Is artificial intelligence a threat for Irish universities

By Michael Coughlan who is a Dublin based teacher who works in a school recognized for it’s science and technology initiatives. In this article he considers the potential impact of artificial intelligence for Irish Universities. 

The threat of artificial intelligence is becoming a real concern for Irish universities. So what can they do to combat this?

The use of AI tools to produce essays at lightning speed has caused concern among Irish universities, leading to a review of policies surrounding academic integrity and student assessment. ChatGPT, an AI tool developed by OpenAI, can generate text in response to prompts, and videos showing students using it to write assignments have been widely circulated online. In response to this development, many higher education institutions have initiated full reviews of their policies related to academic integrity and assessment.

Is artificial intelligence a threat for Irish universities

Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), the organization responsible for monitoring standards in Irish higher education, stated that it is important for institutions to take the time to understand the impact of these tools on the education system, and how to harness them while minimizing potential risks to academic integrity. The National Academic Integrity Network, a group of Irish academics established by QQI, met recently to discuss ways to adapt assessments to minimize the threat of cheating and provide guidance for students on the risks and ethics of using AI tools.

Billy Kelly, the network’s chair and former dean of teaching and learning at DCU, was reportedly stunned by the power of ChatGPT to produce well-written essays within seconds. He said that while the tool generated credible answers in response to certain essay prompts, it was less successful with more specific titles and there was a risk of facts or quotes being misrepresented.

ChatGPT is part of a new wave of AI technology, and it is the first time such a powerful tool has been made available to the general public through a free and easy-to-use web interface. OpenAI has acknowledged the potential for the tool to be used to mislead people and is currently developing technology to help identify text generated by ChatGPT.

Academics are hopeful that detectors will soon be available to root out cheating, with Turnitin, a plagiarism detection service widely used by colleges, announcing plans to incorporate more features for identifying AI, including ChatGPT, later this year.

In response to this new technology, some colleges are planning to make changes in how they assess students in the next academic year, with a greater emphasis on oral presentations and more specific and personalized essay titles. While some education institutions abroad have banned the use of AI tools, many colleges are opting to prepare students for the growing use of this technology.

Overall, Irish higher education institutions have the freedom to develop their own policies on the use of AI on campus. It is important for institutions to clearly communicate to their students under what circumstances the use of AI tools is appropriate and acceptable, and to educate students on how to use AI technology in a legitimate manner. As the use of AI technology continues to advance and become more widespread, it is essential for universities to stay informed and adapt accordingly to maintain academic integrity and the quality of education.

Michael Coughlan is a Dublin based teacher who works in a school recognized for it’s science and technology initiatives. He has keen interest in using technology for education most recently introducing virtual reality as a method for learning a broad range of subjects in the classroom.

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