Guest Blog by Dr Claire Walker: Bots, ChatGPT and AI – Is this the end to assessments in Higher Education as we know it?

Whilst SARS CoV2 continues to kick my ass and make doing much other than getting out of bed a challenge, the wonderful Dr Claire Walker has stepped up yet again in order to ensure that whilst Professor Cloutman-Green may be dozing, Girlymicro still delivers! Dr Walker is a paid up member of the Dream Team since 2013, token immunologist and occasional defector from the Immunology Mafia. Registered Clinical Scientist in Immunology with a background in genetics (PhD), microbiology and immunology (MSc), biological sciences (mBiolSci), education (PgCert) and indecisiveness (everything else). Now a Senior Lecturer in Immunology at University of Lincoln. She has previously written many great guest blogs for The Girlymicrobiologist, including one on the transition from lab to academia.

Bots, ChatGPT and AI – Is this the end to assessments in Higher Education as we know it?

The impact of ChatGPT on assessment is a hot topic in high education at the moment, you can scarcely open a newspaper without seeing scaremongering headlines shouting this is the end to course works as we know it.

I’m not sure I really agree with this, I’ve had a play with ChatGPT and remain fairly confident that I can spot a bot at forty paces. Students have always had access to a use a ghost-writer for take-home exams and essays, and from this perspective, ChatGPT is hardly a new problem. I’m also convinced that my  students are honest, and genuinely believe that they want to prove their knowledge and understanding through coursework’s and examination. Afterall, they will need these skills when they venture out into the world of work so there is no benefit to committing academic fraud. Even if you aren’t caught on day one, it’s going to catch up with you eventually.

That said, there is a question being whispered around higher education institutions at the moment regarding the coursework questions and exam papers – ‘have you run it through ChatGPT? What did you think? Could you tell it was a bot answer?’. So before I throw the baby out with the bathwater and panic, I thought I’d take time to note down some of the flaws that I see in ChatGPT. Currently, ChatGPT only has access to information up to 2021 and cannot access papers behind paywalls so if you design your questions to reflect on current knowledge and practice, the bot will return an error. I often create a new virus, disease or genetic defect for a paper, the bots also error when presented with these and cannot hypothesise the way a student can.  Bots cannot make personal reflections which are essential in synthesis of clinical information, it’s very obviously if a reflection is generated by AI.. Also we know our students, we know their writing styles and have a very good idea of what level of knowledge they have – it’s our job (!). We do teach the content of the modules after all. Finally, we already have AI detecting tech built into our anti-plagiarism systems. This is a cat and mouse game, and the bots won’t stay ahead for very long. 

Even so, this is just one lecturer’s opinion so I thought I’d go right to the source – and ask ChatCPT itself. And you can read for yourself. I’m not convinced we’ll be getting it to write any more blog posts any time soon….

Input Question: Write a 500 word blog post on the impact of ChatGPT and AI on student take home exams in biomedical science education

ChatGPT Blog Post:

The rise of artificial intelligence has been transforming various sectors of society, including education. One area that has seen significant changes is in student take-home exams in biomedical science education. With the advent of ChatGPT and other AI tools, students have a new level of accessibility and support in their studies. In this blog post, we will discuss the impact of ChatGPT and AI on student take-home exams in biomedical science education.

Firstly, ChatGPT and other AI tools have revolutionized the way students can access information. Instead of spending hours poring over textbooks, students can simply ask ChatGPT to find the relevant information they need. This saves a lot of time and effort, freeing up students to focus on understanding and applying the information. Furthermore, the ability to quickly access information means that students can study more efficiently, making better use of their time and ultimately improving their academic performance.

Secondly, ChatGPT and other AI tools have enhanced the quality of student work. These tools can provide students with instant feedback on their work, allowing them to identify areas for improvement and make corrections before submitting their assignments. This means that students can produce higher-quality work and learn from their mistakes more quickly. Additionally, AI tools can help students catch errors that they might have missed on their own, leading to more accurate and thorough work.

Thirdly, ChatGPT and other AI tools have increased the accessibility of biomedical science education. For students who may have difficulty accessing traditional classroom-based education, these tools offer a new avenue for learning. With ChatGPT, students can learn at their own pace and on their own schedule, making education more accessible to those who may have other responsibilities such as work or family commitments. This also means that students who live in remote or underprivileged areas can access high-quality education that might otherwise be out of reach.

However, while there are many benefits to using ChatGPT and other AI tools in student take-home exams, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider. For example, there is a risk that students may become overly reliant on these tools, leading to a reduction in critical thinking skills. Additionally, the use of AI tools may make it easier for students to plagiarize, as they can simply copy and paste information without fully understanding it.

To mitigate these risks, it is important to ensure that students are taught how to use these tools responsibly. This includes educating them on the importance of critical thinking and encouraging them to use AI tools as a supplement to their learning, rather than a replacement for it. It also means teaching students how to properly cite and reference sources, and providing them with opportunities to practice these skills.

In conclusion, ChatGPT and other AI tools have had a significant impact on student take-home exams in biomedical science education. These tools have improved the accessibility and quality of education, while also helping students learn more efficiently. However, it is important to approach these tools with caution and ensure that students are using them responsibly. By doing so, we can continue to harness the power of AI to enhance biomedical science education for students around the world.

Certainly ChatGPT has a high opinion of itself but there are some good points made here. This could be a useful study tool to help students learn and revise topics. With this in mind, you can’t uninvent a technology. Now is the time to elevate the different assessment methods that we use. So with that I’m off to mark an in-person practical exam, set a group work project and spend a week listening to students present a critical evaluation of papers written after 2021. I don’t think ChatCPT has me out of a job just yet…

TLDR – It’s not like the Bot started the blog post with ‘I am become death the destroyer of the higher education assessment system’, just yet.

All opinions in this blog are my own

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