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Generative AI and ChatGPT

Last updated on 21 July 2023
Generative AI, like ChatGPT, will play an increasingly significant role in our world, including education. The VU considers it important that you, as a student, learn how to effectively deal with AI.

That means you have to learn to use generative AI productively for learning, but at the same time develop a critical attitude towards AI and use it in a proper manner. Read more about it on this page.

We use ChatGPT as an example, but the content applies to all forms of (future) generative AI.

What is generative AI?

Generative AI systems generate texts, images, or other media in response to questions and/or commands entered by humans (also known as prompts). ChatGPT (and Bing, Google Bard) is an AI chatbot, an example of generative AI. The utilization of ChatGPT presents both possibilities and dangers.

ChatGPT operates using a comprehensive language model and generates responses (word by word) based on a probability model created from information on the internet. This data is often quite general in nature, not always accurate, and may also contain biases. Therefore, always be critical of the text generated by ChatGPT.

Can I use generative AI for courses at VU Amsterdam?

The short answer to this question is that, as a student, you are not allowed to use generative AI unless the lecturer or examiner of your course indicates if and how this is allowed. So always read your course's study guide carefully what the guideline states for using generative AI is. If this is not mentioned in the study guide, syllabus or Canvas, you can ask your teacher about it.

Below are two examples where use of generative AI may be allowed in a specific way for a course.

Example 1. Writing improvement

You can ask Generative-AI chatbots to detect language spelling and structure improvements for texts you have created yourself, similar to how 'regular' spelling and grammar tools work. Like a language assistant, in other words. If the teacher allows it, generative AI can also give you inspiration for writing a piece of text. It gives content ideas and structures how to build a text. Make sure that the use of these tools does not interfere with a good assessment by the teacher of your own knowledge and skills.

Example 2. Searching for information

Generative AI creates answers to questions you ask based on lots of existing data. This is somewhat similar to how you would search for information through, say, the University library catalogue, Google Scholar or through other methods (although it obviously works differently technically and the data sources are clear). Note that the chatbot may give different answers to the same question each time. After searching, you should always critically assess the value of this information, relate it to various other sources, process it yourself and justify your choices.

Fraude

In any case, what is certainly not allowed is committing fraud. The purpose of studying at VU Amsterdam is that you learn to acquire and process knowledge on your own. The writing process is important to organise your thoughts and process knowledge. You must also be able to report on this in a persuasive text (essay, pleading note, research report, etc.). This requires teachers and examiners to be able to identify your own level of knowledge and skill and your contribution to such a product. You have to create your text yourself: in other words, write it yourself.

Therefore, keep being careful not to copy and paste information verbatim. Any form of literal copying and copying without full source citation (quoting, referencing) of any material, including that generated by Generative AI, makes the examiner unable to assess your knowledge and skills (or insufficiently) and is therefore fraud.

Note! Paraphrasing citations with Generative AI and presenting them as your own work is also not allowed.

Should your teacher have any doubts about whether you have used ChatGPT within the correct frameworks, the teacher can start the discussion with you and, in case of persistent doubt, refer to the examination board. It is the examination board that ultimately determines whether there is any fraud through an investigation. Examples of what constitutes fraud are listed in your faculty rules and guidelines of the examination board. So take note of those.

Tip! Read more about academic integrity on this page where fraud and plagiarism are discussed in more depth.

If you do copy certain parts of generative-AI output verbatim (e.g. because of the nature of the task), then you should cite this as the source and quote it correctly.

Data protection

Please note that everything you share with ChatGPT is stored and can be used by ChatGPT for training purposes (at least if you use a free version). Therefore, never share personal data or other sensitive information (such as financial data or information of companies where you intern or do research).

Teachers cannot force you to use ChatGPT.

Sustainability

Keep in mind that every query you make to a generative AI system requires a lot of energy, and large data centres are needed to run generative AI.