AI-Generated Copy Flagged in Millions of Student Papers

Company detected it in 11% of high school and college papers examined
By Gina Carey,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 20, 2024 5:35 PM CDT
AI-Generated Copy Flagged in Millions of Student Papers
Plagiarism-detection service Turnitin determined that 11% of the papers they examined included up to 20% of AI copy.   (Getty / ktasimarr)

With AI at their disposal, many students have found a modern way to keep their dogs from eating their homework. And while it won't come to a surprise to anyone that they're leaning into the technology to beef up papers and essays, we now have a sense of how prevalent the practice is. Wired reports that plagiarism-detection service Turnitin examined 200 million papers using a tool that was trained on student-written work from high schoolers and college students, along with AI-generated text. It found that in 11% of those papers, 20% of the content was written by AI. In 3% of the papers, it made up 80% of content.

In other words, "students have submitted more than 22 million papers that may have used generative AI in the past year," per Wired. But learners aren't the only ones using AI to catch a break in the classroom. According to CNN, a growing number of teachers are using AI to grade essays on platforms such as ChatGPT, Writable, Grammarly, and EssayGrader. One analysis found that 22% of teachers used AI in some fashion, up from 9% last year. This means that in some cases, school work amounts to computers grading essays … that were written by computers.

Schools and universities looking to cut down on AI-generated work have opted to purchase tools like Turnitin, though the tech isn't perfect. For one thing, "generated text is still original text," making it trickier to spot than flat-out plagiarized text, notes Wired. Also, detection errors in general most often occur on work written by English language learners, and the bias is significant enough to deter some. (Referencing Star Trek may somehow make AI chatbots perform better at math.)

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