Colleges are abuzz about ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence (AI) writing tool that has taken the world by storm. It’s also sending educators into a panic because of the threat of widespread student cheating on assignments. The time is now for college instructors to adapt their teaching and account for this technology and maintain the integrity of student performance. How does this AI work, and how do you persuade students not to use it to cheat on assignments? 

Colleges, corporations, and the news media are talking about ChatGPT’s capabilities to take a user’s written input and produce human-like responses from everything from poetry, short stories, relationship advice, and yes, college essay papers. Cheating in college is nothing new. What is new is how well ChatGPT can generate an entire college essay submission. It’s easy to understand why colleges feel threatened. ChatGPT is a freakishly capable tool that appeared with no forewarning, and it performs reasonably well across a range of academic subjects. 

What is ChatGPT? It is an AI chatbot developed by OpenAI, a start-up co-founded by Elon Musk and Sam Altman and backed by well-known investors, most notably Microsoft. On ChatGPT, in response to typing in the question, “What is ChatGPT?”, the AI described itself as a large language model created by OpenAI that uses a deep learning algorithm with the purpose of engaging in conversation with users and providing them information, assistance, and support on a wide range of topics. It can understand and generate human-like responses in natural language and continuously learns and improves through user interaction. According to The New York Times (Dec. 2022), the tool “…is quite simply the best artificial intelligence chatbot ever released to the general public.” And the AI tool is popular! It took TikTok nine months to reach 100 million users and Instagram two and a half years. Approximately two months after launching in 2022, ChatGPT garnered a record 28 million daily visits. 

What actions can college instructors take to curb or cut cheating use with ChatGPT? Below are some ideas. 

  • IT Policies: Reminding students to follow their school's IT policies regarding the use of technology in the classroom is also a viable option in that students are held accountable for compliance. Instructors should consult with students to provide the acceptable use of chatbots and other online tools. This option still calls for the instructor to determine what is a “real” submission versus a “generated” submission. 

  • Lesson plans: Modify lesson plans by replacing take-home exams with in-class tests or group discussions. This allows instructors to assess student performance under their supervision where students cannot access AI in the classroom.  

  • Embrace it! Use ChatGPT for educational purposes. Integrate it into some assignments, treating it like a calculator. This can encourage responsible use and anticipate that students may use the AI in any event. Encourage students to use ChatGPT as a type of tutor or a starting point for tackling class assignments.  

AI technology that generates human-like responses accessible to the masses is not going away anytime soon. College instructors have an opportunity right now to adapt their teaching to this technology in a way that curbs cheating and maintains the integrity of student performance.