Artificial Intelligence & Academic writing.

Fintech Women

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Artificial Intelligence

The use of technology in academic writing is already widespread. For example, many universities already use text-based plagiarism detectors like Turnitin, while students might use Grammarly, a cloud-based writing assistant. Examples of writing support include automatic text generation, extraction, prediction, mining, form-filling, paraphrasing, translation and transcription.

Advancements in AI technology have led to new tools, products and services being offered to writers to improve content and efficiency. As these improve, soon entire articles or essays might be generated and written entirely by artificial intelligence. In schools, the implications of such developments will undoubtedly shape the future of learning, writing and teaching.

What’s judged to be plagiarism may shift as students rely on more sophisticated forms of technology for writing support.

Misconduct concerns already widespread

Research has revealed that concerns over academic misconduct are already widespread across institutions higher education in Canada and internationally.

In Canada, there is little data regarding the rates of misconduct. Research published in 2006 based on data from mostly undergraduate students at 11 higher education institutions found 53 per cent reported having engaged in one or more instances of serious cheating on written work, which was defined as copying material without footnoting, copying material almost word for word, submitting work done by someone else, fabricating or falsifying a bibliography, submitting a paper they either bought or got from someone else for free.

Academic misconduct is in all likelihood under-reported across Canadian higher education institutions.

There are different types of violations of academic integrity, including plagiarismcontract cheating (where students hire other people to write their papers) and exam cheating, among others.

Unfortunately, with technology, students can use their ingenuity and entrepreneurialism to cheat. These concerns are also applicable to faculty members, academics and writers in other fields, bringing new concerns surrounding academic integrity and AI such as:

  • If a piece of writing was 49 per cent written by AI, with the remaining 51 per cent written by a human, is this considered original work?

  • What if an essay was 100 per cent written by AI, but a student did some of the coding themselves?

  • What qualifies as “AI assistance” as opposed to “academic cheating”?

  • Do the same rules apply to students as they would to academics and researchers?

We are asking these questions in our own research, and we know that in the face of all this, educators will be required to consider how writing can be effectively assessed or evaluated as these technologies improve.

Augmenting or diminishing integrity?

At the moment, little guidance, policy or oversight is available regarding technology, AI and academic integrity for teachers and educational leaders.

Over the past year, COVID-19 has pushed more students towards online learning — a sphere where teachers may become less familiar with their own students and thus, potentially, their writing.

While it remains impossible to predict the future of these technologies and their implications in education, we can attempt to discern some of the larger trends and trajectories that will impact teaching, learning and research.

Technology & automation in education

A key concern moving forward is the apparent movement towards the increased automation of education where educational technology companies offer commodities such as writing tools as proposed solutions for the various “problems” within education.

An example of this is automated assessment of student work, such as automated grading of student writing. Numerous commercial products already exist for automated grading, though the ethics of these technologies are yet to be fully explored by scholars and educators.

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