AI: help or hinderance?

The use of AI at Ferris

With deadlines for finals just around the corner, it can make one stressed or overwhelmed and might spark the idea to have AI write the paper.

The end of the writers’ strike does bring to light the use of AI in the workplace, the agreement being that it can’t be used to cut out writers or reduce their pay. Also, the actors’ strike now over as of Nov. 7, getting them similar wins.

As time goes on, ongoing legislation is being made around its use, such as the ruling of the U.S. copyright office that AI generated art can’t be copyrighted, with the agreement with the Writer’s Guild and Actors Guild, previous discussions that were once fuzzy are becoming clearer.

Here at Ferris, things are more open-ended, other than it being cheating when not authorized. Nothing about it being plagiarism, just that it could be considered cheating without it being expressly listed or named.

“I was amazed by how behind we were. I think it snuck up on us, here at Ferris and many other institutions,” Writing Center Director Dr. David Marquard said.

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However, it still begs the question of where Ferris stands. The use of AI is something that the college hasn’t drawn any hard lines on, leaving it up to the professor to handle. Which could be a good or bad thing depending on the professor.

“I believe that the decision about AI should be made by the instructors and not the university as a whole,” history professor Dr. Jana Pisani said.

When thinking about AI as a tool, having the open ability to use it as such makes sense as it allows for its use as a learning tool and keeps students at the forefront of technology. However, its misuse is the crux of the issue, as it’s used not only as a tool but as a means to quickly and easily complete assignments.

The use of AI to complete whole papers is where the issue of it being plagiarism and, thus, a violation of academic integration, more than it already could be, lies. The idea of higher education is to learn, which is done through lectures and assignments.

“The most important reason is that by letting AI complete papers for them, students are not learning the skills of researching, analysis, critical thinking, and writing that they should develop by the time they graduate, no matter the major,” Pisani said.

This is where the differences in the use of AI by students show. When it’s used to write a whole paper, it opens the user to the generative capabilities of the AI, while never fully considering the possible bias or where it’s pulling its information from to generate the paper. Thus, leaving out the fuller picture that can be given by researching with proper filtering and peer-approved works. This dilemma is also addressed in an article by Forbes, ‘The problem with biased AI’s (and how to make AI better).’

“If you’re going to put your name to something you better be very wake and looking at those nuances,” Marquard said.

The other way AI is being utilized is to create an outline or to generate ideas or different ways of phrasing information. AI’s use comes down to whether it’s being used as a tool with which to create and learn or if it’s being used as a means to an end.

At the moment, there’s no way to accurately tell if something is written by AI or not. Though for now, the biggest tell is when it spits out something entirely off-topic, taking that paper about the history of the combustion engine to talking about Elvis Presley for a paragraph. Outside of those instances, there’s no way to tell the difference between AI and human written papers. Pisani explained that this means changing how students are assessed by their professors.

For now, no one knows what those changes could be, as Ferris State has no actual policies on the use of AI by students. These changes could mean having more handwritten assignments or doing more classroom work. While it can seem a bit much to move backward to handwriting, it might not have to be that way.

For now, the use of AI in college classes is up in the air. The changes it brings with each advancement leaves many uncertain. Some students are going to use it regardless of if there’s a policy or not, some will use it as a tool and others as an easy way out. While AI can be hard to talk about it can make all the difference.