Can universities detect AI written work?

25th April 2023

Plagiarism software has been developed to detect AI input in essays, though universities are approaching with caution.

There is growing concern within Higher Education that students may be more likely to resort to Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) software, such as Chat GPT, to prepare essays and course work at the click of a button. AI software has become so advanced in that it can often replicate human analysis and syntax and there is concern that artificial input may go undetected. Could essays with no student input become the new norm?

In response to the new wave of AI software that is available, Turnitin (a well-known plagiarism detection software provider) introduced a new AI detection tool named “Originality” on 4 April 2023. Turnitin believe that Originality can detect if essays have been written by AI with 98% confidence. Despite the apparent impressive success rate, there is a concern that the use of such detection tools may falsely accuse students of cheating.

False positive risk

AI has an impressive ability to form arguments and analyse questions much like a student would. There is a risk that detection tools can produce a false positive which would cause undue delay, potentially impacting hundreds of students results and wellbeing if they were falsely accused of plagiarism. A test run by the Washington Post found that detection software incorrectly flagged text written by a student as written by AI.

Given that there has been little time for detection software to be extensively tested after roll out and with AI software, such as Chat GPT being relatively new, some universities have decided to opt-out of using the new detection software for now but it is something the sector is likely to closely monitor. It will be interesting to see how AI and detection software develops and how the risk of false positives will be combatted in the future.

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Here at Blake Morgan we have an experienced team that advise various institutions within the education sector on fair complaints handling and conducting student disciplinary or fitness to practise procedures. Please feel free to contact us if you require advice.

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