Students are acing their homework by turning in machine-generated essays. Good.

The latest AI-related alarm: students around the world are using AI models such as GPT-3 to write essays, and getting good grades on them. I don’t condone cheating. But I think the availability of text generators will force changes to education which, while painful, will prove to be positive.Consider the threat once posed by the calculator to homework that involved arithmetic. In some cases, the point of such exercises is to learn arithmetic or mathematical principles through practice. Teachers mostly shifted those exercises to the classroom, and prohibited the use of calculators in that setting.In other cases, homework involved tedious arithmetic, but this was entirely incidental to the learning goals of the exercise (which might be about, say, gravity). After initial reluctance, teachers recognized that it was pointless to make students do these manually. Back when I was in high school, we were forced to use log tables out of the mistaken belief that there is pedagogical value in doing tedious calculations by hand. Mercifully, log tables have now joined the abacus.The same changes are likely to play out with language models. In some cases, the point of assigning an essay is to teach writing skills or critical thinking. The availability of language models has not obviated these skills. To prevent cheating on this type of exercise, instructors could move them to the classroom. Even better: there are many ways to change the exercise so that the tools aren’t helpful. These changes take advantage of inherent limitations of language models that…Students are acing their homework by turning in machine-generated essays. Good.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *