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Rise of ChatGPT means experimentation with legal education needed

As ChatGPT and AI become commonplace within both businesses and universities, these emerging technologies are increasingly shaping the future of the education sector, according to this panel.

user iconLauren Croft 06 February 2023 Big Law
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A recent UNSW Sydney panel: “The rise of AI and ChatGPT in education”, outlined the implications of ChatGPT and artificial intelligence (AI) on society, after the bot has made global headlines in recent times. 

Hosted by Professor Toby Walsh from UNSW Engineering, the panel featured Professor Lyria Bennett Moses from UNSW Law & Justice, Associate Professor Sam Kirshner from UNSW Business, and Professor Cath Ellis from UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture.

The professors discussed the rise of ChatGPT, particularly in a university setting, as the professors emphasised the importance of teaching students to use AI tools “ethically, morally and legally”.


This conversation comes off the back of concerns around the bot being used to cheat within schools — and potentially replacing a myriad of different roles moving forward.

Mr Kirshner said that, ultimately, ChatGPT is “going to be an amazing productivity no matter what field or what organisation or graduates are working in”.

However, there are also a number of negatives, as Professor Ellis has discovered.

“One of the things that a lot of teachers around the world are discovering is that a lot of the things we ask students to do to demonstrate to us their learning, their knowledge, and their skills and their ability to apply those knowledge and skills, they can now ask a tool to do for them.

“Most of the time, it’ll do a good enough or better job of it. And most of the time, it’ll get it right. That’s the simple fact of it. As teachers, we’re going to find it increasingly difficult to tell the difference between when it’s the tool and when it's the student, without getting lots of false positives and making false accusations of academic misconduct.”

There are also potential dangers with students “outsourcing” their work to an AI program, which Mr Kirshner said goes “beyond the idea of cheating”.

“People used to pay hundreds of dollars per book per term for each course, then, you know, if you think about the example of learning Python, for the last 10 years, if I want to learn Python, I didn’t need to go to UNSW, or another university, to do a computer science degree, if I just wanted this core skill of learning Python, I could go on YouTube, I could use LinkedIn learning; there [are] countless ways of getting really great education on that particular skill,” he explained.

“So now, I guess even with COVID, and moving to Zoom, our lecture attendance is now going from like 75 per cent, or 80 per cent, in week one, down to about 10 per cent by the end of the course, largely because there’s not much additional value in a lecture, you know, beyond what you can get by just watching the recording. So really, this is kind of just like the straw that’s, I think, going to break the camel’s back, in terms of really assessing what we are actually doing as a university and where we want to go. So, it’s really just time to reflect, and it’s time to start experimenting with different methods of education.”

Ms Bennett Moses echoed a similar sentiment — and made a comparison to the evolution of mathematics and calculators.

“When you first start doing maths in primary school, you don’t get a calculator. And it’s all sort of mental arithmetic, learning how to do long division, you know, can still learn that even though they might not use it there, you know, the rest of their lives after that, but it’s an important part of understanding the process. And I think we will continue to see schools teaching kids how to write, even though there’ll be these AI tools that, you know, they can eventually get assistance with,” she added.

“And if you think about that kind of an analogy, I think that’s probably where we’re going to end up that there’ll be skills that you need to know, as children will need to learn how to read and write.”

And as ways of education shift and change, Ms Ellis said that the wider conversation around ChatGPT is an “important indicator about how human skills are going to have to shift”.

“We have to stop and rethink, recalibrate, rethink, what are we doing here? What’s our value add as teachers? And what do we need to make sure our graduates can do in the world of work?” she said.