If ChatGPT had a motto, it might be: “Helping you with your homework… and getting you into hot water”.

Students at the University of South Africa (UNISA), the largest open distance learning institution in Africa, take their exams online. This setup might be convenient, but it also makes it a playground for AI mischief. The business management department was the unlucky site of the latest AI scandal.

Hundreds of students’ exam scripts in the “Strategic Implementation and Control” module were flagged as “disciplinary cases” for allegedly using ChatGPT, the AI tool that’s as infamous as it is helpful. 

Professor Tersia Botha of the business management department told guilty students last week that dishonesty reports were being prepared. “It’s disheartening to assess so many scripts that must be flagged as disciplinary cases,” she said. 

Like all tertiary institutions, Unisa has zero tolerance for dishonesty and plagiarism and uses plagiarism detection software like Turnitin and the Invigilator App to catch would-be cheats.

The Unisa Students’ Group Facebook page is a treasure trove of reactions as students wait to see who will face disciplinary action: “God be with me,” “The waiting is killing me,” and “This module will cost our degree.” 👀

Remember the case last year where a Johannesburg lawyer was caught using ChatGPT for legal research? It didn’t end well. The AI concocted fake citations, leading to a punitive cost order and a lesson in the importance of fact-checking. Magistrate Arvin Chaitram summed it up perfectly: “The efficiency of modern technology still needs to be infused with a dose of good old-fashioned independent reading.”

In the US, a similar scenario played out with lawyers fined for submitting fake cases generated by ChatGPT.

Not everyone is anti-AI, though. Professor Maryna Reyneke from North-West University believes AI should be embraced to promote education. The key is to use it responsibly, with clear guidelines to avoid academic fraud.

So, the next time you’re tempted to let ChatGPT or any other AI tool take the wheel, remember: it might just drive you straight into a disciplinary hearing.