Survey Explores How College Students Feel About Using AI To Complete Coursework

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Artificial intelligence tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT language model could make completing college coursework as simple as asking a computer questions and getting answers at the click of a button (to the prospective horror of some professors). In fact, 61 percent of college students say using AI tools will become the new normal, but does that new normal involve students learning or machines learning?

A survey conducted by Best Colleges in March gathered responses from 1,000 students nationwide who were actively enrolled in an associate, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, or professional degree program. The study analyzed students’ use of and views toward artificial-intelligence tools in higher education.

Some 43 percent of college students have used ChatGPT or a similar AI tool, according to the survey, and half of the students who have used the tools say they completed assignments or exams with the help of AI. Among the 216 students who used the tools for school, half of them use AI for some parts of their work but do the majority on their own, 30 percent use AI to complete most of their assignments but make revisions, 17 percent turn in work completed by AI without making edits and 3 percent preferred not to respond.

Educators have already raised concerns about students using ChatGPT to cheat on assignments. Of the students with AI experience, more than half say the tools can generate results that pass as “human.” The tool’s complex ability to mimic human language makes it difficult for professors to detect when students have submitted a machine’s work or their own.

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Of the students surveyed, 57 percent say they do not intend to use or continue using the tools for schoolwork, and 51 percent say the use of those tools is a form of cheating or plagiarism. However, 32 percent of students say they will still use the tools to complete assignments and exams, and only 27 percent of students say the tools should be prohibited in educational settings.

Some colleges and universities have created rules to preserve academic integrity in response to ChatGPT. Nonetheless, 51 percent of students surveyed say their instructors, class syllabi, course materials, or school honor code have not prohibited the use of AI tools. On the other hand, 31 percent say their schools have banned the tools, and only 25 percent say their schools or instructors have explained how to use the tools ethically or responsibly.

In an article featured in The Conversation, Edinburgh Napier University associate professor Sam Illingworth argues educators may have to come up with new, more authentic, ways to test students that cannot be completed using artificial intelligence. These new methodologies would include more problem-solving and real-world applications than traditional assessments.

Even though AI transformed college learning for many students surveyed, 40 percent of individuals surveyed say the use of AI by students defeats the purpose of education, and 63 percent say it can’t replace human intelligence or creativity.

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Emma Richards

Emma Richards is a student at the University of Florida studying public relations. She is the social science communications intern at Sage Publishing.

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Dear Emma, thank you for this interesting article. I was wondering when you mention the survey done “nation wide” to what nation are you referring, is it the USA or the UK? Or another nation? This would be incredibly helpful to know for a research project I am conducting.

Thank you for your attention.

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