Kiwi academic: Oral exams an alternative in AI era

Sun, Mar 19
Chat GPT.

A tech expert is warning New Zealand's education system isn't ready for the impacts of rapidly evolving artificial intelligence.

Victoria University computer scientist Simon McCallum said because AI language models like ChatGPT are developing so quickly, it has implications for academic integrity.

"What do our degrees mean if we can't verify the person graduating actually has the skills we used to guarantee?"

One option could be to adopt the 'Oxbridge' model and switch to oral examinations, he told Q+A.

"Unfortunately, the AI is developing so quickly that none of the detection tools are likely to be able to catch up."

Victoria University said it is confident it can preserve the integrity of its degrees, even with the arrival of chatbots. It has set up an AI taskforce made up of academics across departments to discuss the technology's impact on learning, politics and journalism.

McCallum said it is also important to see the benefits the technology can bring.

He said AI could free up more people do to jobs that demand authentic human connection. He also believes the new tools could be a leveller by helping people who are learning English or have learning difficulties.

McCallum said he has used ChatGPT to help his son, who has dyslexia, express his ideas without poor sentence structure and spelling errors.

ChatGPT by OpenAI is a new language model trained on vast amounts of data from the internet. That's what allows it to generate responses that seem human-like.

Last week, OpenAI unveiled its latest AI language model — GPT-4. The company said it increasingly "exhibits human-level performance" and is more reliable and creative than previous versions.

In December, 1News asked teachers to grade an NCEA Level 1 essay written by ChatGPT. One teacher, who gave the paper a merit grade, said it was "pretty good" and that it was inevitable students would misuse the technology.

Q+A is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air


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