India’s leading business and tech schools explore coexistence with artificial intelligence


The potential of ChatGPT and its cousins is pushing India’s leading business and tech schools to draw up plans to deal with the disruption.

While some institutes are jittery about students using artificial intelligence-driven language programs to put together assignments and projects, most look at it as the next innovation frontier that is impossible to ignore, top officials told ET. Institutes are also looking to train teachers to stay ahead of the curve.

The use of artificial intelligence in academic settings is increasing, and with it, the potential for students to plagiarize work that has been generated by AI. Over the past months, ChatGPT managed to clear almost all exams, including an MBA module, it was administered.

Leading institutes say the option of ignoring the potential or challenge of AI does not exist.

Prof V Ramgopal Rao, group vice-chancellor for BITS Pilani and former director of IIT Delhi, said: “Everyone is conscious of the potential of ChatGPT—keeping it aside and banning it is not a solution. The baseline has shifted in every profession—if you are not using it, you will be at a loss”.

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A sentiment that is shared by institutes globally.

“This technology is not going away so the only option is to figure out how you work with it. The technology is an incredible aid, but we will also educate students on its limitations, and how these tools are not intended to be used as a substitute for their own work,” said Dr Rhonda Lenton, president & vice chancellor of York University, Canada, adding, “We have started these conversations at the university.”

Academics such as Prof Debashis Chatterjee, director, IIM Kozhikode, point out that the blitzkrieg of AI tools is accelerating, bringing with it a set of radical challenges.

“It’s indeed tempting for students to innovate and use the technology to quickly generate ideas, outline a draft, and execute assignments with high-quality content that are well-argued and well-written. The bottomline that everyone in academics will agree upon is that it has to be treated as academic plagiarism… Finding a middle ground for the same upholding ethics, authenticity and the human touch is the academic re-work that we all must endeavour for.”

IIM Sambalpur is planning to roll out pedagogical changes. Its director Prof Mahadeo Jaiswal said, “We will need to make some pedagogical changes, including the way we approach evaluations—we will have to have questions which test their thinking ability and their understanding. Assignments will need to be given that spur students to critically think—even with the use of ChatGPT—and they can be evaluated based on originality of work, presentation and analytical skills as well”.

At Bhavan’s SPJIMR, faculty members have been adapting their assignments in ways that make ChatGPT more of a helper tool rather than the primary source for academic work. For instance, a student might be asked to analyse market expansion strategies from two companies’ annual reports, using specific citations. The student would then be asked to evaluate the pros and cons of those strategies, using critical reasoning skills.

“While it’s possible that generative AI could eventually automate this type of assignment, as faculty members, we need to stay ahead of the curve and find ways to ensure that students continue to develop their critical thinking and analytical skills,” said Dr Varun Nagaraj, dean, Bhavan’s SPJIMR.

For now, institutes are embracing AI in every possible way. “There are no formal steps that have been taken but we are encouraging the use of ChatGPT. We feel the technology will improve the productivity of students,” said Jaiswal.

BITS’ Rao advocates training. “I feel that training is required: for eg, students need to be trained on the use of ChatGPT, and how to verify the data that is coming forward. Training should also happen for the teachers; they need to be aware of what students can do. ChatGPT should be taught formally and how to use it effectively.”

Experts say that new benchmarks need to be established and one needs to be aware of its potential as well as its limitations.

In an interaction, Sanjay Sarma, CEO and president, Asia School of Business, Kuala Lumpur, told ET: “You have to figure out how you can master GPT—or any other AI program—and use it as a tool rather than run from it.” His advice is to figure out how to use it to your advantage.

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