Jonathan Dempsey is a higher education manager in the UK with nearly 20 years of experience across a variety of business areas from IT support to housing, student well-being to student data. His passions lie in the support of student success which is borne out not only in his professional work but also in his academic for which he is currently undertaking a professional doctorate in Higher Education Management at the University of Bath. As well as supporting students Jonathan also supports the development of his fellow professionals through his position as a trustee with the Association of University Administrators (AUA), the representative voice of HE professionals in the UK.
The integration of AI into higher education is a topic that is being met with both excitement and apprehension. While it is clear that these technologies have the potential to bring significant advancements to the sector, there are also concerns that must be addressed. Some of these concerns include:
- The potential for reduced critical thinking and problem-solving skills among students who rely too heavily on AI assistance.
- The risk of decreased engagement and motivation in learning when using AI.
- The need for proper training and education on the limitations and ethical considerations of AI for students.
While these concerns are valid, it is important to also consider the potential benefits of using AI in higher education. The arguments for and against the use of AI in the sector are ongoing and will be continued to be debated
To continue the debate, I will put forward my arguments for the place of AI in higher education. In respect of balance, this article will put forward the argument against the use of AI in higher education.
To make it a little more interesting, and as an experiment, I will invite the current biggest name in the AI space to put forward this opposing argument, ChatGPT. So, can ChatGPT convince me and you that it shouldn’t have a place in higher education or can the fact it can argue that case shows its potential worth for the sector and further.
Let’s find out!
In favor of the use of AI in HE
AI is coming and arguably, in the form of ChatGPT, it’s already here. So, trying to put the genie back in the bottle seems like a futile if not impossible task. If it is now out there then we need to begin understanding it and consider how it can, within the higher ed context, be best used to support our students.
In considering how it can be best used we should probably consider one of the biggest concerns of a tool like ChatGPT, cheating. There are already plenty of articles with worries that students will be able to ask ChatGPT to write their assignment for them by just giving them the question and a few additional prompts.
It has already been seen that it can produce essays of a decent standard worthy of more than pass marks and possibly more concerning different every time someone asks if it potentially thwarts plagiarism detection systems that are commonplace in most VLEs.
However, one of the counterarguments could be that for many years people have said that with the massification of higher education, we are just producing graduates who can regurgitate information without growing their criticality. ChatGPT just speeds his process up and gets the job done. When these graduates go into the workplace for the first few years this may be just what their employers want. Someone who can pump out information in a standard way without thinking more widely or critically about the subject.
Why wouldn’t you use it to do this task?
If we do want to create critically-minded graduates then ChatGPT should not be feared but seen as a call to action for educators and institutions. This could be the catalyst to rethink how we assess students, and no this is not a call for more exams where you remove the risk of AI, but reconsidering how you get students to show their understanding. This could be through vlogs, presentations, or artistic representations. Who knows what else but it would be interesting to start finding out what it could be.
Educators could also help students understand how such a tool could help them in their assessments. So rather than them going to ChatGPT for a direct answer to their assessment question it could be looking at how they could prompt it for feedback on their ideas, for example, “what do you think of my answer so far? Am I being clear enough about topic x?”.
This could be the critical friend they need for their essays when they need it at 3 am in the morning and not at office hours in a week’s time, 24 hours before the deadline.
This support can also extend to students in a variety of other ways. Maybe the student is the first in their family to go to university and traversing all the policies and support is just too daunting or a completely foreign language to them. So, for example, a student could ask ChatGPT “I’m not well and my uni assignment is due tomorrow. I won’t complete it what should I do?”
And here is an answer from ChatGPT, “It’s important to prioritize your health. If you’re not feeling well, it’s best to rest and take care of yourself. You should contact your professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to explain your situation and ask for an extension or alternative arrangements. They may be able to offer you an extension on your assignment or make an alternative. It’s also a good idea to let your classmates know if you won’t be able to attend any group meetings or work on group projects.”
This is a well-thought-out answer that guides the student to where they could seek support but also let them know of their own responsibilities with their peers. This answer took a few seconds to be generated. A heck of a lot quicker trying to navigate an institution’s website especially if you don’t know the correct terminology.
If it can help to remove barriers for students and allow them to ask questions they are not certain of or too nervous or ashamed to ask then it could become a great leveller within higher education.
Now I am not ignoring the potential risks, however, if we ignore the tool then the risks will still occur albeit potentially amplified and under the radar but rather than going through them, I will let ChatGPT state its counter-arguments and the risks of AI and itself within higher education.
Against the use of AI in HE
ChatGPT was asked to write an opposing viewpoint to the above, here is its response:
An opposing viewpoint to the idea that AI like ChatGPT should be embraced in higher education is that it could ultimately harm the integrity of the education system and devalue degrees. While it may seem convenient to use AI to help support students, the potential for cheating and the lack of critical thinking skills developed by relying on AI outweigh the benefits. Additionally, using AI for support could also perpetuate educational inequalities, as those who have access to these tools may have an unfair advantage over those who do not.
It is important to remember that the purpose of higher education is to promote critical thinking and the ability to analyze and evaluate information. By allowing students to use AI to write their assignments, we risk creating a generation of graduates who lack the ability to think critically and independently. This will not only affect the quality of graduates, but also the reputation of the higher education system.
Moreover, the potential for cheating is a major concern. AI-generated essays may be able to bypass plagiarism detection software, and educators may struggle to distinguish between an AI-generated essay and one written by a student. This could lead to widespread cheating and a further devaluation of degrees.
Furthermore, using AI for support could also perpetuate educational inequalities, as those who have access to these tools may have an unfair advantage over those who do not. This could lead to an even greater divide between students from different socioeconomic backgrounds.
while the use of AI in higher education may seem like a solution for support, the potential for cheating and lack of critical thinking skills developed outweigh the benefits. It is important to focus on developing new methods of assessment that encourage students to engage with the material in a deeper and more meaningful way.
The use of AI like ChatGPT in higher education is a complex issue with valid arguments on both sides, even when the other side is provided by the tool itself.
On one hand, it can provide efficient support for students, especially in navigating university policies and procedures and removing barriers for students who may not have access to support otherwise.
However, it also raises concerns about the integrity of the education system and the devaluation of degrees. AI-generated essays may be able to bypass plagiarism detection software, and it could also stifle creativity and critical thinking, which are important skills for success in the real world.
Overall, while the use of AI in higher education has great potential it will always be important to carefully consider the potential consequences. The mere fact it can argue for its non-inclusion is almost an argument for it to be here. Either way tools like this are here to stay and so we need to be ready for them.