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Panellists at UWI Vice-Chancellor’s Forum bat for AI in education

Published:Friday | May 12, 2023 | 12:34 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer

PANELLISTS AT a University of the West Indies (UWI) Vice-Chancellor’s forum have asserted that ChatGPT should not be banned in schools, and urged educators to harness the benefits of the artificial intelligence (AI) tool.

ChatGPT, which was developed by Silicon Valley start-up OpenAI and launched in November 2022, has powerful capabilities allowing it to write sophisticated human-like essays, pass MBA and Bar exams, complete assignments and generate creative works, prompting a ban in schools around the world.

Turnitin director of customer engagement, Patti West-Smith, said higher education demands academic integrity and requires students to think originally.

Turnitin is an Internet-based plagiarism detection service and in April, it launched a detector to identify AI-generated work.

“Once we acknowledge that bans are oftentimes coming from a place of fear, I think we can understand why they’re happening. At the same time, we quickly have to acknowledge the potential downside to banning tools like ChatGPT. The world of work is going to require students and future professionals to use many of these tools, so if we don’t give students the guard rails around how to use these tools effectively and ethically, who will?” she questioned.


West-Smith said there has to be a balance between banning ChatGPT entirely and leaving the door wide open.

She explained that students must also be taught how to recognise the limitations of AI tools, particularly where perpetuating bias and misinformation are concerned.

“We can’t do that if we just ban the tools entirely. We are at a place where the gate has already been thrown wide open. If we attempt to ban these tools, we are likely going to continue to privilege the privileged who will be able to access these tools on their own, outside of the walls of the school, and that will just widen gaps that already exist,” West-Smith shared.

The virtual forum was held on Tuesday, under the theme ‘Artificial Intelligence – A Blessing or Curse for Higher Education?’

Head of Research and Foresight at UNESCO’s International Institute for Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean, Dr Emma Sabzalieva, recommended a change in how students are assessed at the tertiary level.

She said universities have tended to rely a lot on course work and have traditionally focused on content-based learning.

“ChatGPT is only one of the many AI applications that exist. Perhaps it’s better to have a competency-based curriculum rather than a content-based one. We are going to need critical thinking skills, entrepreneurship skills and transversal skills for the future and these are easier to reach through a competency-based curriculum,” Sabzalieva said, adding that in Italy, exams are done almost exclusively orally.


Meanwhile, manager of research insights and product innovation at the Caribbean Examinations Council, Dr Margaret Niles, said ChatGPT will continue to improve and it has to be integrated into the teaching and learning, as well as assessment approaches.

“What we need to do is train our teachers and by extension the students on how to ethically use ChatGPT, how to collect the data provided by ChatGPT and analyse it using critical thinking skills, using our collaboration skills, building up those life skills that will help with the reinvention of the person because one thing we do learn is that ChatGPT or any AI is going to impact the labour market in such a way that we are going to lose certain types of jobs over the next couple years,” Niles explained.

West-Smith urged educators to make assessments less vulnerable to AI misuse.

“There are strategies we can begin to employ around building policies at institutional levels, department, course and even assignment levels which clearly articulate what is and what is not acceptable,” she said, adding that academic integrity is twofold.

Students are obligated to maintain their academic integrity, while educators have a duty to create an environment that builds a culture of academic integrity.

Panel moderator, Professor C. Justin Robinson, underscored that AI tools offer great potential to advance education, but they come with risks.

“We have to use the one thing these models don’t have which is our human creativity to really manage this in a way that we maximise the positives and minimise the risks,” the pro vice-chancellor for the board of undergraduate studies said.