ChatGPT: cheating or a new tool for learning?

Battle of Ideas festival 2023, Sunday 29 October, Church House, London


Generative AI has changed the game when it comes to cheating in schools and universities. Students can make ChatGPT or Bard generate entire essays and presentations, and existing plagiarism-checking software doesn’t stand a chance. From one perspective, students passing off AI-generated work as their own are being lazy and unscrupulous. From another, students taking advantage of AI are responding rationally to a culture of high-stakes credentialism and ‘teaching to the test’.

Some suggest that today’s AI demonstrates – once and for all – the redundancy of the knowledge and skills traditionally taught in schools and universities. We should instead be equipping youngsters for an AI-dominated world by showing them how to get the best out of emerging technologies. Others, including Ofqual’s chief regulator, argue that AI makes traditional cheat-proof methods such as paper-based exams more important than ever. Others still argue that the proliferation of cheating reveals inherent failures in the education system to inspire a respect for knowledge and learning in general.

In this rapidly evolving context, how should educational institutions respond to the challenges posed by AI? How do we handle cheating when it is impossible to detect? What is the role of knowledge and learning in a world dominated by technologies that seem to do the work for us? Can student disengagement be blamed on AI tools, or is there a deeper problem in education?

Dr Catherine Breslin
AI scientist; AI consultant, Kingfisher Labs

Donald Clark
learning tech entrepreneur; investor; professor; author, Learning and the Metaverse; founder, Epic plc; CEO, WildFire

Omar Mohamed
student; president of Speak Easy, Royal Holloway University

Gareth Sturdy
physics adviser, Up Learn; education and science writer

Poppy Wood
politics and education correspondent,i newspaper

Harley Richardson
chief product officer, OxEd and Assessment; organiser, AoI Education Forum; blogger,; author, The Liberating Power of Education