The topic of using artificial intelligence in academic pursuits is a popular one, with educators and schools alike debating over its authenticity, effectiveness and ethics. We know that AI has its pros and cons, but have we explored what students themselves think about these supertools?
In this piece, we’ve compiled some reactions from all levels of study, to gauge what AI brings to the table for the student community. We look at questions on the morality of AI, to its efficiencies and costs, and also how the student population have had to adapt quickly to the rapid changes in technology.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the surveys done across the world. Firstly, online education service Best Colleges ran a survey in March from 1,000 students in the US covering the broad topics of AI use. These survey participants were from associate, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, or professional degree programmes.
Of the sample, 43% confirmed that they used AI to complete assignments or do exams.
What was interesting is that 57% of these students pointed out that they didn’t intend to use or continue using AI for schoolwork, and more than half of them believe that this was a form of cheating or plagiarism.
Around 40% of students from this sample noted that the use of AI or similar types of technology defeats the purpose of education and more than 60% says technology cannot replace human intelligence or creativity.
Another survey by European study platform Studocu found that many students in the UK don’t know if their peers have used AI, while 66% of 700 students surveyed admitted they don’t bother using the technology for their studies. But most of these students believe that AI positively impacts coursework, at 65%.
However, there are the opportunists. Of the respondents, 7.6% indicated to have used the tool to let it do their homework for them and 6.2% asked the tool to completely write an essay for them. A very small group was not afraid to take a risk and used an AI tool during their exam (5.3%).
In this same sample, the participants shared feedback about the type of help being sought with AI. One of them is to get an explanation on a topic they didn’t fully understand. Other intentions are to find inspiration or spark ideas to write an essay, rather than getting tools like ChatGPT to complete the entire assessment. Students also indicate to have used the tool for fact checking assignments (28%) and optimising texts (25%).
In a Swedish based survey, covering nearly 6,000 university students, it found that over a third of students regularly use AI tools like ChatGPT in their education, attributing improvements in academic writing and language skills to these tools.
Many students perceive chatbots as a mentor or teacher that they can ask questions or get help from, for example, with explanations of concepts and summaries of ideas. The dominant attitude is that chatbots should be used as an aid, not replace students’ own critical thinking.
But more than 60% of them consider the use of chatbots like ChatGPT during examinations as cheating, indicating ethical concerns.This sample students are against a ban on AI in educational contexts, with many highlighting the importance of these tools in aiding students with disabilities.
A key takeaway from this European survey is that almost two out of three respondents believe that human teachers might someday be replaced by AI.
And 39% are worried that AI will not be able to recognise unique talents and inspire students who don’t fit the pattern.
Underestimating student opinion
What is interesting from these types of surveys is that students’ attitudes towards technology must not be simplified. The assumption that all or most students cheat in their coursework is naive and removes the understanding of how studying today has its complexities to consider.
Across some of this feedback from students, is that they note that empathy and good listening skills have been voted as some of the most important qualities of a great teacher. It may be difficult to substitute them with a piece of software.
Accessibility to tools or data, and the ability to master such tools must be taken into consideration. The attitudes or assumption that students are digital natives may incorrectly paint a picture that students are eager or adept users of any type of technology.
Cheating is not a new problem: schools have survived calculators, Google, Wikipedia, essays-for-pay websites, and more. For now, teachers have been thrown into a radical new experiment. Perhaps alongside students they can harness technology to improve teaching, content delivery and learning outcomes. We can’t define this as the end of education, but rather a new beginning.