Go ahead and embrace AI chatbots, EdU tells students - RTHK
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Go ahead and embrace AI chatbots, EdU tells students

2023-03-23 HKT 15:20
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  • Education University officials announce details of their approach to artificial intelligence generative tools. Photo: RTHK
    Education University officials announce details of their approach to artificial intelligence generative tools. Photo: RTHK
The Education University on Thursday said it would encourage students to embrace artificial intelligence and make the most of the new generation of chatbots – in contrast with some other institutions that have warned they’ll consider their use a form of cheating.

The university, which trains many of Hong Kong’s teachers, said it would take a flexible approach to the use of systems such as ChatGPT, which has become a viral sensation worldwide for its ability to provide detailed and creative – if not always accurate – responses to user questions.

Education University officials say they’ve told teachers to adopt an approach under which students can use ChatGPT or similar systems in their coursework, but must declare what they are doing and include in their work a reflection of their experience of using the generative AI tools.

“It’s the fourth industrial revolution era. We have to ride on this development. If there is software or applications that can support the learning of our university students, we definitely will ride on that, and use that," said Kong Siu-cheung, research chair professor in the university's department of mathematics and information technology.

“The using of all these tools should have a goal – that is to enable our learners to be creative problem solvers,” added Kong, who expressed a personal view that bans on AI tools were “absurd”.

Kong said students would have to cite the chatbot they used and include the material it generated in the appendix.

"If they just copy directly what is produced by the chatbot and put it up as an assignment to the academic teaching staff... [then] each individual academic can use their professional judgment to judge whether there is a suspicion [of] plagiarism," he said.

But he admitted that there are technical difficulties, as tools to detect generative content are "not that effective at this point".

Unlike Education University, the University of Hong Kong has taken a firm line against AI chat tools, saying in an email to students last month that they should not be used in coursework, assessments or class, with any breach to be treated as a case of plagiarism.

The University of Science and Technology says staff will be able to decide their own guidelines for AI, while Chinese University students can only use the tools with the permission of tutors.

At Education University, vice-president (academic) and provost, John Lee, said each university would develop internal guidelines based on its own experience and context, adding that he would "respect the diversity and institutional autonomy in this particular topic".

"As far as EdU is concerned… we would like to adopt a more flexible and open approach,” Lee said, adding that the institution also takes academic honesty and reflective learning into account.

He said teachers should be more proactive in serving as facilitators to foster students’ understanding of the strengths and constraints of AI while promoting the responsible use of the technology.