AI is now helping students write millions of K12 and college papers

Over 22 million papers scanned (approximately 11%) contained at least 20% AI writing.

How much writing is AI doing for students in K12 and college? While it may be impossible to nail down an exact number, new data released this week from one of the leading AI detector tools shows few students are using artificial intelligence to write entire papers—but many of them are using the rapidly advancing technology.

Turnitin, a widely used plagiarism checker, released its AI detection tool a year ago and has since scanned more than 200 million papers for evidence of artificial intelligence, the company says. Its data, which runs through late March, shows steady student use of AI:

  • Over 22 million papers (approximately 11%) had at least 20% AI writing present
  • Over six million papers (approximately 3%) had at least 80% AI writing present

“We’re at an important juncture in education where technologies are transforming learning and the need for academic integrity is more critical than ever,” says Annie Chechitelli, chief product officer at Turnitin.

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She added that detection tools aren’t the sole solution to regulating student use of AI. Professors should have ongoing discussions with students about using the technology appropriately. In a previous University Business article, Chechitelli discussed institutions must encourage their students to be more transparent in their use, which in turn will push teachers to create more rigorous assignments.

“There is writing that goes to show you know how to write, and then there’s writing that’s used as the vehicle to prove you’ve thought through your stance on something,” she says. “The idea of having thoughts defending thoughts in one’s own original thinking has to be preserved.”

While institutions are slowly opening up and embracing students’ use of AI tools, it’s being done so far with little administrative guidance. An analysis from the Center on Reinventing Public Education think tank at Arizona State University contends that the focus is shifting from how AI is being used to cheat to how it can improve learning. Yet, the guidance school leaders have received as they attempt to adopt AI has been “ambiguous and underdeveloped.”

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is the managing editor of University Business and a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for University Business, he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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