The days of simply assigning essays to university students are “long gone” amid the explosive growth of artificial intelligence.
That’s according to University of Limerick Associate Professor Dr Ann Marcus-Quinn, who told Newstalk Breakfast students can produce academic essays “with a couple of good prompts”.
“[Essays are] really all about the process of how people get there,” she said. “When I was back in school, the answers to maths problems were tucked away at the back of books, but you couldn’t just provide that to teachers.
“You need to show your work [and] that's where we are as well with this suite of new tools, including ChatGPT.”
Dr Marcus-Quinn said universities must find a way to make students “prove their work” if a lecturer believes AI was used in an assigned essay.
“A good example of that would be to get students to talk about their process: how they researched the essay, what sources they consulted, why they took the approach they took,” she said.
“The days of just assigning two or three essays over a module, they’ve been gone for a long time.”
'Look at the positives'
Despite concerns for AI in universities, Dr Marcus-Quinn said tools like ChatGPT can simply become another way of learning, when regulated properly.
“We're right to be concerned over [AI], but I think we need to really look at the positives as well that it can bring to the classroom,” she said.
“If we look at when Google Translate was launched nearly 20 years ago, there was certainly a lot of fear among people working professionally in the area of translation... that their jobs would become obsolete.
“But that hasn't turned out to be the case... Google Translate certainly turned out to be something that is helping students to become better translators and maybe to do some of that heavy lifting.”
Dr Marcus-Quinn said students have used Google Translate as a base to carry out their own learning, and ChatGPT could do the same.
“Like anything else, it's just another new tool,” she said.
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