College Students’ Reactions to AI Cheating Accusations: Frustration, Anxiety, and Doubt
The release of the artificial intelligence-driven large-language chatbot, ChatGPT, has sparked both excitement and anxiety among college students. While the technology holds promise for expanded use of AI in education, it has also raised concerns about the implications for teaching and learning. Recently published research by Tim Gorichanaz, Ph.D., from Drexel University, sheds light on the reactions of college students who have been accused of using ChatGPT to cheat.
Gorichanaz’s study, published in the journal Learning: Research and Practice, analyzed 49 Reddit posts and their discussions from students accused of using AI on assignments. The study identified several themes, including frustration from wrongly accused students, anxiety about the possibility of false accusations, and doubts about the relevance of higher education in the age of generative AI.
Of the 49 students who posted, 38 claimed they did not use ChatGPT, but detection programs like Turnitin or GPTZero flagged their assignments as AI-generated. This led to heated discussions resembling legal arguments, with students seeking ways to prove their innocence and questioning the reliability of detection programs.
One recurring concern expressed by students was the perceived role of colleges and universities as gatekeepers to success. The high stakes associated with being wrongly accused of cheating raised questions about the institutions’ preparedness for new technology and the potential overreliance on imperfect AI detectors.
Trust among students and between students and professors was also found to be eroding. The constant suspicion of cheating created strained relationships, with students feeling unfairly targeted. Comments from students highlighted their disappointment in being accused by trusted professors and the perception that AI detectors were given more trust than they were.
The study also pointed out policy inconsistencies regarding the use of AI tools such as ChatGPT. Some students were punished for its use, while others were encouraged to use similar tools like Grammarly. This inconsistency caused further confusion among students, leading to discussions about the need to redefine learning assessment beyond traditional essays.
Gorichanaz emphasized the importance of clear communication from institutions regarding the use of generative AI technology. Students facing accusations or constant suspicion of cheating experience significant distress, which can hinder their educational experience. Consistent policies and awareness of the limitations of detection technology are necessary to uphold trust and provide a quality education.
The study highlighted the potential for AI detectors to produce false positives, leading to erroneous accusations by professors. Instead of relying on detection programs, instructors may consider redesigning assessments that focus on the process rather than the end product, or implementing more frequent and lower-stakes assessments. Educating students on the appropriate use of generative AI technology could also be beneficial.
While this study provides valuable insights into the experiences of college students facing AI cheating accusations, further research with a larger and more diverse sample is needed. The perspectives shared on English-language Reddit forums represent only a fraction of the student population.
The integration of generative AI technology in higher education necessitates careful consideration of assessment practices and policies around cheating. By understanding and addressing the frustrations, anxieties, and doubts students face, colleges and universities can ensure a fair and productive learning environment in the age of AI.