AI and Assessments

Pros and Cons of using Artificial Intelligence (AI) in your assessments.

With many new AI tools such as ChatGPT, DALLE-2 along with AI being integrated into everyday tools you may have used for years such as Grammarly or Google tools using Google Bard what do you as a student need to know? 

Can I use AI at all?

You should always follow the advice of the examiner, lecturer or tutor as to what tools are allowed in the course and to what extent. If there is no specific advice about the use of AI on the course page or assessment instructions, you should assume that the use of AI tools is not allowed. This is the approach taken by the University’s discipline process if you are suspected of inappropriate use of AI. 

If you have used AI you should always acknowledge what tool you used and how you used it, and cite any information that you used that was generated by the AI tool. See our page on Referencing for information on how to acknowledge and cite AI information.

What is AI good for?

Generally, AI is good for generating ideas, summarising long documents, suggesting different writing structures, along with translating difficult concepts or foreign language terms. 

You might use AI tools to: 

  • Draft an outline of your assignment (which topics go first, second, third etc.)
  • Generate graphics or visuals to support your work and ideas 
  • Summarise complex readings to give you an overview of the topic before you read the text in detail yourself 
  • Define terms and foreign language ideas 
  • Experiment with different writing styles  
  • Generate formative “Exam style” questions to test yourself 
  • Write example code for programming 

What are the limits of AI?

Despite what some of the media hype might say, the most important thing to remember is that AI tools have zero understanding of what they are saying. A good way to think about these tools is to think of them as a very advanced version of autocomplete.  

AI tools can only reproduce things that they have seen before and are limited by the data they are trained on. The most common tools have a gap of 1-2 years between the most recent training data and current events. 

AI also has an unfortunate tendency to hallucinate and make things up because they sound good. Couple this with the fact that AI tools write in a very authoritative style and it is easy to be misled about the truth of a fact or topic. 

Common faults of AI tools include: 

  • Making up information and references to support claims. Always double check any reference given to you by AI. 
  • Giving the most popular answer, but not always the correct answer. 
  • Providing out- of- date information. 
  • Reproducing biases in the training data. This training data is overwhelmingly WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic) and despite all the limits,  it regularly manages to be racist, sexist, classist etc.
  • Generating flawed code. Always double check before running the code on an actual computer. 
  • Struggling with topics that are not widely written about.

What are the risks of overusing AI tools?

Overuse of AI tools hinders your development of the discipline knowledge, critical thinking, and writing skills that are the core of a university education and will lead to you struggling to articulate your ideas. Additionally overuse of AI tools prevents you from demonstrating this knowledge to your examiner and lecturer, which is why they may put restrictions on the use of these tools in assessments. 

Some use of these tools to provide inspiration for an assessment is acceptable with appropriate acknowledgement and citations. The following tips will help you avoid trouble with your examiners and the Proctor. 

  • Never use AI to write either an entire assessment or entire sections of an assessment. This prevents us from measuring your knowledge and skills. 
  • Never use AI to translate your assessment from your native language into English. Learning to express yourself in English or Te Reo Māori is a key component of studying at Lincoln, not to mention that the translations are usually flawed. 
  • Never blindly accept grammar suggestions from AI grammar tools such as Grammarly or Jasper. Instead think critically about what you want to say and ask if your intent has been changed by the suggestions.
  • Never present work with unacknowledged AI assistance. All use of AI must be acknowledged and cited if quoted or paraphrased. This includes the output of paraphrasing and summarising software such as Quillbot.

Where to get help?

If you still have questions about AI in a specific assessment then good places to get advice include: 

  • The lecturer, tutor or examiner who set the assessment
  • Learning advisors in Learning, Teaching and Library