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University of Copenhagen
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The future is now: UCPH softens up on AI rules

Artificial intelligence — ChatGPT is still banned at the vast majority of exams at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH). And cheating can be detected, says a student.

The future was suddenly upon us at the end of 2022.

One of the world’s hitherto most advanced AI robots, ChatGPT, became publicly available and could now help anyone with everything from explaining complex issues, to comparing academic theories, to writing well-formulated university-level exam assignments.

With pending winter exams, universities had to make a quick decision on how to handle the new technology in an exam context.

The University of Copenhagen decided to prohibit all use of ChatGPT. Since then, the UCPH Council on Education Strategy (KUUR) has discussed the new opportunities coming from the technology, and in March decided to soften up the outright ban, slightly.

ChatGPT and similar technologies are, generally speaking, not permitted at exams unless explicitly stated in the course’s exam regulations, according to the latest iteration.

We would like to be in a place where it can be an aid to study and something that you can use actively in the teaching

Rie Snekkerup, Deputy Director for Education and Students, UCPH


This means that the individual study programmes can now integrate the new technology actively in future exams if they find it academically meaningful, explains Rie Snekkerup, who is Deputy Director for Education and Students at the University of Copenhagen.

»We have urged all boards of studies to look at their exams and see if they can allow the use of ChatGPT to some extent. We would like to go somewhere where it can be an aid and something that you use actively in the teaching, but we just haven’t got there yet,« she says, and explains:

»We have to allow some time and space for instructors to develop their courses and integrate the technology in a way that it contributes positively and does not just become a shortcut to cheating. We therefore still need to have a slightly restrictive approach to the use of ChatGPT in connection with exams this summer and probably also the winter exams of 2023-2024.«

Cheating is detected

And if there are a couple of students who feel tempted to use ChatGPT where it is not permitted, Rie Snekkerup is clear about what is to be done:

It can be detected, and it is considered cheating at exams at the same level as plagiarism.

»It can be difficult to detect cheating with ChatGPT, but it is possible. We have already seen a handful of examples during the winter exams. Including an exam assignment where sources were listed that do not exist in reality,« she says, and explains that cheating with an AI-related text is typically discovered through the errors produced by the machine.

We got it to write the start of a short story that started with ‘it was a dark and stormy night’ – perhaps the least inventive thing you could think up at all

Tanya Karoli Christensen, Professor at the Department of Nordic Studies and Linguistics


There are cases, however, where it is almost impossible to see whether an exam paper is written by a person or an AI robot. This has led to several key players suggesting that students should be cut off completely from using ChatGPT at exams.

In March, the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) decided that some exams, until further notice, would be carried out without access to either internet or computer, and to be done instead by hand. The same ideas come from the Danish People’s Party, which at the beginning of April proposed that access to the internet should be curtailed completely during exams, and that it should be done with pen and paper, if this was not possible.

»We have discussed conducting exams by hand at UCPH, but we ended up rejecting the idea. We simply do not believe that this is the way forward. We can check the written on-site exams in relation to the aids that you have access to, but this presents a challenge in the exams that students do from home,« says Rie Snekkerup.

The exam assignments of the future

Tanya Karoli Christensen is professor at the Department of Nordic Studies and Linguistics She has already tried to use ChatGPT actively in the teaching, and her considerations now are on how the technology should be handled during the exams.

»I recently dedicated a whole week to ChatGPT on one of my spring courses. It was mostly about preparing students to be critical of the technology. We talked about how it deselects some types of language use, the types of mistakes it makes in Danish, and how good it is in the creative use of language,« explains Tanya Karoli and continues:

»It turned out to be really bad at the latter. We got it to write the start of a short story that started with ‘it was a dark and stormy night’ – perhaps the least inventive thing you could think up at all.«

But even though the robot might not (yet) be the new Shakespeare, the professor admits that it is amazingly good at writing academic texts that could resemble something that a student could have written. She is therefore still considering how the summer exams are to be designed.

»One of my suggestions is that exam papers are based on a piece of data that ChatGPT has a hard time reading, like a video with oral interaction in Danish. If the students want to cheat, they have to transcribe the material themselves, and then feed the robot examples of how it can solve the task,« she says.

In the future, she hopes to be able to work actively with the technology instead of making sure that the students don’t use it for cheating. This could be by incorporating exercises in the teaching, where students need to write good prompts to ChatGPT and explain how to check the outputs that the robot generates.

»An exam assignment of the future could be: Submit to us a prompt to ChatGPT and the text that the machine generates based on your prompt. Also, submit to us a description of how you check the text as well as an edited version, where you explain how you made the AI text better,« says Tanya Karoli.

»I do actually believe that it is possible to learn a lot from working so intensively with the editing of a robot-generated text.«

The new calculator

Even though the new technology is setting off exam cheating fears throughout the world, we may end up considering it a mundane work tool – also in connection with exams, according to Thomas Bolander, who does research on artificial intelligence at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU).

»We permit the use of calculators, or Google at exams, where the calculation or the search for information is not a key part of the assignment. In the same way, an AI can become a utility just like other search engines,« says Thomas Bolander.

He is currently using the most latest version of ChatGPT, GPT-4, in his daily work.

I see it as a kind of next level in terms of being able to look up a book or do a search on Google

Thomas Bolander, researcher in artificial intelligence, DTU


»Of course, it won’t do all my work tasks, but I use it to ask some questions so I do not need to spend the time and effort searching. It typically generates very general answers, which I can then ask for elaboration on,« says Thomas Bolander and continues:

»I see it as a kind of next level in terms of being able to look up a book or do a search on Google. But just with the added bonus that you can actually ask for clarification and ask follow-up questions. It gives us a natural and lively dialogue which can do something completely different.«

The AI technology will, in all probability, mean that some of the work functions currently performed by people will be carried out by an AI in future, according to Thomas Bolander. This trend should also be incorporated into the education system.

»The same thing happened when we invented the computer. Then there were suddenly work tasks that we stopped doing as human beings. And this will likely happen here also. I reckon that less of our abilities will be based on rote learning,« he says.

Thomas Bolander is protecting the exam assignments he is organizing this summer from the use of ChatGPT.

»This could, for example, be by using images, tables or data sets that the current publicly available version does not yet understand how to decode.«