ChatGPT presents new challenges

Post-secondary institutions have yet to set standards to mitigate plagiarism

This is a photo of someone at a laptop. ChatGPT is on screen.
PHOTO: Manmeet Sagri / The Peak

By: Hannah Kazemi, Staff Writer

ChatGPT, a new AI chat bot, has quickly become known for its ability to answer questions and write assignments based on prompts from its users. Users can input almost anything into the chat box, and ChatGPT has an answer. With the rise of smart tech like ChatGPT, the risk of plagiarism and cheating increases along with a perceived “threat to higher education.” The Peak reached out to SFU Administration to learn about the university’s response to ChatGPT. 

ChatGPT works by generating content following a question or command inputted by the user. Depending on how detailed the prompt is, ChatGPT tailors the length and depth of the response to cater to the user’s request. The output could be as short as one line, or it could generate a five-paragraph essay responding to a specific prompt.

In an email statement, SFU said technology such as ChatGPT gives universities “both challenges and opportunities.” As reported by Global News, it seems that many Canadian universities are in the process of crafting specific policies relating to the use of AI such as ChatGPT. Sciences Po, a university in Paris, has issued a complete ban on the use of ChatGPT in academic work submitted by students. Reuters reported Sciences Po students found to have used ChatGPT to complete their work may be expelled from the school. Canadian universities predominantly have yet to release concrete statements on how they plan to handle this situation. However, individual SFU professors are making their own policies to account for ChatGPT’s rise. 

Since its launch, there have been varying opinions on the usefulness of ChatGPT: some are saying it is a positive advancement in technology due to its ability to help students understand particular concepts. Leanne Ramer, SFU senior lecturer of biomedical physiology and kinesiology, is asking students to use ChatGPT to “synthesize results of several studies [because] ChatGPT and other tools like can provide a very high-level summary of a field.” 

Others are alarmed by the AI’s capacity to churn out entire university essays and research assignments simply by inputting the assignment prompt into the chat. SFU told The Peak that while ChatGPT poses “a new challenge to academic integrity,” they are also “looking for ways to leverage artificial intelligence platforms, like Chat GPT, to support learning and research activities in an educational environment.”

When asked about SFU’s plans to mitigate the increased risk of plagiarism that comes with AI such as ChatGPT, they said the “fundamental approach remains the same” to other such cases of plagiarism — they aim to “closely monitor for signs of dishonest behaviour, while educating students about appropriate use of technology, policies, and potential penalties for violating them.” 

SFU noted students have “responsibilities as members of the academic community, as well as consequences for inappropriate student behaviour,” should they be found of academic dishonesty or plagiarism through the use of ChatGPT and otherwise. The current Student Academic Integrity Policy dictates that students who are found to have plagiarized their work are subject to consequences such as receiving failed grades, getting a “formal reprimand,” or being required to redo their work, among other consequences. “Interim measures” while awaiting the investigation of plagiarism allegations include preventing students from enrolling in courses or graduating.

The Peak contacted SFU’s Centre for Educational Excellence to ask about how SFU students might be affected by the new AI, but did not receive a response by the publication deadline. For more information on SFU’s Academic Integrity Policy, visit their Policy and Procedures website.