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Academic Integrity

Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) and Academic Integrity

An artifical intelligence gernerated image of a computer with with a thought bubble shaped like a brain with the text ChatGPTGenerative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) tools like ChatGPT have sparked discussion and debate in education since becoming readily accessible to the public in later 2022.

It is essential to understand how to use these tools ethically and responsibly so that they can enhance rather than undermine your own capabilities and agency. This is important both while you are a student, and when you become a professional in your field of work after graduation.

Information about GenAI tools and strategies to support your learning and enhance academic integrity during your studies are outlined below.


What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT (Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer) is a GenAI tool that uses natural language processing techniques to provide novel responses to user-generated prompts. OpenAI released ChatGPT free to the public in November 2022. GenAI tools' functionality comes from the Large Language Models (LLM) they are based on. For example, the version of ChatGPT free to the public currently uses an LLM called GPT-3.5. The more recent GPT-4 LLM forms the foundation of other GenAI tools currently available. Text-generating AI tools like ChatGPT produce a wide variety of written outputs such as essays, reports, literature reviews, poems, song lyrics, scripts, marketing slogans, etc. The recent proliferation of GenAI technology has resulted in thousands of AI tools that function in a similar manner to ChatGPT. These tools are able to generate output in formats such as text, image, audio and video content. ChatGPT and similar tools interact in a conversational way with the user and provide detailed written responses to user prompts. These responses are indistinguishable from human writing and are generated within a matter of seconds. 

What are the cautions?

There are several cautions around the use of ChatGPT and similar GenAI technologies:

Privacy Risks

  • ChatGPT and similar AI tools collect significant amounts of user data and pose a privacy risk.
  • Privacy risks could lead to liability.
  • Based on privacy concerns, ChatGPT is under investigation by Canada’s Privacy Commissioner as announced on April 4. 

Legal Risks

  • Copyright infringement occurs when a person reproduces or “publishes” a copyrighted work without the permission of the copyright owner. Arguably, if someone uses ChatGPT to generate content that is so similar to existing works, they may infringe on existing copyrights.
  • Trademark infringement.
  • Other Intellectual property concerns.

Ethical Considerations

  • May not support student accessibility needs.
  • Generated output perpetuates inaccurate or harmful biases around race, gender, ability, and more, and may generate harmful content, instructions or advice.
  • Social and environmental costs of developing and maintaining AI systems.
  • An open letter (Mar. 30th, 2023) calling on AI labs to pause development of AI tools more powerful than GPT-4 (for 6 months) due to ethical, moral, and humanitarian concerns.

Academic Integrity

  • The academic integrity of an assignment or test may be compromised
  • Loss of required and valued learning may occur when assignment tasks and activities are outsourced to GenAI tools
  • Plagiarism and original content concerns.

Quality of AI-generated Content

  • Plausible-sounding content that may be inaccurate or false.
  • Harmful content, instructions or advice.
  • Content that perpetuates inaccurate or harmful biases around race, gender, ability, and more.
  • Provides inaccurate or false citations. 
  • Incorrect or missing referencing results from its use.
  • ChatGPT LLM GPT-3.5 (currently free) is based on information prior to 2021 (LLM GPT-4 which is used in Microsoft Bing, and Google’s LLM LaMDA, used in Google Bard, provide more recent information).  

Is it ok to use ChatGPT or other GenAI technology when completing assignments?


Depending on the expected learning of your course and the types of required assignments, GenAI may either support and enhance your learning or result in the loss of your learning and lead to an academic integrity breach. Knowing how to use GenAI appropriately as a student will support your learning and maintain academic integrity. Your instructor can tell you if GenAI use is approved in your course and in what ways. The A17 Academic Integrity Policy and Procedures speak to the potential for the use of GenAI to be considered an Academic Integrity Breach.

Situations include:

  • Plagiarism - Using paraphrasing, translation or other artificial intelligence software to modify text and present the modified text as new work
  • Unauthorized Collaboration - Using tools that have not been authorized for use in the course or context such as generative artificial intelligence technology.

The following flowchart provides general guidance on when it may or may not be safe to use a GenAI tool like ChatGPT. This flowchart does not replace the assignment requirements of your course that are related to GenAI use.

GenAI Tools & Course Work

Talk to your instructors about appropriate and inappropriate uses of GenAI tools in your courses.

If inappropriate use of GenAI tools is identified, your instructor will invite you for an Exploratory Meeting. If use of GenAI tools in a way that compromises academic integrity is confirmed, this will be addressed in accordance with the A17 Academic Integrity Policy and Procedures.

There may be varying expectations for when and when not to use GenAI tools depending on the course and program, so always check with the course instructor first.

How can you acknowledge the use of GenAI in your course?

Confirm with your instructor or check your Course Outline before beginning your assignment. Are there limits? Does your assignment require not using any of these tools?  Check with your instructor to ensure you know the expectations about using GenAI in your course. Depending on the course or program, there may be different expectations for GenAI use.

If you are permitted to use GenAI, your instructor or course outline will provide guidance on how to acknowledge use of these tools during the completion of an assignment. Some possible examples include:

  • citing or referencing in the text or list of references
  • inclusion in your methodology
  • an appendix including a full transcript of any prompts and generated responses from GenAI tools
  • A screenshot of the GenAI prompt and responses

The Academic Writing and Citation Guide on ChatGPT and other GenAI provides information on potential methods for acknowledging the use of GenAI. Check with your instructor first about which method is approved for your course if GenAI use is acceptable.


This Q & A was inspired by resources from the University of Toronto and University of British Columbia.