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12 JAN 2023
The new AI-based writing tool, ChatGPT, has taken the world by storm. The New York Times calls it “the best artificial intelligence chatbot ever released to the general public.” More than one million people signed up to test it in the first five days after its release. But will this tool change the landscape of college admissions as students start using it to write their college essays? And should you be using it?
ChatGPT, a large language model developed by OpenAI, has the potential to assist students in writing college essays. However, it is important to note that the model should not be used as a substitute for a student's own writing and critical thinking skills.
Every publication out there has weighed in on what this new tool will mean for college-going students. Forbes got the service to write two different college essays in just 20 minutes!
Some History Around AI
John McCarthy, Professor Emeritus at Stanford University, explains that AI is the science and engineering of making intelligent machines. The forerunner to these smart machines was built in 1951 by Marvin Minsky, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
You’ll already have seen AI in action: search engines, GPS navigators and self-driving cars are all AI-managed. More and more schools and universities are adopting the technology to enhance teaching and learning, too.
Modern-day AI displays some of the behaviours you’d usually associate with human intelligence – planning, learning, reasoning, problem-solving, perception and social intelligence. It combines these behaviours with the capacity to process vast amounts of data far faster and with less error than a human brain. This gives it the power to help solve problems in almost every area of daily life.
The Benefits of ChatGPT
ChatGPT is a machine learning model that is trained on a large dataset of text, allowing it to generate human-like responses to prompts. This technology has many potential applications, including writing. With the ability to generate coherent and grammatically correct sentences, ChatGPT could be used to assist students in writing college essays.
One of the key benefits of using ChatGPT for essay writing is its ability to generate ideas and potential topic sentences. This can be particularly helpful for students who struggle with writer's block or are unsure of what to write about. By providing a prompt to the model, such as the prompt for an essay, ChatGPT can generate a list of potential topic sentences or ideas for the student to consider.
Another potential benefit of using ChatGPT for essay writing is its ability to generate coherent and grammatically correct sentences. This can be beneficial for students who struggle with grammar and sentence structure. ChatGPT can provide a starting point for the student, who can then edit and revise the generated text to suit their own writing style and voice. Tools such as Grammarly and Google Docs’ Smart Compose already provide these services and are other examples of AI-based edtech tools that have already entered the classroom.
Too Early To Tell
However, it is important to note that ChatGPT is not a substitute for a student's own writing and critical thinking skills. While the model can assist with generating ideas and providing grammatically correct sentences, it cannot replace a student's own creativity and understanding of the topic. Additionally, ChatGPT's output is based on the data it has been trained on, which may not always align with the student's own perspective or understanding of the topic.
Jim Jump, the academic dean and director of college counseling at St. Christopher’s School in Richmond, Va., told Inside Higher Ed that he does not see the tool taking over basic writing skills. He read the Forbes essays and said that both essays “resemble cliché essays, with neither answering the prompt in a convincing way.”
The most important aspect of a student’s college essay is the personal details that are added in there. That is what helps admissions officers better understand the student and whether they will thrive at a certain university. Like Jump says, “Great essays have a spark to them that is not about the ability to write but rather the ability to think. Great personal essays are clever and insightful, with an authenticity and a sincerity that’s—well, personal.”
It's also important to note that many institutions have strict policies against plagiarism, which includes using AI generated content. It's highly recommended to check the policies of your university or college before using AI generated content in any work submitted.
Additionally, it's important to understand the ethical implications of using AI generated content. Even though ChatGPT may assist in generating grammatically correct sentences, it does not have the ability to understand the context of the essay or the ethical implications of the content it generates. It's the responsibility of the student to ensure that the content generated is ethical and appropriate.
At this point, many are approaching ChatGPT the saw way society approached any new invention – with trepidation and amazement. The calculator in its time probably met the same kind of discussions about whether it was the “death of math”. Several educators believe that while the bot can aggregate knowledge, it can not actually synthesize a unique theory or idea, the Brookings Institution reported.
Many people argue that tools will be invented that will help professors determine whether a student has used AI in their essays. A Princeton University graduate has just created an app that can tell whether an essay has been written by ChatGPT, NPR has reported. GPTZero uses two indicators – perplexity and burstiness – to determine whether a piece of writing has been generated by a bot. "For so long, AI has been a black box where we really don't know what's going on inside," said the app’s inventor Edward Tian. "And with GPTZero, I wanted to start pushing back and fighting against that."
In conclusion, ChatGPT has the potential to assist students in writing college essays. However, it is important to remember that the model should not be used as a substitute for a student's own writing and critical thinking skills. For the time being it does not seem that the college essay is going anywhere. Additionally, it's important to check the policies of the university or college before using AI generated content and to be mindful of the ethical implications of the content generated.