as legitimate, and even outperform human competitors.

The Bright Side

Despite the dangers ChatGPT presents, the higher-ed industry isn’t panicking just yet. The industry has a long history of adapting to disruptive new technologies. From calculators to search engines to smartphones, there have been many inventions that threatened to undermine teaching and learning, and academic institutions have always found ways to adapt.

As for ChatGPT’s potential use for cheating, this is a known issue that many parties are working to address. OpenAI themselves are at the forefront of these efforts. They just released a tool to detect AI-written content – the product of a lengthy consultation with academic institutions. While they acknowledge this tool is far from perfect, it’s a good first step toward alleviating schools’ concerns.

Some people are already looking beyond risk management to how ChatGPT can be used to enhance education. Several educators are already using it as a teaching tool. Josh Nicholson, the CEO of Scite, envisions a future in which AI is used to identify sources for information in ChatGPT output, making it a more useful research tool in and beyond education.

Whether schools choose to embrace ChatGPT as a teaching tool or just safeguard against the dangers it presents, one thing they can’t afford to do is ignore it. This technology isn’t going away (in fact, Google is poised to release its own competitor to ChatGPT). it will only grow more prevalent in our day-to-day lives. Higher-ed institutions will once again need to find ways to adapt to a disruptive new technology.

Kumiko Saito
February 7, 2023

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