The role of ChatGPT in Hong Kong’s higher education system

On February 17, 2023, Ian Holliday, Vice President and Pro-Vice-Chancellor of The University of Hong Kong (HKU), released a campus-wide email announcing that as an interim measure, the university is prohibiting the use of ChatGPT and other AI-based tools for all classroom, coursework, and assessment tasks.  HKU is the first university to make a statement and implement a measure to address the matter of ChatGPT and other AI-based tools.

What is ChatGPT?

Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer or ‘ChatGPT’ is a chatbot and AI language model that was created by OpenAI.  The AI was developed and trained using data and text from the internet, giving it the ability to easily produce a variety of content and conversational responses. With ChatGPT, one could easily use it to write essays, summarize research papers, create code, and more.
Dr. Leon Lei, an E-learning Technologist at The University of Hong Kong, described it as “a tool with generative artificial intelligence (GAI), which can generate content with minimal input from users.”
Since its launch in November 2022, ChatGPT has gone viral and garnered the attention of the internet, tech companies, and universities around the globe. Internet users have been playfully using AI to generate different kinds of content while tech companies have joined the bandwagon in AI by creating their version of ChatGPT, like Google’s ‘Bard’ and Baidu Inc’s ‘Ernie Bot’, set to be implemented by March.

The role of ChatGPT in education

As ChatGPT’s popularity rose in the past few months, there have been many cases of students using AI for their school assessments, like an incident where two professors caught their students using ChatGPT to help write their essays. Considering how “human-like” the tool’s responses are, it has also presented a problem of proving AI plagiarism, making the resolution of plagiarism and cheating-related problems much more challenging.

Furthermore, ChatGPT has its limitations, as noted by OpenAI on their website where they stated that it “…sometimes writes plausible-sounding but incorrect or nonsensical answers.” This has been seen since its inception and has led to worries about the spread of misinformation.

How are Hong Kong Universities responding to ChatGPT?

As stated in Holliday’s campus-wide email, HKU’s Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (CETL) and Technology-Enriched Learning Initiative (TELI) will be organizing seminars and workshops on ChatGPT and other AI-based tools. The university’s current policy is that without written permission, ChatGPT and other AI-based tools cannot be used in any credit-bearing activities at the institution.

ChatGPT and AI technologies in Education: The Good, The Bad, and The Unknown
CETL poster promoting HKU’s workshop and seminars that will be covering ChatGPT

Dr. Lei also posted some guidelines for faculty and staff, on how to design essay assignments in the case that students do use AI-based tools.

Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) has followed HKU’s steps in taking action to address ChatGPT and has banned the use of ChatGPT for classwork.

Hong Kong Baptist University School of Communication posted on their Instagram story about the ban

Other Hong Kong universities are yet to respond to the issue.

Mixed Reactions

Hong Kong students have shown mixed reactions to these measures put into place by the universities.

“I saw it coming. The current education system simply isn’t prepared for this type of disruptive technology,” said Harpreet Singh, a third-year Journalism and Business student at HKU. He expressed happiness in understanding the university’s willingness to move beyond the ‘traditional education system.’

“I feel optimistic about the email as he did say that the university is open to debates and discussion regarding the matter.”

Dr. Sean McMinn, Director of the Center for Education Innovation at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology believes that AI-based tools must be approached holistically, and with an open mind.

What we need to do is take a responsible and evidence-based approach to adopting AI in educational practices. We don’t want to overlook any possible positive outcomes, while at the same time, we need to be mindful of issues such as misinformation, equity, ethics, and harmful bias.”

– Dr. Sean McMinn

Not everyone shares this optimism.

Earon Wong, a first-year Decision Science student at HKBU expressed distaste towards ChatGPT and AI-based tools in general.

“ChatGPT shouldn’t be used at all in schools because the purpose of school is to show up to lectures, learn and use the materials you learn for your assignments. Using ChatGPT is just pure lazy.”

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: