In a few months, ChatGPT became a subject of curiosity, press articles or debate: the artificial intelligence program is already very present in schools and universities, to the point of becoming a matter of concern for teachers.
Since its launch, on November 30, 2022, the tool that summarizes texts or answers user questions in the form of a conversation has been attracting more and more young people and students. Sometimes considered stronger than Google or Wikipedia, the program is a godsend for cheating enthusiasts and bad students, who use it to write their homework.
In the halls of the University of Geneva, ChatGPT is not taboo. “I’ve used it before, but only to help me summarize my exam topics”, guarantees a student at 7:30 pm. “In literature, we must above all analyze ancient and historical sources and texts. Therefore, artificial intelligence will not help us much”, puts another academic in perspective.
“From what I hear around me, people mostly use it for inspiration,” observes another student in the halls of Geneva’s alma mater.
Inspiration: this is exactly what a student who has just returned an academic paper partially written through ChatGPT was looking for. As the rules about using the program remain unclear, he decided to testify anonymously.
“I don’t feel it’s cheating. On the other hand, they ask us for a certain type of writing to explain certain notions, and the use of it could perhaps prevent this learning process, because it writes very, very well”, explains this student at the end of her university course, to who this was the first experience with the app.
The teacher was “thrilled”
ChatGPT also appeals to high school students, to the point where its use is causing concern in schools. Some students don’t hesitate to use the software to boost their results and give teachers a near-perfect job… in appearance.
“I did my introduction in English on ChatGPT, zero failure. I also had to do an introduction in French in the analysis of a passage about ‘Don Juan’ by Molière… too lazy to write three pages. I put it in the app, the teacher was thrilled ( sic) she was so perfect,” admits one teen from Lausanne, who says he cheats regularly.
This young man is confident and doesn’t think he can get caught. “It’s impossible. This tool takes information from all the internet sites, creates beautiful sentences, beautiful turns of sentences, gathers information, creates real things. It serves us in a beautiful plateau”, specifies in La Matinale, before thanking Elon Musk, one of the co-founders of the start-up that developed ChatGPT.
>> Also listen to the testimony of a La Matinale student:
Supervise and train rather than forbid?
The emergence of ChatGPT created gray areas that led New York City to ban its use in schools. In French-speaking Switzerland, no ban is foreseen at the moment. On the contrary, the reflection is rather to frame this practice, like the University of Neuchâtel.
“If I ask students to submit a paper, I can follow it up with a discussion afterwards, a kind of defense if you like. We’ll see quite clearly if the student masters the subject,” reacts Martin Hilpert, vice dean of education at the Uni.
An education system that will have to adapt
The school has gone through situations in the past where it had to adapt to technological advances. Some French language education officials draw a parallel between ChatGPT and the arrival of calculators, search engines, or even Wikipedia. Tools that have finally managed to integrate into teaching.
While many professors fear this artificial intelligence, fearing more cheating in their classes, others have decided to use it to build their courses, like Eric Vanoncini, professor of philosophy and instructor at Geneva’s media school.
“In my courses, at times, I used ChatGPT responses to reflect on what we do in philosophy, on the issue of access to knowledge, the reliability of sources, any research process”, he explains.
“He could also be a potentially interesting helper. I’ve asked him to anonymously grade one of my students’ essays. I’ve also tried several times to ask him to prepare teaching sequences for me, or exercises for me. All of this, ChatGPT does relatively satisfactory”, analyzes Eric Vanoncini.
>> Listen to Eric Vanoncini’s interview:
Opportunity or danger, ChatGPT redefines the lines with a few steps ahead of the educational and academic world. Some cantons have not ruled out rethinking parts of the school, such as homework or assessments.
Be that as it may, the issue of artificial intelligence is worrisome. It will be on the program of the next intercantonal conference on public education. In the canton of Vaud, an interpellation will be presented to the Grand Council to discuss a possible legal framework in this area.
TV subject: Hannah Schlaepfer and Théo Jeannet
Radio subject: Agnès Milot
Web adaptation: Jérémie Favre
>> Also listen to the interview with Manuel Grandjean, director of the school media service of the canton of Geneva: