Recently introduced guidelines on the use of powerful artificial intelligence (AI) tools like ChatGPT at the University of Manitoba have led to an increase in cases of plagiarism. At the beginning of the year, there were no such cases, but over the latest summer session, several cases have been reported every week. Instructors are able to detect changes in writing, and with ChatGPT, the writing tends to be generic and vague.
ChatGPT functions as a search engine, providing tailored results to specific questions. Users can input a question and receive a short essay within seconds. Some first-year students find ChatGPT to be a valuable tool for overcoming writer’s block and gathering information. The AI tool can generate material on various subjects, which is a growing concern for the university.
Recognizing the potential consequences of academic misconduct, the University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU) is collaborating with the academic integrity office to raise awareness among students about the necessity of doing their own coursework. The penalties for plagiarism can range from an F grade to disenrollment, with severe consequences for international students, as it could impact their visa status.
UMSU is also emphasizing the appropriate use of AI tools like ChatGPT, highlighting that they should only be used with instructor approval. Some professors are including this information in their syllabi, and students are advised to seek clarification if unsure.
One assistant professor at the university’s nursing college experimented with ChatGPT and allowed her students to use it for an assignment. However, she found that while it was effective for generating ideas and formatting, it was not capable of producing high-quality work. Students also reported that it affected their writing voice and put their original work at risk of being shared with others.
While AI technology continues to improve, the university anticipates more instances of students attempting to cut corners with tools like ChatGPT. Concerns have been raised about students in professional programs, such as aspiring doctors, relying too heavily on AI and potentially lacking essential knowledge and skills.
The university acknowledges the pressures students face in juggling their personal, academic, and work lives, but emphasizes the importance of developing the necessary skills through their own effort. Academic integrity experts work with students caught plagiarizing to help them improve time management skills.
UMSU is committed to supporting students’ success and offers resources such as English courses for international students who require assistance with academic writing. The union encourages students to participate in writing workshops from their first year onward, as it contributes to their overall academic growth.