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  • Writer's pictureDr. Cindy Atchley, PhD, MBA

College Instructors: Are we becoming the AI Police?

Updated: Jul 5

In the age of rapid technological advancement, college instructors have found us taking on an unexpected and challenging role: acting as the AI police. With the rise of AI-powered tools capable of generating human-like text, educators are now tasked with deciding whether a student’s work is their own or produced by AI bots.

The AI Challenge in Academia

Artificial intelligence has made significant strides in recent years, with tools like OpenAI's GPT-4 capable of generating coherent and contextually appropriate text on a wide range of topics. While these advancements offer exciting possibilities, they also present a new set of challenges for academic integrity and ethics.

Students facing the pressures of academic performance might be tempted to use AI to generate essays, research papers, and other assignments. However, this not only undermines the educational process but also raises ethical concerns. Instructors must now ensure that students' work reflects their own understanding and effort.

The AI Detection Dilemma

Detecting AI-generated content is not straightforward. Unlike traditional plagiarism, which can often be identified through text-matching software such as Turnitin and Safe Assign, AI-generated text can be unique and tailored to specific prompts. This makes it difficult to catch through conventional means. Instructors must rely on a combination of techniques and tools to identify suspect submissions.

  1. Anomalies in Writing Style: One of the first indicators of AI-generated work is a sudden change in a student's writing style. Instructors familiar with their students' work can often spot inconsistencies in tone, vocabulary, and complexity that suggest AI involvement.  However, having a student in an 8-week online course, this is hard to know.

  2. Content Quality and Coherence: While AI can produce high-quality text, it can also generate content that is overly generic or lacks depth and without academic references. Instructors may notice that certain essays fail to engage deeply with the topic or demonstrate original thought. I’ve noticed this in papers that don’t quite relate to the topic questions or are general in nature rather than a student using their own critical thinking skills to hone in on the specific questions.

  3. Use of AI Detection Tools: Several AI detection tools have emerged to help educators identify machine-generated text. These tools analyze the text for patterns and features typical of AI output, providing a probability score of whether the content was AI-generated or human-written. However, having used several of these AI detection tools, there isn’t consistency between them.  While one program may say it was 38% AI-generated, that same paper may say 75% AI-generated in another program.

Strategies for Instructors

To combat the misuse of AI in academic work, instructors can adopt several strategies:

  1. Promote Academic Integrity: Instructors can emphasize the importance of academic honesty and the value of original work. Clear policies on using AI tools and the consequences of misuse can deter students from taking shortcuts. Most Colleges and Universities now have AI Policies. Make sure these policies are noted in the online classroom in several areas, and when grading, refer students to the policy.

  2. Continuous Learning: Instructors must stay informed about the latest developments in AI technology and detection methods. Stay up to date with AI trends in the Media. Students may think they are fooling instructors, but they aren’t!

  3. Foster Critical Thinking: Assignments that require critical thinking and personal reflection are less likely to be effectively completed by AI. By designing assignments and discussions that demand critical thinking, research, and personal examples, instructors can reduce the appeal of AI-generated submissions.

The Future of AI in Education

While the challenge of AI-generated content is significant, ultimately, the goal is to maintain the integrity of the educational process while embracing AI technology's benefits. As instructors continue to adapt and evolve in their roles, we must find new ways to ensure students' work remains authentic and meaningful.

In this new era, college instructors are not just educators—we are guardians of academic integrity, navigating the complexities of AI to uphold the standards of education and foster genuine learning.

ACC Worldwide Learn was founded by two online instructors who have taught for over 20 years, both online and in person, and understand these student issues. They have developed several courses to help students overcome these challenges by Bridging the Gap to Online Education.  Check out the courses ACC Worldwide Learn has and Invest in yourself! Invest in your Success!


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