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ChatGPT: Cardiff students admit using AI on essays

A student at Cardiff University has told the BBC that he used the ChatGPT artificial intelligence natural language processing tool to help him with his coursework and assignments for his degree. The student, whose real name was not disclosed, told the BBC he received first-class grades for essays written using the AI chatbot.

For its part, Cardiff University has said that it is now reviewing its policies and procedures to tackle the use of AI chatbots for academic work by its students. The student in question told the BBC that he was experimenting with the chatbot to see how much more effective it might be compared to his work.

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He explained that he averaged a 2:1 on most of his assignments but decided to find out how ChatGPT would compare to another 2,500-word essay of purely his work, both of which he submitted in January. The results were stark.

He received, as expected, a 2:1 for his, but the AI achieved a solid first for its essay. “I didn’t copy everything word for word, but I would prompt it with questions that gave me access to information much quicker than usual,” the student told the BBC.

The student also told the BBC that he intends to continue using the chatbot to help him research and perhaps plan or frame his essays. And this student is not the only one at it.

“A recent Freedom of Information request to Cardiff University revealed that during the January 2023 assessment period, there were 14,443 visits to the ChatGPT site on the university’s own wi-fi networks,” the BBC said. Only the month before, the BBC reports, there were no recorded visits.

Even though there were more visits during January’s assessment period, the university doesn’t see any evidence that they were for nefarious reasons.

“Most visits have been identified as coming from our research network – our School of Computer Science and Informatics, for example, has an academic interest in the research and teaching of artificial intelligence,” Cardiff University told the BBC.

Another student, who is also nameless in the BBC report, also admitted to using the AI chatbot with his assignments. “I’ve used it quite a few times since December. I think I’ve used it at least a little bit for every assessment I’ve had,” he said.

“It’s basically just become part of my work process, and will probably continue to be until I can’t access it anymore. When I first started using it, I asked it to write stuff like ‘compare this niche theory with this other niche theory in an academic way’ and it just aced it,” he added.

Cardiff University also told the BBC that it is taking allegations of academic misconduct, including plagiarism, “extremely seriously.”

“Although not specifically referenced, the improper use of AI would be covered by our existing academic integrity policy,” a spokesman said. “We are aware of the potential impact of AI programs, like ChatGPT, on our assessments and coursework. Maintaining academic integrity is our main priority, and we actively discourage any student from academic misconduct in its many forms,” they added.