Adam's Antics

December 18, 2022

The Academic Discussion Board / College Essay is Dead: OpenAI / ChatGPT

Filed under: General Antics,Law,Technology — Adam Scott Wandt @ 9:08 am
As you may know, I am co-chair of the New York City Bar Association’s committee on Technology, Cyber and Privacy Law. At our December meeting we discussed a new free technology on the Internet by OpenAI called ChatGPT.
ChatGPT is free to use and utilizes artificial Intelegence to generate original text based off of any prompt or question. Specific to academia, the system can write complex essays based off of any prompt. These responses are original and won’t be flagged on systems like
I tested this system yesterday and loaded in several of the discussion boards and a midterm essay question from my PAD 713 graduate course. The results were incredible from a technological point of view but concerning from a pedagogical standpoint. In each case, OpenAI wrote well written essay questions that were grammatically correct and looked (in every way) like it had been written by a student. There is no way I would have been able to determine the essay or discussion board was written by Artificial Intelligence. I loaded two of the responses into and they gave each input a 0% plagiarized score. To be clear: 100% of the response is written by AI by seeding it with the essay or discussion board question.
I also went over to Instagram and TikTok and found hundreds of videos teaching the public how to use the tool to write college essays.
During discussions, my NYC Bar committee generally agreed that most college and law school academic integrity policies do not directly address such technologies and may be insufficient to hold students responsible for using such service. One attorney on the committee compared the legal aspects of using this technology to that of using grammerly.
This technology is only a month old, free to use, and since it is based off AI will only get better over time. In the past month the AI  has seen over 1 million registered users. I was not able to get the system to write essays with proper references – yet. However, I suspect references will be an added feature in the near future.
What does this mean? First, discussion boards are no longer an appropriate tool to use in online courses. I loaded several discussion board questions into the AI and the outputs were all original and “perfect.” Second, take-home essays are less useful than they have been in the past as students can use this technology to write complex essays in the matter of minutes. Third, we must innovate new types of assignments that do ask for work product that can be quickly generated by AI. Finally, syllabi should be updated to specifically disallow use of AI in the creation of work product.
We should have university-wide conversations regarding this technology and its implications on higher education.

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