The impact of text-generating technologies on academic integrity: AI & AI

July 13, 2021

I’ve been a bit behind with my blogging recently, so I’m going to try and catch up by sharing some recent conference presentations. This one I presented in June with Mike Mindzak and Ryan Morrison at the annual conference of the Canadian Association for the Study of Educational Administration (CASEA) [online].

Eaton, Mindzak & Morrison - GPT-3 and academic integrity

First, let me tell you the story of how I got connect with these two. In the early fall of 2020, Mike Mindzak at Brock University in St. Catharine’s, Ontario (Canada) reached out to me via e-mail to introduce himself. A colleague we have in common had pointed him in the direction of my work on academic integrity. He connected the dots, that I was the person who’d left him a comment on a piece he’d written for University Affairs, entitled, “What happens when a machine can write as well as an academic? 

Mike let me know about some work he was doing with Ryan Morrison at George Brown College in Toronto related to artificial intelligence and algorithmic writing. He asked if I might be interested in collaborating with them. Naturally, I was interested, but also recognized that the field of artificial intelligence is outside of my area of expertise and the demands on time were preventing me from doing a deep dive into any new projects. I suggested that we continue to chat throughout the fall and winter, and look at a possible collaboration for 2021.

In the meantime, I invited the two of them to present at the Academic Integrity Urgent and Emerging Webinar Series I was putting together for the Taylor Institute of Teaching and Learning. They accepted the invitation.

I submitted the manuscript for my book, Plagiarism in Higher Education: Tackling Tough topics in Academic Integrity in the final days of May, 2020. In the final chapter of the book I take a future-focused perspective, offering ideas about what the emerging challenges to plagiarism and academic integrity would look like in the not-too-distant future. I cite Mike’s article and contend that the role that artificial intelligence and machine learning will play with regards to ethics in teaching and learning will become a topic that we, educators and educational leaders, will have to contend with.

In late September of 2020, the three of us started working on a proposal to present at the 2021 Canadian Association for the Study of Educational Administration (CASEA). Proposals are normally due in the fall, around October, and undergo a rigorous double-blind peer review process before presenters are notified about whether their presentations have been accepted to the conference.

The three of us stayed in touch during the fall and winter months, as we all observed that the open artificial intelligence technologies (OpenAI) were developing fast. OpenAI’s latest version of its Generative Pre-Training Transformer (GPT),  GPT-3 had been released in summer 2020. The technology uses machine learning to simulate human writing through text-generation. We kept an eye on news and developments about the GPT-3 technology, exchanging e-mails with links to new stories we’d seen. 

By the time Mike and Ryan presented their webinar, “Exploring the Impacts of Text Generating Technologies on Academic Integrity” at the Taylor Institute of Teaching and Learning  on April 9, 2021, our proposal to present at the CASEA conference had been accepted. I was excited to host them for this webinar to kick off this work. I knew the topic of artificial intelligence and machine learning truly fit the theme of the webinar series – urgent and emerging topics in academic integrity. They presented to a small but engaged crowd and as the webinar series convener and host, I watched carefully as questions poured in. As with other topics we had covered in the series, connecting the dots between the new topic and academic integrity was the key.

On June 1, 2021 we had our presentation for CASEA, a scholarly society dedicated to the study of educational administration. I’d been a member of the society since I was a PhD student, as my own supervisor had introduced me to the society and the work years before. My work has focused mainly on higher education, and many of the CASEA members focus on K-12 educational administration, so it hasn’t been a perfect fit for me, but close enough that I have stayed connected over the years. Here’s the abstract for our session:


Paper presented at the Canadian Society for the Study of Education (CSSE) 2021 – Canadian Association for the Study of Educational Administration (CASEA) (June 1, 2021) The purpose of this paper is to provide a theoretical and conceptual discussion of the rapidly emerging field of artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithmic writing (AW). The continued development of new tools—most notably at this time, GPT-3—continues to push forward and against the boundaries between the writing of human and machine. As issues surrounding AI continue to be actively discussed by scientists, futurists and ethicists, educational leaders also find themselves front and centre of debates concerning, academic writing, academic integrity and educational ethics more broadly. Three points of focus provide the basis for this analysis. Firstly, we examine the impact of AW on student writing and academic integrity in schools. Secondly, we discuss similar issues in relation to publication and academic scholarship. Finally, taken together, we discuss the broader ethical dimensions and implications that AI and AW will, and are, quickly bringing into education and the field educational administration and leadership.

We had lots of questions and reactions in the Zoom chat, as the conference was held online this year. We have archived our slides publicly online, so anyone can access them. Here is the reference with the link:

Eaton, S. E., Mindzak, M., & Morrison, R. (2021, June 1). The impact of text-generating technologies on academic integrity: AI & AI. Paper presented at the Canadian Association for the Study of Educational Administration (CASEA), University of Alberta [online].

We are excited to see where this work will take us next. I have a feeling that the ethics of technology is going to become inextricably intertwined with academic integrity. How that develops is yet to be determined.


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Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary or anyone else.

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