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AI-generated Essays: Are Students Cheating or Just Staying Ahead of the Game?

As universities continue to navigate policies around AI technology and language models like ChatGPT, the need for academic integrity has become more pressing. Academic integrity is a fundamental cornerstone of higher education that requires students to be honest in their research, referencing and coursework. There needs to be an understanding of how these new technologies can help foster digital literacy while still upholding standards of academic honesty and integrity.

What is Academic Integrity?

At its core, academic integrity is the moral code of conduct that governs academic institutions and their students. It is based on principles such as honesty, respect for others’ work, and a commitment to learning. Academic integrity means taking responsibility for one’s own actions and striving to achieve the highest standards of excellence in all aspects of education.

Definition of Academic Integrity: Academic integrity involves upholding ethical standards in research, teaching, learning, assessment and other activities related to higher education. It requires honesty in presenting one’s own work or ideas as well as respect for the intellectual property rights of others. Additionally, it involves avoiding plagiarism by properly citing sources used when writing papers or completing assignments.

Benefits of Academic Integrity: Adhering to academic integrity helps ensure fairness among students competing for grades or awards while also fostering an environment where knowledge can be shared without fear of being stolen or misused. Furthermore, it encourages creativity and innovation by rewarding those who come up with original ideas rather than simply copying from existing sources.

Balancing AI and Academic Integrity

AI has become an increasingly popular tool in the academic world, offering potential benefits such as improved accuracy (sometimes!) and efficiency. AI can be used to help detect plagiarism, grade essays, and even provide personalised feedback for students. However, it is important to ensure that these tools are used responsibly and ethically.

Potential Benefits of AI in Education: AI can offer a number of advantages for academics, including increased accuracy when grading assignments or detecting plagiarism. It can also reduce the amount of time spent on tasks like grading papers or providing feedback to students. Additionally, AI-based systems may be able to provide more personalised instruction than traditional methods by tailoring content based on individual student needs. However, most of these benefits are not currently used by institutions or educators. Compared to some other industries, higher ed is lagging years behind, which means that many of the productivity gains that may come from AI remain unrealised.

While there are many potential benefits to using AI in education, there are also risks associated with its use. For example, if not properly monitored or regulated, automated grading systems could lead to biased results due to factors such as gender or race bias within the data sets being used by the system. Additionally, if not carefully implemented and monitored by faculty members or administrators at universities then it could lead to issues with cheating or other forms of academic dishonesty due to lack of oversight from instructors who would normally catch this type of behaviour manually during exams and other assessments.

Potential Benefits of AI to Students: Students likely benefit from using AI tools throughout their education because it helps prepare them for jobs of the future and develop skills that may be demanded by employers. Additionally, AI literacy may help students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills that are essential for success in a rapidly changing workforce. Developing AI literacy will help students to be more competitive in the new world of work.

The challenge for educators will be equipping students with job-ready skills, while also raising and developing students’ awareness of ethical issues and limitations.

The associated challenge is developing educators’ digital literacy skills.

Building an AI Infrastructure within Universities

How can universities move towards leveraging AI?

Developing Digital Literacy Skills with AI Tools: AI tools can be used to provide personalised learning experiences that help students develop digital literacy skills such as coding, data analysis, and problem-solving. For example, online courses and tutorials powered by artificial intelligence can provide tailored instruction based on each student’s individual needs and abilities. This type of adaptive learning helps ensure that all students have access to the same quality education regardless of their background or experience level.

Preparing Students for the Workplace with AI Tools: In addition to developing digital literacy skills, universities can use AI tools to prepare their students for success in the workplace. For instance, virtual reality simulations powered by artificial intelligence allow students to practice real-world scenarios in a safe environment before entering into actual job roles. By simulating common tasks and challenges faced by professionals in various industries, these simulations give students an opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience without risking any potential harm or damage from making mistakes during live work situations.

Finally, universities can use artificial intelligence technology such as machine learning algorithms and natural language processing (NLP) systems to assess student performance more accurately than ever before. These technologies enable instructors and administrators alike to quickly analyze large amounts of data about each student’s progress throughout their academic career while also providing insights into areas where additional support may be needed or further development could lead them towards greater success after graduation.

Overall, utilising advanced technologies like artificial intelligence provides universities with powerful new ways of helping their students develop digital literacy skills while also ensuring academic integrity standards are met. This allows them to better prepare graduates for successful careers after graduation day arrives.


Understanding what constitutes academic integrity is key in this process, as well as ensuring that all stakeholders are aware of their responsibilities when it comes to upholding standards of excellence.

Universities need to ensure that they are providing students with an education that prepares them for success while also maintaining high levels of academic integrity.

New approaches may be required to meet the new challenges posed by AI.

Technology can be used to help academics identify and prevent plagiarism, cheating, and other forms of dishonesty in the classroom. However, it is important to remember that AI detectors are not 100% accurate!

Our classrooms can be places where honesty thrives, and reward is given to those who want to develop industry-ready skills throughout their degree.

Let’s also enter the academic integrity discussion with a focus on helping, rather than penalising students’ learning and future career development.

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Read more about this topic in my earlier blog post: The AI ChatGPT Revolution in Higher Education Cheating or Progress?

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