Colleges warn students against using ChatGPT

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“AI (artificial intelligence) agents such as ChatGPT, GitHub Copilot or Blackbox should not be used when students or faculty are expected to submit original submissions, such as first-year programming course code or original essays, question answers, etc.” According to the January 1 notification.

The state private university said it will start blocking these platforms in its labs and during tutorial sessions while also conducting random checks asking students to reproduce the content and taking disciplinary action if significant discrepancies are found in the checks.

RV University is not alone. College faculties in India are discouraging first-time coders and other students from using AI-based platforms that can generate code or text on their own. For example, GitHub Copilot is a tool co-developed by Microsoft-owned code repository GitHub and AI research firm OpenAI. It helps programmers by generating computer code from natural English language, or by auto-completing a block of code, etc.

Similarly, Blackbox allows developers to copy code from videos or turn any question into code. On the other hand, ChatGPT, which has been in the news lately, is an AI-powered text-to-speech platform capable of writing prose, college essays, poetry, books and even computer code without any human intervention.

According to various college teachers, the use of such tools in colleges can disrupt how much students can actually learn. For example, becoming good coders requires coders to learn logical thinking, which can be difficult if an automated tool generates the code for them. Similarly, ChatGPT can literally replicate the style of an author such as Ernest Hemingway instead of requiring a student to understand the depth of such authors’ works.

Sanjay Chitnis, founder dean, School of Computer Science and Engineering, RV University, says he advocates students using automated coding tools when the objective is not just to write a code but to solve a larger problem. “In such cases, creating code is only incidental and most of the work is identifying the problem, describing the problem and designing solutions. This is the core skill of the 21st century man. We encourage the use of copilots in such projects, but we also raise the overall bar for related projects,” he said.

Similarly, Rupesh Nasre, professor of computer science (CS) and engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras, said first-time programmers should be discouraged from using such tools. “This should be encouraged for students well-versed in programming, who can write the code without the help of tools anyway. It improves their productivity because they don’t have to worry about the mundane part of the application and focus on the creative aspects of problem solving. However, giving a disclaimer A certain code snippet can be generated from a tool,” he added.

Recruiters agree. Sanjeev Azad, vice president of technology at digital services firm GlobalLogic, says he wants to hire people with a “strong understanding” of software engineering principles. Using tools like Copilot. Those are some of the things that can’t be automated,” he said.

Some students agree on this point. Vineeth Kada, a fourth-year CS student at IIT Madras, says he is using Copilot to complete his final year project, but only for non-creative and repetitive tasks. He also points out that human intervention is required when using such tools to detect erroneous results, which can cause more harm than good.

Universities understand that the use of such tools cannot be completely banned. Dhiraj Giani, GitHub’s director of education and government engagement, said workshops around Copilot are being scheduled at institutions like IITs and Uttar Pradesh’s Shiv Nadar University.

To be sure, software tools including Moss, Turnitin, Urkund and GPTZero can be used to keep plagiarism under control. According to a January 16 report by the New York Times, GPTZero is used by global majors such as Harvard University, Yale and the University of Rhode Island to track ChatGPT-powered theft.

RV University’s Chitnis, however, cautions that rapid advances in AI code generation will eventually make it impossible for a tool like GPTZero to detect plagiarism.

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