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Visits to ChatGPT from Eight U.K. Universities Surpassed 982,000 in January
Plus, a newspaper exposes essay mills in Scotland. Plus, another call for an academic integrity focus group.
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Visits to ChatGPT Website from Just Eight U.K. Universities Grows 665%, Now More than One Million Hits a Month
This news piece has the numbers, but they’re an absurd undercount.
Numbers first. The report asked U.K. universities how much traffic they recorded from their servers to ChatGPT in December and again in January. Only eight were able to give data: Warwick, Newcastle, Liverpool, Glasgow, Queen's Belfast, Exeter, Cardiff, and Manchester. All eight are members of the Russell Group - the 24 most prestigious research universities in the U.K.
From those eight, the month-to-month jump was 655%, registering 982,809 hits from university systems to ChatGPT in January.
It’s sure to be a massive undercount because, of the 982,809 hits, 78% came from one school - the University of Warwick. It reported 764,461 GPT visits in January while Manchester University recorded all of 430, even though it has 20,000 more students than Warwick. So, something is off. I’m not sure 764,461 is believable. But 430 clearly is not.
My money is that the number is much closer to the higher end. If so, the overall number of 982,000 is way too few. And, again, this is just eight schools.
Now, the numbers don’t show whether a visitor used ChatGPT, or even if the person was a student. And even if ChatGPT was used, it does not mean it was for student academic work. At the same time, these are hits recorded on university WIFI, not on cell networks or private connections. And this is also only ChatGPT, which is not the only AI text generator.
All things considered, I think the news still holds - the traffic from universities to ChatGPT is significant and, at the very least, a troubling sign.
A spokesperson for Warwick told the paper that the school:
has taken an “active approach” towards dealing with ChatGPT and said the university is reviewing the design of future exams. “This includes not only the question to be answered, but also detection techniques showing where AI has been used inappropriately,” they added.
Nothing will do more to cut into the flow of traffic to ChatGPT than using “detection techniques.” I hope that’s true.
Still, the paper wrote:
And yet, on the whole universities have attempted to downplay the findings.
Of course, it is perhaps unsurprising universities are not keen to concede software – which provides an answer in seconds which mimics the style and syntax of a human response – might be being used to help students take their exams, simultaneously undermining the academic rigour of their institution.
Not surprising. Not surprising in the least.
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Scotland Paper Exposes Essay Mills and a “Cheating Epidemic”
This is a good story, with pretty good video too.
The Daily Record contacted essay mills, seeking papers for use in Scotland, where contract cheating remains legal. From the article:
The UK-Assignments.com website comes near the top of Google searches for “UK essay service”.
We were quoted £176 for a 2000-word politics essay by the firm, topically titled “Evaluate the Success or Failure of Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister of Scotland”.
We spoke to boss Nigel Blair, making clear we wanted our essay done from scratch. He assured us the service was 100 per cent legal and he guaranteed we would not get caught.
He said: “We have a 100 per cent plagiarism check and we guarantee you will pass. We have people who work in universities in Scotland who earn money on the side by doing this work for us, so there is no danger of failing.”
When the Record confronted Blair by phone, accusing him of immoral and unethical behaviour, he claimed essays provided are to assist learning.
He said: “We provide model answers. And it’s not just assignments, either. We provide all kinds of writing assistance.”
Ah - the Chegg defense. Never gets old.
The paper reports that the essay mills they contacted offered plagiarism reports, to verify they were not copied. “There is a meltdown going on with essays and the students that get caught cheating only represent the tip of the iceberg,” the paper wrote. It quoted one “senior academic” at Glasgow University as saying:
“The way things are going, some of the degrees being awarded won’t be worth the paper they’re printed on.”
Yup. You could argue that’s not the direction we’re headed so much as the where we’ve arrived.
The paper also quotes political leaders urging for legislation to make cheating, selling cheating or advertising cheating illegal, similar to the model already passed in England and part of Wales. Though, as far as I know, no action has been taken under the law.
There won’t be an issue of The Cheat Sheet this coming Thursday as I’ll be out of town at Ellucian Live.