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Exploring Student Viewpoints on Generative AI in Education

by Om Gor, College of Engineering

Whether professors condoned the use of Generative AI in their courses, students have explored the use of it on their coursework or exams since the release of Chat GPT.

Om Gor

In the ever-evolving world of education, technology continues to transform the way students learn and engage with their coursework. Within the past few months, generative AIs, such as ChatGPT, Bing Chat, and Quillbot, have risen in popularity, especially among students. Many of these generative AI tools are very simple to use and can provide students with instant answers to questions that would have taken minutes of their time. This has led numerous professors to question whether the utilization of generative AI by students is ethical and whether its integration into education should be allowed.

Whether professors condoned the use of Generative AI in their courses, students have explored the use of it on their coursework or exams since the release of Chat GPT. Four months after the release of Chat GPT, research conducted on 1,000 current college students revealed that 43% of students have used Chat GPT or a similar AI tool. Among the students that used an AI tool, half of them used it to complete assignments or exams. The other students used AI for their projects or just out of curiosity. The most popular subjects amongst college students to utilize AI tools were English, Science, and Math. Overall, many college students who have used Chat GPT seem to have positive experiences with the tool as 78% would recommend it to another student. However, numerous students do not intend to use Chat GPT on assignments or exams in the future. 57% of college students don’t intend to use it as many students have concerns about the ethicality of using tools like AI. Slightly over half of the college students believe AI to be considered cheating or plagiarism, while 20% disagree. Over 60% of university students have expressed that their instructors have not provided clear guidance on how to use AI ethically. Many universities have not provided clear guidelines on Generative AI for students to follow, making it unclear whether it is ethical to use it in courses.

As a student, I believe the ethicality of Generative AI depends on the student and the way they use the tool. An ethical way one can use Chat GPT is to ask questions about assigned readings to quiz oneself. However, using Chat GPT to answer assignment questions and submit them is unethical. Around 60% of students indicated that their instructors or college have not provided a clear guideline on using Generative AI responsibly. If professors outline their expectations on AI in their syllabi, it can help students understand the extent they could use AI, as some courses may require stricter guidelines than others.

The question on the minds of countless individuals is: Will the rise of Generative AI have a positive or negative impact on education? While AI could potentially be used for cheating on assignments and exams, the advancement of AI also provides more opportunities to positively impact education, such as my own. In the past, as the internet became more accessible, people questioned the impact it might have on education. Some students used the internet to cheat, while others used it as a tool to supplement their learning. The integration of the Internet into education provided many new opportunities and benefits, such as the search engine, learning management systems (LMS), and online communication. Similarly, I believe that Generative AI will have a positive impact on education and make my education more valuable. Already, 61% of university students believe that AI will be a normal tool to use. However, Generative AI will only have a positive impact on your education if you use it ethically.

These are some of the ways I recommend students integrate Generative AI into their education to accelerate their learning.

  1. Creating a Study Schedule: When preparing for an exam, you can use Generative AI to create a study schedule to organize and manage your time. Provide Chat GPT with the days you want to study, the time until your exam, the study duration per day, and any specific topics you want to cover. Once it generates your study plan, you can follow up with prompts to modify the schedule to fit your liking.
  2. Summarizing Articles and Reading Assignments: During busy periods or when reviewing course material, summarizing articles and reading assignments can be helpful. Chat GPT can help you create a summary that can help you refresh your memory or get familiar with the topic. To create a summary, provide Chat GPT with an article/reading and ask it to summarize the content in 300 words or provide a summary of the content. You can always prompt it to create a larger summary or provide more details about the reading.
  3. Learning through Questions and Prompts: Like in class, the best way many students learn is when they get to the answer themselves instead of being answered. However, it is difficult to try this approach yourself without the help of another knowledgeable individual. Someone has to continue asking targeted questions to help you reach the answer. Chat GPT can simulate this process by asking you targeted questions related to your field of study. Inform Chat GPT that it is an expert in the field you are reviewing and that you want to study certain topics. Request it to ask you questions based on those topics, and respond using the Socratic questioning method to help you arrive at the answer without it telling you the answer.
  4. Finding Alternative Methods to Solve Complex Problems: Something that many engineering students come to realize is that there is not one way to solve a problem. Learning different methods is valuable to engineering students as it teaches them to be creative, to find the most efficient approach, and to understand the problem. Chat GPT can solve basic physics and math problems as well as explain step-by-step how to reach the solution. For alternative ways of solving the problem, you can prompt it to use lesser-known shortcuts that apply in all cases of the problem.
  5. Preparing for the Workplace: As you transition to the workplace, it is important to have professional emails and to be prepared for job interviews. Both emails and job interviews are important as they provide the first impression. You can prompt Chat GPT to write an email and describe the purpose of the email. If you’re writing the email yourself, you can request Chat GPT to review it for grammatical errors and refine its tone to a more formal style. When preparing for job interviews you can prompt Chat GPT to give you possible interview questions based on the job position you applied for. Prompting may be required to make the questions more specific to your field.