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A tool catches ghostwriting and ChatGPT so students can't cheat. NKU is testing it

Business person chatting with a smart AI  using an artificial intelligence chatbot development.
Galeanu Mihai/Getty Images/iStockphoto
Auth+ quizzes students to verify they've written whatever they're turning in.

Auth+ quizzes students to verify they wrote what they're turning in.

ChatGBT continues to amaze people with what it can write. For example: a 30-page kid's book about investing, and a fake research paper abstracts to fool scientists. It uses machine learning to produce human-sounding responses to prompts. Because it can write almost anything, it has teachers concerned that students have another way to cheat.

Essay mills are a $21 billion industry. And if students have somebody write a paper for them, it isn’t caught by plagiarism checkers because it's not plagiarism. It's authentic. Sources are cited.

When Wasi Kahn designed Auth+, he didn't have bots like ChatGPT in mind, but ghostwriting in general. Auth+ quizzes students to verify they've written whatever they're turning in.

Sikanai is the company that makes Auth+, and Northern Kentucky's Barry Burkett is the co-founder and executive director. He says the program is a plug-in for tools like Canvas, Blackboard and others.

How does it work?

The student is asked six questions after his or her paper is turned in. "It might be a question like, 'Out of this grouping of sentences, which ones did you write?' " Burkett explains. "It could be an exercise like, 'Fill-in the blank — what's the word that you would have typed?' "

Auth+ warns students not to look at their paper when answering the questions, and if they do, notifies the teacher. If the student doesn't score well, there might be a conversation with the teacher.

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"If they feel that it was inadvertent from the system, then it's inadvertent," says Burkett. "And we do see that students have memory difficulties with what they wrote if they wait five days before they submit it. But in the first three days, students seem to be highly accurate."

A variety of U.S. universities, including Northern Kentucky University, are piloting Auth+. It's already been tested in Pakistan at the Institute for Business Accreditation and at the University of Manitoba. Sikanai's Burkett says the feedback has been favorable from both instructors and students who want cheaters to get caught.

"Academic integrity is part of life at an academic institution," says NKU Director of Online Learning Chip Heath. "And we have an academic integrity committee at NKU which has been looking into these new avenues. The release of ChatGPT has just made these concerns more immediate and more publicized."

NKU is testing Auth+ in Management and Organization and an MBA management course this semester.

Sikanai's Burkett does think ChatGPT can have a place in the classroom. "Maybe it's a compare and contrast of Romeo and Juliet to something else. But they use that GPT to write it and then they have their students go through and analyze it. They go through and say, 'Is this right, do I agree with this, where would I shift it?' "

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Or they could use it to show the bot's pitfalls. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a student of Professor Paul Stoy pointed out ChatGPT miscalculated planetary temperature. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the artificial intelligence-powered chatbot had wrongly put one of the variables in the numerator of the equation, not the denominator.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.