North Texas Daily

New Turnitin software combats AI writing tools

New Turnitin software combats AI writing tools

New Turnitin software combats AI writing tools
April 13
14:00 2023

The university implemented a new artificial intelligence detection software on Canvas at the start of April in an effort to combat the use of AI writing tools like ChatGPT for school assignments.

The detection will be run through an add-on module by Turnitin, a software used by the university to detect plagiarism. The growth of ChatGPT and other AI tools has led to “widespread talk” in the academic community on its use in academic settings, according to Lou Pelton, a marketing professor and the chair of the Academic Affairs Committee. 

“I don’t think it’s something that just impacts UNT,” Peloton said. “It’s something that impacts academic institutions across the country and across the world.”

The Office of Academic Integrity approached the Center for Learning Experimentation, Application and Research in February concerning possible solutions to the use of AI tools for assignments. Tracy Everbach, a journalism professor and Academic Integrity Officer, said professors have been vigilant about AI use since the popularization of ChatGPT.

“We were hearing from a lot of professors on campus who were concerned about ChatGPT and other forms of artificial intelligence,” Everbach said. “A lot of professors were using detectors that they had found online.”

Everbach also said the Office of Academic Integrity consistently receives students who cheat on assignments using AI software.

“We are getting reports in every day of people using artificial intelligence improperly against rules to generate papers and things like that,” Everbach said.

In an effort to make the process of AI detection more formal, CLEAR began “to discuss adding software” to combat AI use, according to an email sent to the North Texas Daily by Adam Fein, vice president for digital strategy and innovation and chief digital officer. Fein said the university would continue to adapt as they learn more about generative AI.

“We embrace the challenges and opportunities for all teaching and learning innovations,” Fein said in an email to the Daily. “Our job is to gather information, learn as much as we can and make informed, research-based decisions that will help students and faculty.”

Turnitin announced the software’s launch on April 4, stating 10,700 institutions and more than 2.1 million educators and professors will use the service. The company has been working on AI detection software since 2014 but accelerated the process recently as ChatGPT and other services have improved.

“What we are providing for educators now has been in development for years,” Turnitin Chief Product Officer Annie Chechitelli said in a press release. “In the coming months, we will continue to refine and adapt our detection capabilities, using field data to increase accuracy.” 

Turnitin claims the service has a 98 percent success rate and less than one percent false positive rate. However, a recent article from the Washington Post found the detector flagged over half of 16 sample essays incorrectly. Multiple universities in the United Kingdom, including Cambridge University, are opting out of the new service.

In recognition of the limits of the service, Everbach said the AI detection tool is one of “several steps” professors need to take when it comes to flagging a student for cheating. 

“What we advise professors to do is yes, you can use these tools, but you need to have further evidence to back up your case,” Everbach said.

As many public school systems in the United States have banned the use of ChatGPT and other AI tools, the majority of higher education institutions have implemented guidelines and resources on how to use the service effectively and positively. CLEAR recently released a literature review on how higher education can use ChatGPT.

Everbach said the goal is simply to help both students and professors navigate the use of the service.

“We’ve just been giving guidance to professors to talk to students, and that’s the most important thing — to have communication with a student and try to find out what’s going on with them,” Everbach said. 

Featured Illustration by Allie Garza

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Ismael M. Belkoura

Ismael M. Belkoura

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