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An educator shares the ins and outs of how to preserve academic integrity in an online learning environment with AI in the mix.

4 ways to ensure academic integrity as AI tools gain popularity


An educator shares the ins and outs of how to preserve academic integrity in an online learning environment

Key points:

In a recent report by ACT Inc., high school students have been quick to embrace artificial intelligence (AI), with 46 percent saying they use AI tools to help them with their school work. Additionally a survey by Common Sense found that 77 percent of parents are excited about the potential of AI in education.

But even with all this excitement, there are still many questions to answer. One key question is, “How do school and district leaders ensure academic integrity as new technologies continue to emerge, like generative artificial intelligence applications such as ChatGPT, Bard, Claude, and more?”

With more than 17 years of experience as an academic integrity manager at a virtual school, I’ve learned the ins and outs of how to preserve academic integrity in an online learning environment.

To ensure school and district leaders implement effective strategies to address the impact of emerging technologies on student learning, I’ve put together my top four tips to safeguard academic integrity.

1. Build rapport and trust with your students through one-to-one conversations

Human judgment remains paramount in discerning academic integrity. While there are tools that can detect if a student has cheated, their accuracy isn’t infallible. That’s where the irreplaceable role of educators comes into play. The power of one-to-one interactions between teachers and students cannot be overstated, as it allows a deeper understanding of individual needs and fosters genuine rapport.

By engaging in conversations with their students more often, teachers can gain insight into their students’ passions, academic strengths, and challenges so they can better access the authenticity of their work. This personalized approach allows teachers to distinguish between students using artificial intelligence tools, like ChatGPT, as a tool for learning rather than one to cheat.

For example, we recently had a student who received a high artificial detection score for his work. Rather than relying on this score alone, his teacher called him to discuss the assignment. Through their conversation, it became evident that the student had utilized ChatGPT to better understand the context of the art he was studying in the time period it was created. He went on to explain each piece of art in great detail, showing his understanding of the assignment. This example highlights that using an AI tool isn’t “bad.” Rather, his use of the tool strengthened his overall understanding and created a dialogue between him and his teacher on when and how to use AI.

2. Utilize academic integrity tools

There are tools that school leaders, teachers, and staff can use to detect if students have used AI. One tool I’ve used and recommend is Turnitin, which has been around for more than 20 years to promote academic integrity, streamline grading, deter plagiarism, and improve student outcomes. Turnitin recently launched an AI writing detection tool to help educators identify text that may have been prepared by Bard, Gemini, and other AI tools.

3. Inspire your teachers and staff to use AI tools creatively

Let’s explore how teachers can harness the power of artificial intelligence by comparing it to another tool – the calculator. When calculators were first introduced, educators feared they would encourage shortcutting and allow students to skip over fundamental math concepts. Now, a calculator is an indispensable tool that saves time, boosts student confidence, minimizes errors, and fosters engagement and comprehension.

Similarly, AI tools present an opportunity for educators to enhance their teaching practices. While concerns may arise about potential misuse, AI holds immense potential to deepen students’ understanding and facilitate learning in innovative ways.

Encourage your teachers and staff to brainstorm creative applications of AI tools in the classroom. Here are a few ideas:

  • Leverage AI to reinforce writing concepts with students like grammar and essay structures.
  • Challenge students to analyze AI-generated essays, identifying elements such as thesis statements, hooks, central ideas, and supporting evidence.
  • Use AI to develop games and quizzes aligned with the school curriculum.

In essence, by embracing AI tools for enrichment rather than as a threat, educators can unlock AI’s potential to transform teaching and learning experiences, paving the way for deeper understanding and student success.

4. Train your staff and families on how to best use artificial intelligence tools

We’re all still learning about artificial intelligence, including what it is, what it is not, and best practices for using it, which is why I recommend providing your teachers, support staff, students and parents with AI training and resources. Here are some valuable resources I recommend you start with:

I hope these four tips help educators safeguard academic integrity as new technology continues to emerge. We are living in an exciting time, and it’s important to remember that we’re all learning together to ensure our students succeed in and out of the classroom.

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