✨Guide: How Professors Can Discourage and Prevent AI Misuse

The past six months of our research is gathered into a guide for professors for the fall semester of 2023.

Welcome to AutomatED: the newsletter on how to teach better with tech.

Each week, I share what I have learned — and am learning — about AI and tech in the university classroom. What works, what doesn't, and why.

In this Premium edition, I present a guide for how to discourage and prevent AI misuse, at least as things stand late in the summer of 2023.

Over the past six months, we have been testing take-home assignments for our AI-immunity challenge — experimenting with them to see if we can crack them with AI tools alone in an hour or less. We have been testing our own assignments, experimenting with all sorts of AI tools, and reading about others’ methods online and in our learning community. We have been researching AI detectors. We have been thinking seriously about how to design assignments to encourage AI use, as well as how to design them to prevent AI misuse. We have been consulting with professors about how to build their courses. We have been collaborating with educational researchers to learn more about best practices for oral assessments and in-class dialogue.

In this piece, I build on these experiences to present a comprehensive guide to discouraging and preventing AI misuse by university students. Much of what I write is intended to be general and somewhat timeless, but I do expect some of the relevance of this guide to diminish as time goes on — this is my perspective of things stand late in the summer of 2023.

I am often told by professors that they would appreciate a zoomed-out take on this issue, rather than a piecemeal or partial approach. Here it is, with the main options available to professors at the present moment.

🖼️ The Big Picture

There are six broad strategies you can take to discourage and prevent AI misuse by students on a given assignment:

1. Motivate students to not misuse AI in completing the assignment.

2. Require students to complete the assignment without access to AI.

Because AI can be accessed easily on a device connected to the internet — and even on those that are not — this leaves two device-free options:

  • Develop an in-class handwritten version of the assignment.

  • Develop an in-class oral version of the assignment.

However, in some contexts, secure online proctoring is available as an alternative, as I will discuss below.

3. Allow students to complete a (more) AI-immune version of the assignment with access to AI.

Developing an assignment to be more AI-immune is a complex and ever-evolving process, but there are two broad categories of options:

  • Develop an assignment that is AI-immune due to its format.

  • Develop an assignment that is AI-immune due to its content.

4. Pair the assignment with another assignment that students must complete in an AI-free zone, such that they are incentivized to achieve the learning objectives in both cases.

Conceptualize pairing like you conceptualize students’ ability to rely on their peers’ expertise at their dorms and in the dining hall. Sure, they can ask their clever friend about how to solve a problem or write an essay, but then they need to come to class and perform with those skills and that knowledge internalized (and not merely memorized).

5. Do nothing.

6. Some combination of the above.

Let’s discuss these in sequence.

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