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ChatGPT: What is possible and what is allowed?

At the moment a lot of discussion surrounds ChatGPT, an advanced chatbot which uses Artificial Intelligence (AI). ChatGPT is based on a Large Language Model (LLM) and has been trained using an enormous amount of text, providing it with knowledge of grammar, semantics and contextual nuances. The program can answer questions, give information, make suggestions and help create text. It is however important to know that software like ChatGPT is in ongoing development, and that using a chatbot comes with constraints and challenges.

What is allowed?

Students can use ChatGPT as a sparring partner. This means that ChatGPT can be a useful tool during the beginning stages of your research. For example, it can help you whilst brainstorming and it can help you search for information. Be aware that ChatGPT does not always give you factual information. This means that you have to check the validity of its replies yourself. ChatGPT can also help you structure your text.

What is not allowed?

It is not allowed to let ChatGPT write your text, or to let it rewrite an already existing text. This is seen as plagiarism, as your text will be based on someone else’s words and the original source will not be cited. ChatGPT is good with tone and structure, but lacks interpretative skills and cannot understand the text it processes or generates. Sometimes the tool also fabricates references and sources. These are not usable for your research.

What do you want to learn?

It is important to remind yourself of the reason why you are studying. It is unlikely that letting a chatbot do your work will improve the skills you’re trying to gain.  In addition, transparency is one of the core values of science. It is therefore crucial to let people know if and how you used ChatGPT in your work. Talk to your teacher or supervisor about what they accept in terms of you using ChatGPT and how you can specify this.

Clarity is key

By having an open conversation with your students about the use and your acceptance of the use of ChatGPT you can give students the confidence to use the tool correctly. It is therefore useful to give your students clear guidelines at the start of the semester. Trust your students to know how they can use AI responsibly.

What do you want to teach your students?

Texts which have been written by ChatGPT are nearly unrecognisable as such, as the text are generated based on other human written texts. Additionally, it is near impossible to prove whether a student made use of AI. It is therefore often not worth it to start a discussion with your students. Instead, ask yourself what you want to teach your students:

  • What do you choose to emphasise? Instead of testing your students’ basic knowledge and their ability to reproduce said knowledge, the interpretation and analysis of information is becoming more important.
  • The process towards the end goals is becoming more important than the product itself. During this process you can train students to focus on a the development of their critical thinking.
  • In a study group setting you can also experiment with ChatGPT, so students can learn how to use the tool responsibly. You can for instance let students give feedback on a text generated by AI, or they could compare such a text with a text written by a human.

Information from Leiden University

Chatbots are developing rapidly. This means the rules and regulations surrounding them must be updated on a regular basis. Always check the Leiden University website for more information concerning the use of ChatGPT.

You can find more information here:

AI in education
ChatGPT: Faculty strategy


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