English professor hosts faculty conversation about ChatGPT

Philip Shippy — Staff writer 

On Monday, April 17, English professor Joshua Matthews invited the Dordt University faculty to an open conversation on ChatGPT and what it means for higher education. The meeting was well attended by faculty from Dordt’s various departments. 

The conversation comes after several professors received essays they strongly believed were written by ChatGPT. However, they could not always tell for sure. Turnitin, the plagiarism detection service that Dordt uses, recently added artificial intelligence (AI) writing detection, but it is difficult to determine Turnitin’s accuracy levels. 

”When it tells you that five percent, or 15 percent, or 30 percent of a paper is AI-generated,” Matthews said, “we don’t know how serious that is. As a consequence, people have found false positives, false negatives, and both.” 

One of Matthews’ main reasons for holding the conversation was to get Dordt to start thinking of a response. Currently, Dordt has not addressed ChatGPT or other AI writing in its academic integrity policies. 

“We all need clarification on whether students can use this on their assignments and how they might attribute their work to it,” Matthews said. 

A large concern of Matthews is how ChatGPT affects “every aspect of our institution, no matter the class or major.” He pointed out how it especially affects the relationship between students and professors. 

“At this point,” Matthews said, “everybody suspects everyone else, just a little bit at least. [It’s] not good for academic integrity in any way.” 

While one option for Dordt is to simply ban all use of AI-generated writing, some professors have thought about how Dordt could potentially use it to benefit students. 

“I like the idea that, somehow we can use it for education,” English professor Howard Schaap said, “and not just as something that ‘if you touch it, you instantly fail.’ And so, my questions are… how can we name its flaws, and how can we put it to work for us?” 

AI research and development laboratory OpenAI released ChatGPT in November 2022. The chatbot receives written prompts from a user and writes an appropriate response in a conversational way. It can also, when specified, write in a special form, such as a sonnet or an academic paper. 

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