The emergence of ChatGPT provoked widespread concern that the AI chatbot is the ultimate tool for students cheating on homework, since it can answer just about any question in paragraph form.
As companies race to come out with tools they claim can detect when prose was written by a bot, some are wondering whether a previous generation of homework-help tools might soon be rendered obsolete.
The homework-help business — led by giants like Chegg and Course Hero — has long been both profitable and controversial. The popularity of Chegg’s subscription service even became a verb: “Chegging.” It’s a form of question and answer business that some believe plays to students’ worst instincts. (Need answers to homework — or a test? Chegg it.) Though, the company denies that its services are meant to allow cheating. The cost of the subscription service currently starts at $15.95 per month, according to the site.
Some instructors have opposed companies like Chegg and Course Hero, as trying to get content related to the courses they teach removed can cause a headache. The chatbots represent a new headache, for teachers and possibly also for homework-help companies.
That whole business could be threatened by free tools like ChatGPT, argues Derek Newton, who runs The Cheat Sheet, a newsletter that covers academic dishonesty.
For Newton, the primary motivation of a student using homework-help services is laziness or a lack of preparedness. And so having a free alternative that can give answers to questions — like ChatGPT — could shrink the number of students who are willing to pay, even if the answers are slightly worse or riskier, either because there’s a chance of getting caught by one of those AI detectors or of the information just being wrong. (In their current form, AI chatbots are prone to giving incorrect information.)
Bad for Business?
It’s not just homework-help. Even online tutoring companies like Tutor.com may see a decline in business thanks to the arrival of algorithm-generated writing, says edtech columnist Phill Hill.