Surprise! AI chatbots don't increase student cheating afterall, new research finds

In fact, these Stanford scholars think using AI in the classroom is helpful -- and inevitable.
Written by Sabrina Ortiz, Editor
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The rise of generative AI tools has many worried about the future integrity of the educational system. After all, if you can get math, writing, and coding help from one free tool like ChatGPT, what's stopping students from using it to cheat on every assignment? Stanford researchers tackle the question in a Q+A published by the university.

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Stanford education scholars Victor Lee and Denise Pope found that student cheating has little to do with the technology they can access, including AI. 

"There's been a ton of media coverage about AI making it easier and more likely for students to cheat," said Pope. "But we haven't seen that bear out in our data so far."

High cheating rates have plagued school systems long before ChatGPT and similar AI technology entered the scene, with 60- to 70 percent of students reporting engaging in at least one "cheating" behavior during the previous month, according to Pope. 

That number has remained the same or even decreased slightly in 2023 surveys despite adding questions that specifically address ChatGPT and students' easy access to the technology, added Pope.

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To address the skepticism that people may have about the students even addressing those surveys truthfully, the researchers share that students are typically honest since the surveys are anonymous and don't directly ask, "Do you cheat?" but rather ask specific questions classified as cheating. 

"The most prudent thing to say right now is that the data suggest, perhaps to the surprise of many people, that AI is not increasing the frequency of cheating," said Lee. 

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The question remains, however: What exactly leads students to cheat? Pope cited a variety of factors, such as struggling with the material; being unable to get the help they need; having too much homework and not enough time to do it; and being overwhelmed by the pressure to achieve.

"We know from our research that cheating is generally a symptom of a deeper, systemic problem," said Pope. 

In advising school leaders on how to proceed, the researchers encouraged educators to incorporate AI in the classroom in ways that make the technology helpful to students without compromising ethics -- since AI is ultimately not going away.  

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 "I think of AI literacy as being akin to driver's ed. We've got a powerful tool that can be a great asset, but it can also be dangerous," said Lee. "We want students to learn how to use it responsibly."

ZDNET has previously covered AI tools that students, teachers, and parents can take advantage of and specific ways to leverage AI ethically and help with student coursework, such as using it for essay writing, making charts and tables, and summarizing a book, article, or research paper.  

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