It seems as if virtually everyone is talking about “ChatGPT.” It’s a potential game-changer for the way students research and write papers. It can help with homework, writing skills, and provide feedback. Some claim it is just another learning tool and should be viewed as an additional resource for students. Others believe it is just another way to cheat the system, albeit through AI. There is a real risk of plagiarism as well. Moreover, it can stifle critical thinking and original thought.
Survey results reported by Best Colleges on March 27, 2023, “Half of College Students Say Using AI is Cheating,” are mixed. One-half of college students (51%) agree that using AI tools like ChatGPT on schoolwork constitutes cheating or plagiarism. About 1 in 5 use them anyway. When asked if “Using AI tools to help complete assignments and exams is morally wrong,” 41% agreed, while 27% disagreed. When asked whether “AI tools should be prohibited in educational settings, 38% of respondents disagreed, and 27% agreed. These results are troubling because ChatGPT is increasingly being used by students, many of whom recognize the ethical issues but still use it to enhance their classroom performance. This raises a red flag about academic integrity.
Survey results reported by Resume Builder on February 27, 2023, “1 in 4 companies have already replaced workers with ChatGPT,” show the widespread use of the chatbot in business. Of 1,000 U.S. business leaders surveyed: 49% of companies currently use ChatGPT; 30% plan to use it; 48% say it has replaced workers; 25% have already saved $75k; and 90% of business leaders say ChatGPT experience is a beneficial skill for job seekers.
The main issue for educators is that ChatGPT has the potential to facilitate cheating by students without being detected. This has implications for academic integrity and could erode critical thinking skills and undermine the fundamental values of higher education.
Some professors are phasing out take-home, open-book assignments — which became a dominant method of assessment in the pandemic but now seem vulnerable to chatbots. They are instead opting for in-class assignments, handwritten papers, group work and oral exams.
ChatGPT can be used to solve complex accounting problems, generate summaries and reports, make recommendations, and conduct data analysis, such as analyzing financial reports. However, the bot may not collect information from reliable sources. Hence, the information may be outdated, incorrect, or biased. There can be model bias in such technologies.
Accounting educators should be aware that ChatGPT is here to stay. Rather than banning it, educators should find ways to incorporate it into the curricula by asking:
- What are you trying to teach your students?
- What abilities are you hoping to develop?
- How can it be used to meet course objectives?
- Where should it be integrated into the curriculum?
- How can student learning be assessed?
Figure 1 provides an overview of these and other considerations.
Critical Thinking Skills
Critical thinking skills are essential to analyze and evaluate information to make informed decisions. Knowing is committing facts to memory; thinking is applying critical thinking skills to a set of facts. Ideally, ChatGPT can help to cultivate this skill by asking probing questions, providing unbiased perspectives, and presenting alternatives. The question is: How can we increase critical thinking while also embracing what ChatGPT can do?
Integrating any new tool into the classroom should be done with caution, and ChatGPT is no exception. Educators must consider ethics, cheating, and equity, just as they would when integrating other technologies into their courses. But with the right approach, ChatGPT can be useful and prepare accounting students for their chosen profession.
Blog posted by Steven Mintz, PhD, on June 22, 2023. Find out more about his professional activities on his website (https://www.stevenmintzethics.com/).