University of Warwick fears cheating epidemic as data reveals huge number of students visiting AI website during exams


23rd Mar 2023 | Local News

The study involved eight Russell Group universities (Image via University of Warwick)
The study involved eight Russell Group universities (Image via University of Warwick)

The University of Warwick is one of a number of universities which fear a cheating epidemic as data revealed there were more than one million visits to ChatGPT by students during last set of exams.

Between eight Russell Group universities featured in the study, there were 982,809 visits to the AI website registered from university Wifi in January and 128,402 in December.

The software has raised concerns all over the world in how it may assist students to cheat in exams and coursework.

Now, an investigation by The Tab has revealed the huge scale of the challenge facing universities, who say they fear they are playing 'catch-up' in tackling the issue.

The remaining two-thirds of the Russell Group said they do not track the internet browsing activity of users in responses to Freedom of Information requests made by The Tab.

As a median figure, Russell Group universities recorded 34,543 visits each to the ChatGPT website from their own WiFi in the two months.

December and January did not just represent the first two months since the launch of the Silicon Valley software by Open AI on 30 November - these months also coincided with most universities' winter exam period as students were tested on their first term of learning.

As a median figure, Russell Group universities recorded 34,543 visits each to the ChatGPT website from their own WiFi in the two months (image via SWNS)

At Warwick alone there were more than 850,000 visits from the university's WiFi in December and January with the university's assessment period took place between 12-16 December and 9-14 January.

A spokesperson from the university said it has taken an "active approach" towards dealing with ChatGPT and said the university is reviewing the design of future exams.

They added: "This includes not only the question to be answered, but also detection techniques showing where AI has been used inappropriately."

Newcastle University, who had 112,290 recorded visits in December and January said it is to: "be expected that many staff and students have an interest in, and are actively exploring AI".

Olivia, a second year student at the University of Manchester, told the Tab she hadn't used ChatGPT until a few weeks ago, but now can't see herself turning back.

She said: "I saw more and more people using it in the library to plan essays. So when I had an essay due and I was doing my research, I started putting in questions because it gives you quite a good concise summary of information around a topic.

"If I'd written a paragraph for example, I would use it to improve a sentence I'd already written. I don't think I've ever copied full bits and put it into an essay but I've definitely used it for making something sound better."

Theoretically, you can write a university essay in 20 minutes and sore a 53 from a Bristol University lecturer by using the software.

A final year student at Glasgow university, Dylan, told The Tab: "With strikes, it's been such a useful tool to actually have something explain stuff instead of just going through all this set reading independently.

"Sometimes I'll use it as a tool to assemble critical essays based around a theme or a novel that I'll then go off and read.

"Then sometimes when I have those essays I'll use it to summarise quotes to make them a little easier to understand.

"Lately with my dissertation I've been using it to summarise key critical ideas just to have open as I'm doing literature reviews and analysis."

Figures do not tell us what proportion of visitors to the website were students.

However it is illustrative of how quickly ChatGPT has cemented itself within higher education, and as staff strikes continue it seems likely the software will continue to grow in popularity amongst students.


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