This blog post is a written version of my opening remarks for UC San Diego’s Virtual Symposium on “The Threat & Opportunities of Artificial Intelligence and Contract Cheating: Charting a Teaching & Learning Path Forward”. Since this is a post, in part, about GenAI, I decided to try an experiment. I pasted my PPT notes into ChatGPT4 and asked it to generate this blog post for me. The content is mine, but ChatGPT4 gave it a title, put it into sections with headers and connected some of the dots normal in a blog post but not necessarily in PPT notes. I edited it and updated it with some new thoughts and adjusted some things for clarity. Did it save me any time using ChatGPT4? I don't think so. But, I do think it took on the drudgery work of formatting, which freed up my time to think. And this is a good thing, I believe.


The global higher education system plays a crucial role in society, promising to develop and certify the next generation of ethical citizens and professionals. Higher education institutions are responsible for producing all types of professionals who contribute to the economic growth in democratic societies. To fulfill this responsibility, institutions must ensure the integrity and value of their certifications. In recent years, the rise of contract cheating and the advent of AI-driven tools like ChatGPT (GenAI) have presented challenges to the traditional model of education. This blog post explores the opportunities and challenges that these developments bring to higher education and the need to rethink our approach to teaching, learning, and assessment.

The Social Contract and the Threat of Contract Cheating and AI

To raise the value of higher education certifications hold in today's society, colleges and universities must ensure that there is integrity throughout the process that leads to those certifications. For example, instructors are responsible for designing fair and honest (and valid) assessments. Students must honestly and fairly demonstrate their learning through these assessments. And, instructors must fairly and honestly evaluate student learning. However, the growing contract cheating industry and the emergence of GenAI threaten the integrity of this process.

The contract cheating industry - where humans complete academic work for our students - emerged to meet the demand from students looking to offload their academic work. Now, with GenAI, students can more quickly, cheaply, and easily outsource their learning and assessment completion to machines. This development raises questions about the value of certifications – are we certifying a student’s knowledge and abilities, their knowledge and abilities developed and executed in conjunction with GenAI, or the abilities of GenAI itself?

The Opportunity: Rethinking Higher Education

In 2008, I argued in “Academic Integrity in the 21st Century: A Teaching & Learning Imperative” that we must stop asking “how do we stop students from cheating” and start asking “how do we ensure students are learning?”. I argued this because it seemed that we were still trying to treat cheating and learning as if it was the 20th century and the internet did not yet exist.

The need to shift our focus from cheating to learning and from detecting to assessing is more imperative now because of the advent of GenAI. And, as GenAI becomes increasingly integrated into the tools we use daily (e.g., Microsoft 365; Google Workplace), we must acknowledge that we won’t be able to prevent its use and that, instead, we must help develop in our students the AI literacy and human skills that will serve them and our societies well. An educated citizenry will need to be able to effectively and ethically use GenAI for their work and to advance progress. A functioning democracy will need citizens who are able to discern information from mis- and dis-information.

However, in order to maintain the integrity of our certifications, we must also begin to ask questions about the boundaries between acceptable “cognitive offloading” and cheating. Individual instructors, programs, departments and institutions need to wrestle with these questions because the answers may depend on various factors, such as the course learning objectives, the program’s expected outcomes, the context (what is being assessed and why), and whether offloading undermines learning or frees up cognitive resources for higher-order tasks. This will not be a summer task that we can tackle in front of the new academic year. This is a much larger, wicked, problem. 

Addressing the Wicked Problem

The challenges posed to the educational system by GenAI and the contract cheating industry constitute a "wicked problem", that is, a problem which is difficult to define and solve. When Holtel (2016) challenged industries to tackle the wicked problem that artificial intelligence posed to them, he argued that "it cannot be resolved by tested methodologies, given procedures and best practices" but requires "a more sophisticated approach". This means that in higher education, we should ask faculty to learn about GenAI and how to adapt their teaching and assessments in light of it, but we should not leave it on their shoulders alone. All stakeholders need to be involved because, as Holtel argued, "the impact of artificial intelligence is far-reaching". Also, colleges and universities must question our "value systems" and experiment with new approaches to teaching, learning, and assessment. I suggest that higher education institutions start this process by asking and answering some Wicked Questions, such as:

  1. What is knowledge, and what does "original work" look like?
  2. What does "do your own work" mean in the age of AI and outsourcing?
  3. Is [fill in the blank] something we should be teaching or assessing?
    1. Writing
    2. Coding
    3. Languages
    4. etc
  1. How might we assess process over product?
  2. How should we assess learning, and when should students learn with or without AI?
  3. Should the traditional "certificate by credit hour" model be replaced with a competency-based model? 
  4. What is the point of time-limited tests and time-limited academic terms?
  5. How do we ensure the integrity and quality of our degrees?
  6. What are the new roles of instructors, tutors, librarians, and other academic support staff?
  7. Why do we do what we do now and should we do it differently?


The rise of GenAI and the contract cheating industry present both challenges and opportunities for higher education. It is essential for educators and administrators to rethink our approach to teaching, learning, and assessment and to engage in a systemic overhaul to ensure the integrity and value of a higher education certification. By asking the right wicked questions and embracing change, we can navigate the era of outsourcing and redefine higher education for the 21st century.