AI and College Essays

Patrick Buck's picture

Since many of us are going to be grading exams and essays these days, I thought it would be important for us to read and reflect on this article:


What kinds of reasonable and realistic responses can we make to this phenomenon? If an AI can churn out C-grade essays in no time, what is to be done?

Don't get mad; get creative. An AI can only produce content if it has information in its dataset. The answer is to create assignments that specifically reference course content, put unique information together in new and interesting ways, and make use of third-party (hopefully free and accessible) tech tools to make creative projects. An AI can turn out a passable essay on Moby-Dick since there are many examples to choose from. However, it might be stymied by asking it to compare motifs of nature in Melville to the Hudson Valley School of painting vis-a-vis the aesthetics of Romanticism as described by Peter Gay—a human can make intuitive leaps between visual arts, literature, and criticism; an AI might not. It will have a similarly hard time producing an infographic on the same theme, since an AI that can parse essays on literature and/or painting might not be able to make an infographic.

Another way is to incorporate them as a tech tool. Once AIs become more readily accessible, and can do complex tasks as above, you could even assign students to use an AI or series of AIs as an assignment and critique the results. Writing essays is an important skill, to be sure, but using tech tools in an ordered and creative way is also a skill.

Finally, if we wish to be reactionary, we can always go back to the old Oxbridge system of live written exams with its obvious implications for equity.

Which option is best for you will likely depend on your population of learners.