Is Technology Reducing the Integrity of University Assignments?

The game changer for many university students is having a whole arsenal of information at their fingertips. Technological advances have given students the upper hand in getting a high grade and delivering quality work in a shorter amount of time. Let us explore what options there are and inescapable consequences of them.  

One of the top known apps of today is Wolfram Alpha, created by Wolfram Research in 2009. Using algorithms to produce an answer to a specific question. It could calculate how far the moon is at this very second or what tools a medical student should use for a 4 year old child, weighing so and so. The possibilities are endless and situation specific. You could also enter a complex mathematical problem and it will generate a step-by-step to achieving the answer. Essentially, helping students at all stages of education with their mathematics homework. While the creator had intended for the app to help individuals learn, it has proven to help students cheat.  

Apps are not the only disturbance to education and assignments. Wikipedia has also become a holy grail to students all over the world. The one fault it possesses is that it can be edited by anyone and therefore, might not have reliable sources. Although, academics at Times Higher Education begs to differ. In a bid to create a credible platform similar to the existing Wikipedia but based off research papers and books, the aforementioned academics questioned its necessity.

According to them, Wikipedia has become “a reliable source of basic scientific information”. A professor at Monash University, Neil Selwyn, go on to say that “for all its faults, Wikipedia is one of the few big platforms on the internet that is a genuine digital commons”.

Regardless of its authenticity and credibility, Wikipedia is even used in robotics. By downloading the information available on the website onto artificially intelligent agents, it operates as a sort of common sense. This will help the agents understand not to “spend thousands of hours trying to eat the table” and other such odd behavior as one would have if not brought up in human civilization. Aside from giving robots rationality, there is an ongoing discussion regarding whether it is at all feasible to actually teach with Wikipedia.

Over at Open Source, they claim that by incorporating the digital platform for information sharing, instructors will be able to provide students with the means to be media literate instead of just tech savvy. This means that many youths of today might be naturals at working new apps or technology, but they might lack the ability to separate what is authentic with what is not. Hence, by teaching with Wikipedia, students would learn critical thinking skills and it also puts them into a position whereby they become producers of knowledge instead of merely passive. It would be a useful skill to be able to weed out misinformation and unreliable sources.

Apps and technology are not the only things the internet has to offer. A simple search would pull up hundreds if not thousands of assistance in essay-writing. This ranges from online writing services to software that detects – and helps students avoid – plagiarism.

However, when properly applied, software such as Wolfram has potential to be useful in the way a lighter might be. Many people have lost the ability that sets humans above animals, but it has given way to many more inventions which has improved the quality of life and allowed refocusing on other pressing matters.

Much like the recently introduced app: Scrivener. Originally meant for desktop use, it is a word processor for writers. From pen on paper to the typewriter and now word processors that are able to assist in formatting, punctuation, idea boards and other useful features that assist in realizing an idea into a well-formed essay or prose. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern was drafted on Scrivener.

Technology has always been hailed as convenience. Helping with menial tasks, and essentially, leaving individuals with more time to do something else. But at the end of the day, we have to recognize the fact that being in such a technologically advanced era, our successive generations will be curators of information instead of retainers of knowledge. This is due to how accessible information is; at the click of a button or the tap of a finger, whatever they seek will be on a screen in moments.

There is no stopping what has been put into motion, much like evolution. The only viable option is to evolve alongside. Instead of trying to retain what is traditional and as conservative as writing essays or doing exercises, we should relook into education. Critical thinking and practical skills are more important than a grade or papers from a prestigious university in a world where essays could be purchased online and a mathematics solution could be generated.

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