July 13, 2024

Waterloo schools have embraced cutting-edge AI software to give students and staff a helpful resource on their education journey.

“Innovations in technology often produce innovations in teaching and learning, and this new development is no exception,” said the University of Waterloo on its website in response to AI software ChatGPT.

Using AI software such as ChatGPT or Midjourney, students can generate essays, code, or even art at the click of a button, which is why Waterloo educational institutions are prepping for the future and modifying their policies in order to utilize AI.

The general policy adopted by the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier, Conestoga College, and more is this: “Students are allowed to consult AI software. However, the final submission must be the student’s original work and properly cited. Otherwise, academic penalties will be carried out.”

“We’re going to have to adjust,” says computer science professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, David Brown, comparing AI tools to laptops or calculators, and that new technology often had critics in its early stages before finding its place in the education system.

“I discourage it because you’re not going to learn the material if you do it, but a ban is ineffective,” said Brown on whether AI systems should be prohibited in a learning environment due to its growing popularity.

Brown encourages students to be critical of AI-generated answers and to understand the material for themselves because even if students can rely on AI in the early stages of a university program when the time comes, AI won’t be able to help in an exam hall.

Conestoga College is also approaching AI tools with cautious optimism. According to the chair of the college’s AI Guidance Committee, Kathryn Brillinger, faculty are encouraged to experiment with AI and use it to enhance teaching.

Conestoga and other educational institutions rely on Turnitin’s new AI detection tools to catch plagiarism as well as compare the students’ writing styles from past work. However, Brillinger agrees the methods are not foolproof, and there is concern for “false positive” flags.

Media Relation Senior Manager at the University of Waterloo, David George-Cosh said they will “Continue to evaluate these tools and will modify its policies and practices in support of academic integrity.” highlighting that educational institutions are open to changing their policies as new technologies arise.

AI tools are here to stay, and much like inventions of the past, our modern systems must adapt and prepare for a new way of learning. “The training will be how to use AI most effectively,” theorizes Brown, that students won’t be taught how to work themselves but instead learn how to use AI programs to achieve the same result except faster.

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