The lovers and loathers of ChatGPT: Student's opinions
ChatGPT is arguably one of the most talked about chatbots in recent history. The program is so controversial that academics, journalists, and students continue to discuss its relevance. Although the discourse surrounding ChatGPT has been long and ongoing, the opinions on the program are still very much divided. Therefore, we at Cybernews Academy spoke to seven students and heard what they had to say about ChatGPT in academia.
Let’s meet the students:
- Kyran Peel, Ethical Hacking and Cybersecurity, Coventry University, UK
- Ayman Ali, Computer Science, Loughborough University, UK
- Pavils Kobenkins, Electronic Engineering, Southern Denmark University, Denmark
- Krists Sturmanis, Civil Engineering, HZ University of Applied Sciences, Netherlands
- Simona Mohammad, Natural Sciences, Loughborough University, UK
- David Ngei Omwura, Cybersecurity, Coventry University, Wrocław, Poland
- Bernadeta Karpavičiūtė, International Business, Rotterdam Business School, Netherlands
Is it misleading?
So, what’s all the fuss about? Well, there is much to discuss. In the wider world, many speculate that artificial intelligence will take over jobs, spread false information, and promote biases. However, the concerns surrounding ChatGPT in academia are nuanced. One of the main concerns regarding the program is how the software is misleading students.
Students have described ChatGPT as misleading, often sending them to pages that contain broken links or providing books and other non-existent resources. David Ngei Omwura told us he “tried using ChatGPT for assignments”; however, this proved unhelpful as ChatGPT would begin “quoting sources that don’t exist.” Not the best move when working on academic assignments, as your references need to be cited correctly, and if they don’t exist, this process is impossible. Alongside the lack of appropriate resources, Simona Mohammad mentioned how the software would send her a title of a paper that has nothing to do with her subject. These are just a few examples of ChatGPT misleading students. However, students have different concerns surrounding the software. One of the key concerns is the lack of contemporary information produced by the platform.
Lack of up-to-date information
Ayman Ali said, "If anyone were to look at ChatGPT for present information and were hoping it would be present, they would end up in a very sticky situation." It's not uncommon for people to search in ChatGPT as if it were Google and find themselves in, as Ayman puts it, a sticky scenario. We can't rely on this source alone to determine whether or not ChatGPT is reliable. However, there have been reports of institutions using ChatGPT and not realizing the information is only relevant until 2021. Ayman recalled reading various news articles about a lawyer that used ChatGPT for some "legal stuff." This lawyer didn't realize that the information in the database was only up until 2021, so the information they received was invalid, and they "ended up in a mess." Due to the reasons above, those in academia who support using ChatGPT encourage users to do their own research alongside using the chatbot, as the content generated may be inconsistent.
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Cybernews Academy journalists spoke with our speakers about the issue of unreliable and inconsistent information produced by ChatGPT and got their take on how this affected their learning. Pavils Kobenkins told us he often had to “redo” the work generated by ChatGPT as it contained many faults. Pavils continued by saying that the code produced by the software wasn’t workable as it was riddled with errors. Although it’s a helpful tool to get your coursework off the ground, the content generated by ChatGPT can’t be used directly due to the amount of inconsistent information produced. Kyran Peel supports this point of view as he mentioned that the code generated by the program is “awful” and shouldn’t be used verbatim. From what these students have said, we shouldn’t solely rely on ChatGPT for our knowledge as we never know what the service might generate. David Ngei Omwura told us that the software is “not the best for completing assignments” as it struggles to research topics appropriately and provide adequate resources. Yet another example of why ChatGPT may not be the best provider of up-to-date, relevant information. Instead, compare multiple options and perhaps use search engines and ChatGPT to yield the best result.
Google or ChatGPT
Some students prefer the tried and true method when sourcing information – the Google search engine. Pavils stated, "I prefer Google for now, as it has been in the industry for longer." The search engine has a vast expanse of precise and up-to-date information, so it may be a better alternative than ChatGPT. Despite its extensive database, ChatGPT can only generate past information as it is not trained on events beyond September 2021. Pavils added that Google search gives you more options and provides you with work written by people. This is one thing that's important when checking the credibility of resources. The engineering student told Cybernews Academy that ChatGPT "can sometimes produce wrong information, and you must research it since it is sometimes incorrect." Students have voiced their frustrations as they often need to analyze the credibility of the content generated. Despite ChatGPT's infancy, inaccuracy, and other limitations, the software does have some good qualities.
ChatGPT has limitations, yet it could be an excellent tool if used appropriately. Pavils Kobenkis said the software is "OK if you're not using it to submit an assignment or an exam as you are not being graded for it." ChatGPT could be used to devise study strategies, plan essays, polish rough drafts, or fix code. But remember, check the answers generated by ChatGPT thoroughly, as the chatbot is known for producing inconsistent results. Our students reported that the software becomes less valuable the more specialized your course is. So, ChatGPT might be perfect for someone struggling with low-level tasks. Kyran Peel suggested using the chatbot to complete GCSE or sixth-form classes. He said, "There is no reason why ChatGPT can't teach GCSE classes." Another positive aspect of ChatGPT is its ability to restructure and construct logical sentences, which could help someone with a learning difficulty like dyslexia. Kyran said the software could help structure students' ideas and break down complex topics. This could be beneficial if your ideas work but you struggle to formulate them logically. ChatGPT is a good learning application, but it's dependent on how you use it.
Another common use of the software is for writing formal documents. Kyran told us that ChatGPT is "very good at professionally writing emails." David Ngei Omwura recommended ChatGPT as an effective tool to craft important emails that would otherwise be hard to write. Marketing student Bernadeta Karpavičiūtė told us when completing a lot of work and focusing on her university course, ChatGPT has helped her hone her writing skills and boost efficiency. Although she has never used ChatGPT to write her essays, she acknowledges that it can sometimes be helpful. She added, "I have to write quite a lot," so programs like ChatGPT have helped me structure and compose documents. In a recent interview with Professor Mitali Halder, she told us that ChatGPT is "one of the best tools for text generation." So, if you are thinking of using the software for anything– writing, proofreading, and structuring essays is what it does best.
Despite its textual competency, ChatGPT struggles to source papers and, as discussed above, can generate inaccurate information. OpenAI has disclosed this information on its website, stating that they want to remain ‘transparent’ about the chatbot's capabilities. However, this doesn’t change the fact that this information is often reproduced and may slow the learning process. Simona Mohammad said that she would ask the software to provide an answer then the software would generate an incorrect response. From there, she would ask ChatGPT to rethink its answer, the program would apologize, and produce something new. However, this information would also be incorrect. Similarly, David Ngei Omurwa said, “I often push ChatGPT, refine my prompt, and try to make it understand what I’m trying to say.” In addition, the software will sometimes get stuck with complex questions, which leaves students unable to use ChatGPT for harder questions. David added that he would often start using ChatGPT and then abandon the site as the program struggles to understand his needs. Instead of speeding up the learning process, ChatGPT can unintentionally slow the process, leaving students feeling frustrated.
Another aspect that leaves students bitter about ChatGPT is its limited knowledge of specific topics. If you plan on using ChatGPT to generate text, write content, and spruce up your writing, you shouldn’t encounter any problems. However, those studying particular subjects have reported that the chatbot has no place in their discipline. Simona Mohammad commented on this very issue. She told Cybernews Academy, “From my STEM perspective, none of us has found any use for it.” She added that finding relevant and up-to-date information for her course was a struggle. In addition, Simona told us of another challenge she encountered when using ChatGPT: “Finding papers on my topic was quite hard,” as ChatGPT would send her to different corrupted or non-existent links. Krists Sturmanis, a Civil Engineering student, also expressed that ChatGPT isn’t very useful in terms of his degree.
In the eyes of our students, the software is having a profound impact on education as we know it. Most of our students had mixed feelings about ChatGPT, as we can clearly see the positive and negative aspects. It can be a great tool for researching certain topics, writing compelling and effective pieces of text, and streamlining your study schedule– which has been reviewed in our article ChatGPT: Your new academic mentor. However, it has limited knowledge of events past 2021, struggles to source highly scientific topics, and can fabricate sources that may not be credible. If used wisely, ChatGPT could be a great tool; nevertheless, you shouldn’t use the information produced by the chatbot directly. Cybernews Academy speakers believe that the tool is legitimate if you use it modestly and intelligently. Be smart about your choices, and research the response you received from ChatGPT thoroughly.