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Some College Professors Going Back to Handwritten Papers and Exams Because of Students Using AI

Some College Professors Going Back to Handwritten Papers and Exams Because of Students Using AI

“I’m planning on going medieval on the students and going all the way back to oral exams”

Artificial intelligence has created a new world of opportunities for people who would cheat. It is going to have to be dealt with and this is a good start.

From the Business Insider via Yahoo News:

College professors are going back to paper exams and handwritten essays to fight students using ChatGPT

The growing number of students using the AI program ChatGPT as a shortcut in their coursework has led some college professors to reconsider their lesson plans for the upcoming fall semester.

OpenAI’s ChatGPT is advancing every day. The chatbot achieved the highest score on an AP Biology exam and passed a freshman year at Harvard with a 3.34 GPA.

Since its launch, teachers, administrators, and students have questioned AI’s role in education. While some schools chose to outright ban the use of ChatGPT, others are exploring ways it can be a tool for learning.

As summer break comes to a close, some college professors are now searching for ways to fight the use of generative AI, making their exams “ChatGPT-proof,” Fortune reported.

“Asking students questions like, ‘Tell me in three sentences what is the Krebs cycle in chemistry?’ That’s not going to work anymore, because ChatGPT will spit out a perfectly fine answer to that question,” Bill Hart-Davidson, associate dean at Michigan State University’s College of Arts and Letters, told Fortune.

Concerned professors told Insider they plan to go back to handwritten assignments and oral exams to avoid the use of generative AI.

“I’m planning on going medieval on the students and going all the way back to oral exams,” Christopher Bartel, a philosophy professor at Appalachian State University, told Insider in January. “They can AI generate text all day long in their notes if they want, but if they have to be able to speak it, that’s a different thing.”

A Canadian writing professor told Fox News that he plans to make assignments more personalized in an effort to cut down the use of ChatGPT on essays.


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Unfortunately, students today learn nothing of penmanship.

    The Gentle Grizzly in reply to John M. | August 14, 2023 at 9:41 pm

    Anyone alive today has not learned good writing. I’ve seen penmanship from the 1880s through the 1919s. Yes, the styles varied. Some of it was even straight up and down or slanted with the high parts to the left. But every bit of it looked like a work of art. The noticeable thing is everything was written in pen and ink. I believe the same thing that my sixth grade elementary teacher believed. The ballpoint pen ruined penmanship. It is it just the way it’s Todd, it’s the writing instruments that are available to us.

There are simple ways around this and that is for the professor to know their source material. Require students to use that source and no externals unless pre-approved by the professor. That way, if they use GPT and come up with extraneous material not in their text or course materials, then they lose points.

This is acceptable because the point of the exercise is to test their ability to read and communicate on research, not chat GPT’s ability to do so.

ChatGPT also has lots of potential as a plagiarism checker.

I know my explanation sounds political for certain courses (professor-approved sources only), but for cut and dry STEM courses it’s really not a problem…yet.

    Antifundamentalist in reply to healthguyfsu. | August 14, 2023 at 3:11 pm

    What you are proposing here, limiting students to textbook and class notes as source material competely defeats the purpose of paying for a college education. What you are talking about is middle school!

    By the time you reach post-secondary education you are expected to be able to utilize source material beyond textbooks and class notes. You should have a solid grasp of how to learn and be able to do further research on the topics you are discussing! Otherwise, what’s the point in going to college?

      That’s why colleges have these very large and expensive facilities called “libraries”. Oral exams will show that the student understands the material.

        George_Kaplan in reply to Rusty Bill. | August 15, 2023 at 11:11 pm

        Even a couple of decades ago academic libraries were relying on databases of journal articles for materials. Frankly I doubt the situation has shifted much towards printed materials on shelves.

      healthguyfsu in reply to Antifundamentalist. | August 14, 2023 at 7:20 pm

      The point is to assess their ability to do legitimate research and compose a communicative, coherent summary. That does not happen at the college level as much as it should. Besides, for most students left to their own devices, the “further research” is googling.

      Chat GPT farms that out even further. The problem is their ability to vet the information at the lower levels isn’t developed.

      At higher levels in college, you then start teaching them how to vet information from various sources, even critical evaluation of professional scientific research pubs, mostly in seminar/writing intensive courses.

      Also, the information they are assessing and communicating about is much more complex than middle school or even high school material. I can’t succinctly communicate the differences over a comment block, but your soapbox is in the wrong alley.

    The Gentle Grizzly in reply to healthguyfsu. | August 14, 2023 at 9:42 pm

    In short, the students become parrots.

      healthguyfsu in reply to The Gentle Grizzly. | August 15, 2023 at 5:38 pm

      No, they write research papers to indicate that they actually can. Parrots can repeat, but they can’t summarize or paraphrase.

      That’s a lower college level skill. It’s also a skill that begins as early as middle school, but the expectation and rigor of the information to be researched is much higher in college.

        healthguyfsu in reply to healthguyfsu. | August 15, 2023 at 5:41 pm

        I also think both you and af missed the part I wrote about “no externals unless pre-approved by the professor”.

        This means a student can go beyond the recommended sources and use other materials in their research. However, they need the professor’s help in vetting the validity/utility of the external source, and they have to plan ahead rather than plugging it into chat GPT the night before.

ChatGPT is here to stay.
Either the teacher (whatever level: K through Masters) can learn to make use of the technology as a tool or retire.
“Luddites are ridiculed by the Learned.”

    If the students are using AI to complete their coursework, they are not learning. This further devalues the college degree.

      paracelsus in reply to Rusty Bill. | August 14, 2023 at 5:59 pm

      and matriculating the unqualified Amish in large numbers only increases the value of a college degree?

      healthguyfsu in reply to Rusty Bill. | August 14, 2023 at 7:23 pm

      In some of our more advanced STEM work, it produces hilariously wrong answers. Standardized tests are easy for it to pass because they are very standardized and easy for it to look up via algorithm.

      Ask it to do something more complex like mechanisms of organic synthesis and it starts to fail at anything beyond the most rudimentary generic blobs of info.

Good luck reading their lousy handwriting and English.

As a history major graduating 12 years ago. We had plagiarism software that our research and long form papers were submitted to a handwritten exams. It’s not hard to limit tech in the classroom.

I’m concerned that more students will be mistakenly accused of plagiarism. I had an advisee who got interested in a historical topic and wrote a marvelous paper on it. The instructor gave her an F and accused her of plagiarism because “It was too good for a student to have written it.”

I called the instructor and told him he had made a big mistake, and that an easy way to distinguish scholarship from plagiarism was to engage the student in conversation about the topic. He did so (grudgingly) and found that she could explain and elaborate on every word in the paper.

    Ex-Oligarch in reply to OldProf2. | August 17, 2023 at 5:52 pm

    No offense, but your colleague is a jerk.

    Something similar happened to me when I was a freshman (now over 40 year ago — yikes!). My prof asked me to stop by his office after class. When I did, he engaged me in a discussion about the topic of my paper (dialectical materialism — double yikes!). After a few minutes he explained that he wanted to see if I had written the paper myself. Instead of involving the disciplinary board, he wound up nominating the paper for the annual departmental award.

    This was during the heyday of term paper mills. The campus was littered with flyers for “typing services” and “research assistance.” Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

Learning information from ANY source and method is encouraged.

Cheaters (and politicians), however, will always try to cheat.

Professors will have to earn their salary by:
1. TSA screen those taking proctored tests., and discipline/expel those cheating.
2. Personally grade those tests and be responsible to ensure the validity of thise tests.
3. Do oral exams as indicated.

Thank you for posting this article. We have been pulling out our hair over this.

Hmmm … If you give ChatGPT a sample of text, can it tell you whether it generated that text?