Doris Weßels still remembers December 2, 2022. As a professor of business informatics at the Kiel University of Applied Sciences, she has been researching the effects of AI language models for the education sector for years – but when she logs into ChatGPT for the first time, she feels that this will be a “magic moment”.

The chatbot ChatGPT was released on November 30, 2022 by Silicon Valley-based company OpenAI, co-founded by Elon Musk, among others. Anyone can interact online with artificial intelligence (AI). It is enough to enter questions or commands in a chat window, ChatGPT answers to (almost) everything. A million people had signed up within five days. It took Instagram more than two months to do this.

ChatGPT can explain, program, argue. Doris Weßels is also amazed when she gives the AI ​​the first commands. “We’re entering a different world,” she says. According to Wessels, the magic of this AI is difficult to describe. “You have to try and experience it yourself.”

For Mike Sharples, GPT-3, a precursor to ChatGPT, was one of the few “big breakthroughs” he’s witnessed in his 40-year career as an AI scientist.

But the British Professor Emeritus of the Open University also says: “GPT democratizes plagiarism”. Students can now simply give the program commands to have texts written for them in the perfect language. Free ghostwriting for everyone, so to speak.

ChatGPT can be used to write academic texts, for example. Mike Sharples had the AI ​​generate a scientific article that he said “could pass an initial peer review.” Reports from schoolchildren and students who use AI for their homework are piling up on the Internet.

This worries Doris Weßels, who also co-founded the virtual competence center “Writing, Teaching and Learning with AI” at Kiel University of Applied Sciences. According to Weßels, German colleges and universities run the risk of being left behind: by the software industry, which is developing ever more powerful AI systems, and by their own students, who are learning to use this increasingly intelligent software faster than the teachers. Students often find out about new developments in real time on social media. Much faster than the older generation.

Weßels draws a possible horror scenario – of well-connected students and an unsuspecting professor who thinks he has done an excellent job because all of a sudden he is only correcting homework without errors.

Debarka Sengupta leads the Infosys Center for Artificial Intelligence (CAI) at IIIT Delhi. “Everyone in India knows about ChatGPT,” he says. The professor fears that the program can become addictive: If students no longer learn to write texts themselves and only use ChatGPT, they could become “extremely incompetent and dependent”, according to Sengupta.

So far, however, there have been no data surveys that support his opinion. This is also due to the short time that has passed since the release of ChatGPT. But like other researchers, Sengupta also emphasizes: “Plagiarism and fraud have always existed”. However, one should not underestimate the motivation of the students. Or as Mike Sharples says: “Students want to learn, not cheat.”

Basically, however, Sengupta sees ChatGPT as mostly positive. The AI ​​helps his students. One of them is Bernadette Mathew. For her doctorate in biology, she is researching cancer growth. This generates large amounts of data that need to be analyzed. You have to program for that. A problem for her, because she never learned programming during her studies.

Sengupta heard about her troubles and showed her ChatGPT. Now Bernadette Mathew gives ChatGPT tasks, lets the program find errors in her code and finally learns programming languages ​​with the help of AI. According to Mathew, this works “99 percent of the time.” Best of all, ChatGPT doesn’t just do her job, but patiently helps her to really understand programming.

Bernadette Mathew says the AI ​​makes her feel “empowered” to work independently. She doesn’t always have to ask others for help. “Chatting with ChatGPT is like chatting with a real person. If I had known that earlier, I could have saved myself so much work,” she says. She believes that AI will also revolutionize the work of other biologists.

Because they could now concentrate purely on research and not on having to learn to program. But Mathew is also afraid that at some point she will no longer be able to use ChatGPT because the AI ​​will be charged.

Doris Weßels believes that ChatGPT can also help students in other subjects. It can solve writer’s block, reduce the fear of the blank sheet of paper and write the difficult first words, the first paragraph.

Bernadette Mathew also emphasizes the added value of inspiration that a digital writing assistant can offer in the form of ChatGPT.

Canadian psycholinguist Daniel Lametti of Acadia University compares the importance of AI like ChatGPT for academic texts with the invention of the calculator for mathematics.

This changed the teaching fundamentally. Before that, only the end result, the solution of an equation, often counted. Suddenly, however, it was no longer just the solution that was decisive, but the way to the solution.

In the future, academic essays could no longer be evaluated according to their final form, but rather based on how students improved and supplemented a text originally generated by AI.

Like other experts, Lametti emphasizes that the texts of the AI ​​do not reflect reality, but only the language with which the AI ​​was fed. However, ChatGPT does not understand the meaning of this language – like a parrot that overhears all her conversations in a professor’s office and then at some point starts to utter clever sentences.

That’s why some of what ChatGPT writes is good to read, but completely wrong. That is why human correction is so important. This is often difficult and requires real knowledge – and could be graded that way in the future.

For the experts, one thing is certain: the technology will no longer disappear. ChatGPT is a challenge for teaching, but also offers universities opportunities that they can use for themselves and their students.

Debarka Sengupta already has a guess as to which country will be particularly fast here: his homeland, technology-loving India.

Autor: Lukas Stock

For more than six weeks, the heavily pregnant Alexandra R. from Nuremberg has disappeared without a trace. The police and the homicide squad are faced with a great mystery. What we do and don’t know about the disappearance of the bank boss.

88 police operations, threats, helplessness: in a housing estate in Weingarten, Baden-Württemberg, the neighborhood dispute escalated so much that it is now being reported on nationwide. What happened?

The original of this article “ChatGPT at universities – how AI can help students” comes from Deutsche Welle.