Students are cheating with AI, so this Missouri State professor put it to the test

FILE - A ChatGPT prompt is shown on a device near a public school in Brooklyn, New York, Jan. 5, 2023.  A popular online chatbot powered by artificial intelligence is proving to be adept at creating disinformation and propaganda. When researchers asked the online AI chatbot ChatGPT to compose a blog post, news story or essay making the case for a widely debunked claim — that COVID-19 vaccines are unsafe, for example — the site often complied, with results that were regularly indistinguishable from similar claims that have bedeviled online content moderators for years.  (AP Photo/Peter Morgan, File)

Artificial intelligence has made it to college, and it's cheating.

ChatGPT is a free AI "chatbot" computer program available free online. Powered by large amounts of data and computing techniques to string words together, ChatGPT is essentially an encyclopedic robot that understands context, vocabulary, human speech patterns and literary touch.

The program made its public debut Nov. 30. Within five days, millions of students were reportedly using the app. Professors and tech experts around the country say it's capable of producing adequate written essays and lines of code with little student input.

Dr. Lloyd Smith, a professor of computer science at Missouri State University, has been investigating the trend.

Not long after ChatGPT passed University of Minnesota law school exams in a field test, Smith used the tool on one of his MSU multimedia programming courses to test its efficiency in code.

The result?

"It did well. I think it could pass my introductory class without any problem," Smith said. "But I also tested it for one of my advanced classes, and it didn't do as well."

Smith also used the tool for information on professional sports stars and song lyrics. There were some errors, he said, and the use of several stock phrases.

The veteran educator said he hasn't witnessed any plagiarism with the use of this app, but says it likely be another way of cheating that teachers will have to learn and navigate.

"Teachers have been combating students using cell phones, catching them copying content off the internet, or buying essays," Smith said. "This is going to be another thing."

AI programs like ChatGPT can be used for good and ill

There's also an opportunity to turn the tables and use AI to identify cheating.

A new AI-plagiarism checker, GPTZero, was recently created by a Princeton University student to detect chatGPT use.

“Another approach that’s been suggested is to collect samples of a student’s writing then perform author-attribution analysis on assignments,” Smith said. “An AI program could probably do that analysis for us.”

According to a survey of 1,000 students that have used ChatGPT, 53% said they used the app to write an essay. Others used it to help answer quiz questions.

School districts in New York and Seattle, Washington have banned access to ChatGPT. Others states are beginning to follow suit.

Several professors and teachers across the globe have groused on social media about ChatGPT's ability to help students sidestep studying and homework, but tech experts are also sounding the alarm.

The uptick in AI has affected many white-collar job markets in fields including education, software design, finance and journalism.

Microsoft recently invested $10 billion into ChatGPT because of all of its capabilities. But for many programs, Smith said, there's no substitute for human knowledge and experience. Not yet, anyway.

"We'll always need people to write truly innovative programs," Smith said. "But a lot of code is not innovative, and AI can do a lot of it, but not perfectly."

A Q&A with ChatGPT

The News-Leader conducted a short, fun conversation with ChatGPT. The questions have been shortened from the app's format for clarity.

N-L: Would you consider Springfield's art scene underrated?

ChatGPT: It's difficult to determine if Springfield's art scene is underrated or not as it depends on personal opinions and perspectives. However, Springfield does have a thriving arts community with various museums, galleries, and cultural events throughout the year. From the Springfield Art Museum to local theater productions, there is a wide range of artistic offerings for residents and visitors to enjoy. So, whether the art scene is underrated or not can be subjective, but it's safe to say that Springfield has a vibrant arts community worth exploring.

N-L: In the style of a 1940s mobster, tell me about Springfield's economy.

ChatGPT:  Listen up, kid. Springfield, Missouri's economy is as solid as a rock. It's a city that knows how to take care of its own, and that starts with having a diversified job market. They've got a little bit of everything — healthcare, retail trade, manufacturing, you name it. And the cost of living is so low, it's attractin' businesses and families from all over.

Now, this city ain't just about workin'. It's got a little something for everyone. They got a college there, Missouri State University, that's pumpin' out top-notch graduates left and right. Plus, it's in a prime location near some of the state's most popular tourist destinations, like Lake of the Ozarks, Table Rock Lake, and Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum.

So, in short, Springfield's economy is a real winner. It's got the brains and the brawn to keep things runnin' smoothly, and it's got the heart to make it a place you'll want to call home.

N-L: Where is best pizza in town?

ChatGPT: Determining the best pizza restaurant in Springfield, Missouri is a matter of personal taste. The city has a number of pizza restaurants that offer a variety of styles, from traditional thin-crust to gourmet options. Some popular pizza restaurants in Springfield include Hurts Donut Co., St. George's Pizzeria, and Fire & Ice.

Each of these restaurants offers a unique twist on the classic dish, using high-quality ingredients and innovative toppings to create delicious and memorable pizzas. Whether you prefer classic margherita or something more adventurous, there is sure to be a pizza restaurant in Springfield that will satisfy your cravings.

N-L: So Buc-ees is coming to Springfield. That's pretty cool.

ChatGPT: Yes, Buc-cees, a popular Texas-based chain of convenience stores, is indeed coming to Springfield. The chain is known for its large stores and wide selection of snacks, drinks, and gifts. The store is also popular for its clean restrooms and friendly staff. The opening of Buc-cees in Springfield is expected to bring new job opportunities and added convenience for residents and travelers in the area. So, it's definitely an exciting development for the community.

N-L: In the tone of a coach, tell me about the state of Missouri State football.

ChatGPT: Listen up team, the Missouri State football program is on the rise. The coaches and players have been working hard to build a winning tradition and it's starting to pay off. With a solid defense and a high-powered offense, this program is poised for success.

The coaching staff has brought in a new system and a fresh attitude, and it's rubbing off on the players. The team is working together and playing with a sense of purpose. They're determined to make a name for themselves and put Missouri State football back on the map.

It's going to be a tough road, but the team is up for the challenge. With a strong work ethic and a drive to win, they're going to make their mark on the Missouri Valley Conference and beyond. So, let's get behind our team and show them our support. The Missouri State football program is on the rise, and we're going to be there every step of the way.

N-L: What would you say to students who use ChadGPT to plagiarize essays?

ChadGPT: Plagiarism is not acceptable and goes against the ethical principles of academic integrity. Submitting someone else's work, including using a language model like me, as your own is a violation of trust and undermines the value of education. Students should strive to create original work and properly cite any sources used in their writing. Using me or any other language model for the purpose of cheating is not recommended and can have serious consequences for students. The goal of education is to learn, understand and apply new knowledge, not to cheat or take shortcuts.

This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: A Missouri State professor says ChatGPT could pass one of his classes