Professors want to 'ChatGPT-proof' assignments, and are returning to paper exams and requesting editing history to curb AI cheating

  • College professors are looking to "ChatGPT-proof" assignments to curb cheating.

  • Some professors suggest returning to paper exams and asking students to show editing histories.

  • Changes to assignments come as teachers debate the usage of generative AI in the classroom.

Since OpenAI's ChatGPT came out last November, a number of teachers have caught their students using the chatbot to cheat and plagiarize on their assignments.

Now, professors at colleges across the US and beyond are trying out ways to "ChatGPT-proof" their assignments, as concerns grow that students may be missing out on learning by using AI cut corners and tools that detect AI-generated text have been found to be prone to errors.

Bonnie MacKellar, a computer science professor at St. Johns University in New York, said that she is making students in her intro courses take paper exams instead of digital ones and having them handwrite their code. Paper exams will be a bigger portion of her students' grades this fall, she said, compared to previous semesters. In turn, students will be disincentivized to outsource their logical thinking to AI, which she said could stunt their learning and leave them unprepared for more advanced computer science classes down the line.

"I hear colleagues in humanities courses saying the same thing: It's back to the blue books," MacKellar said.

Other professors seek to curb AI cheating by reframing assignment questions so students are required to "show their work," William Hart-Davidson, an associate dean at Michigan State University who leads AI workshops for faculty members, told Insider over email.

Assignment questions, Hart-Davidson said, "should include a request for students to be explicit and reflective about the moves they are making."

"We don't just want them to reproduce a fact or a rote response, but to learn to account for their reasoning in a deliberate way," he said.

For instance, ChatGPT can easily answer a straight-forward question like "Tell me in three sentences what is the Krebs cycle in chemistry?" he said.

To avoid this, Hart-Davidson told Insider that teachers should reframe the question to something like "revise an existing passage" on the Krebs cycle, which would require students to point out errors, identify writing for clarity and accuracy, and explain how the writing could be improved.

That way, students are forced to think through their answers, rather than regurgitate what a chatbot tells them, which Hart-Davidson said could help improve their writing.

Some professors suggest students show their work by including their editing history and drafts along with their completed assignments. A document that logs all the typos corrected and the sentences rephrased in an essay can prove that a human wrote it, Dave Sayers, a professor at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland, wrote for the Times Higher Education, an education blog.

A guide from Butler University in Indianapolis on how to chatbot-proof assignments suggests that teachers could eliminate the essay, issue impromptu oral exams, and foster classroom discussions around how to best use the chatbot's responses.

The changes to school assignments come as teachers grapple with how to best integrate AI tools like ChatGPT into their classrooms. While some professors require their students to use ChatGPT to generate project ideas, some schools have outright banned the usage of AI to avoid cases of academic dishonesty.

Despite the controversy, some teachers are using AI chatbots themselves to streamline their workflows. Shannon Ahern, a high school math and science teacher in Dublin, Ireland, previously told Insider she used ChatGPT Plus to write lesson plans, generate exercise worksheets, and come up with quiz questions, which she claimed saved her hours of time.

As far as cheating goes, some teachers don't see that changing — with or without AI.

"I worried that my students would use it to cheat and plagiarize," Ahern said. "But then I remembered that students have always been cheating — whether that's copying a classmate's homework or getting a sibling to write an essay — and I don't think ChatGPT will change that."

Are you a student that secretly uses AI for your school work? Reach out to Insider's Aaron Mok at, or by encrypted messaging app Signal at 718-710-8200. Your identity will remain anonymous.

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