The Assignment Marking Bot?
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The Assignment Marking Bot?

Amazing new AI bots are now able to convincingly write cogent academic essays and assist in penning other student assignment tasks. The release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT has caused consternation in a higher education environment already struggling to sustain its own relevance and credibility and the first jerk of the knee response by Australia’s GO8 has been to foreshadow a return to paper and pen examinations.

It’s an obvious and sensible response – but one with financial implications – it involves providing examination hall real estate, invigilators, heating/ air conditioning and paper and pen student capabilities.

Applying the old-fashioned approach of viva voce face to face assessments for every student would also be another safeguard and a further desirable demonstration of academic probity, but again at a cost – like ‘working from home’ for city office workers university students are also currently utilising ‘study from anywhere in your own time’ potentials.

Coming on campus for tests and exams might not prove universally popular.

Where are the other sort of bots?

And whilst others moot that AI might signal ‘the ‘death’ of the essay’ an equally pertinent question is ‘where are all the AI bots for marking student essays and written assignments?’ Surely if AI written essays fooling human readers is the new threat, then urgently developing AI marking bots capable of not only detecting machine written submissions but also marking authentically written assignments might be an equally feasible solution?

If bots can now learn how to write passable essays, they must surely also be able to be developed to measure the qualities of essays written by humans? Though to have them do so we could simply be entering what has been termed an ‘AI arms race’.

Needless to say, the notion of AI marking bots will probably liquify the bowels of those academics who might envisage their own areas of governance and scholarly deliberation being sidelined or replaced with a technology capable of swiftly determining the merits of undergraduate assignments.

After all, academics are not very successful at detecting contract or ChatGPT cheating and AI marking bots won’t have unions, mandatory working conditions or all the other sundry costs associated with employing human academic staff. Wouldn’t such marking bots potentially free more academics up for other contributions – including producing necessary research?

Hybrid Teaching Remains a Constant

Of course, AI Assignment Assessment Bots are not yet with us but whilst contract cheating and ChatGPT technologies are now seriously threatening the academic validity and integrity of what both schooling systems and universities do, the sector wide move to adopt, retain and develop hybrid teaching approaches, somewhat unnoticed, remains on track. As Covid 19 becomes normalised there has been no universal uptake of a full return to face-to-face pedagogies. This is because hybrid teaching approaches are the logical extension of technology for education systems requiring and serving ever growing numbers of students. We are in an era of industrially scaled tertiary education and cost effective change is unavoidable.

Early Adopter Experience

The ‘know how’ in successfully utilising hybrid and blended courses seems to be as much in elements of the private sector as it is in our larger public tertiary entities. However, QILT results repeatedly show that Australia’s smaller, private (but solidly student focussed and fully TEQSA compliant) institutions dominate student satisfaction levels when it comes to hybrid and blended teaching approaches.

One likely reason for this is their small size and teaching only focuses. Another might be their early adoption and experience of utilising hybrid delivery approaches in order to remain competitive in the marketplace. And if AI Assessment Bots ever become a real thing (which we believe is an inevitability) you can be sure that those smaller, private, TEQSA compliant and student focussed entities will be swift to adopt them in order to free up staff to provide even greater levels of student support, online and F2F student teacher engagement and staff availability for student consultation. It is the assurance of these capacities which seems to make online and hybrid pedagogies student approved and viable.




Emeritus Professor Jim Mienczakowski is an independent member of the UBSS Academic Senate and a Fellow of the Centre for Scholarship and Research.




Emeritus Professor Greg Whateley is the Deputy Vice Chancellor (UBSS) and Vice President- Academic (GCA).