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UIC Launches New Grammarly Initiative

UIC’s Learning Technology Solutions (LTS) has launched a new pilot program, giving every UIC student access to premium Grammarly features at no cost.

“Grammarly can be useful for academic papers when being clear and concise is paramount. However…it cannot read tone, and it is prone to flagging something that works. Grammarly should be used sparingly, and the writer should [use their] instinct when they can.”

Josh Nava, student
college students sitting around grammarly sign

Chicago, IL—UIC students may have suddenly noticed the new banners on Blackboard or their UIC login, promoting “Grammarly for Education.” This is because, on March 1, 2024, UIC launched its new Grammarly pilot program, allowing any UIC student to access Grammarly’s advanced features. But what is Grammarly, and how can this new initiative benefit students?

Grammarly is a writing assistance extension used to help improve writing, ranging from real-time spell check to suggesting stylistic improvements. The extension is free, which provides users limited access to its features. Before the launch, if students wanted to access Grammarly’s advanced features, they would have to upgrade to Grammarly Premium, which starts at $12/month.

“I’ve used Grammarly before, and it’s helped a bit,” one UIC student commented. “However I’ve only used the free version…I think it will be helpful if it allows more access to tools.”

And she isn’t the only one. Over 2,200 UIC students were estimated to utilize Grammarly prior to the launch, excluding faculty, staff, and students who use their non-UIC email. Collectively, students have spent $77,000 annually on Grammarly’s services.

This suggests a strong demand from students for advanced writing support tools, and UIC’s new Grammarly initiative could help address it.

The initiative could be especially beneficial for students who aren’t confident in their English or writing skills. For UIC students, ENGL 160 and ENGL 161 are mandatory courses, which heavily focus on building academic writing skills. On top of that, many students, like those majoring in political science or English, often take writing-intensive classes that require essays and research papers.

By providing free access to Grammarly for Education, UIC allows students to utilize Grammarly’s premium features without it being a financial burden.

The extension can help better identify and correct grammatical errors for students. Additionally, its advanced features can help improve sentence structure and check for plagiarism.

Bryan Libbin, Associate CIO for Academic Technology and Learning Innovation, discusses the program in depth in an interview with UIC’s Learning Technology Solutions (LTS).

“Technology, such as Grammarly, [serve] as a facilitator for improvement without overshadowing the need for students to actively participate in the learning and writing process,” Libbin tells LTS. “This nuanced approach reflects a commitment to integrating technology seamlessly into the academic landscape while fostering a culture of independent and critical thinking among students. This also provides us with the chance to instruct our students in the correct utilization of AI and the creation of prompts, a crucial skill for the contemporary workforce.”

Cheryl McKearin, the manager of UIC’s Learning Technology Solutions and who worked on the pilot program, provides further details.

“UIC has acquired Grammarly for Education, tailored to the needs of higher education institutions, which differs from Grammarly Premium, which is a limited version of what our education license provides,” she says. “This decision aligns with our dedication to offering equitable technology resources across the campus.”

people pointing at computer screen

Some features of Grammarly for Education include:

  • Using AI to provide personalized feedback and suggestions tailored to the student’s writing style
  • Real-time grammar error detection and correction
  • Auto-citations
  • Plagiarism checker to ensure academic integrity
  • Integration with Microsoft Word and Google Docs

She also notes that Grammarly Editor is currently disabled for UIC students at the request of UIC’s legal team and hospital.

The program won’t be permanent, however. As the program is still in its early stages, student and faculty feedback will be important in determining its usefulness.

“Pilot programs serve as short-term evaluations of a product’s long-term potential. Our current pilot of Grammarly aims to determine its value and utility for the UIC community,” McKearin says.

Students will be emailed surveys distributed by LTS to gauge their opinions on Grammarly. McKearin emphasizes that student’s survey responses will significantly impact whether Grammarly will be adopted permanently, stating they were “dedicated to ensuring that these decisions reflect the campus community’s needs rather than being solely IT-driven.”

Should UIC determine Grammarly does not serve students’ and faculty’s needs, the program will conclude in February 2025.

picture of Sharon Liu

Some students, like English major Josh Nava, have strong opinions on Grammarly.

“Grammarly feels like it kills style,” says Nava. “It can be useful for academic papers when being clear and concise is paramount. However, for creative writing it’s too limiting. It cannot read tone and it is prone to flagging something that works.”

Others, such as economics major Marv Quinones, are optimistic–albeit with caution.

“As someone who has never utilized Grammarly, I’ve always relied on my own technical skills and feedback from peers to improve my writing. Starting Grammarly, I am open to the idea of AI helping my writing skills,” Quinones says, but also adds that he’s cautious about being heavily reliant on AI. “It is not a replacement for experience gained from different writing styles.”

Nava echoes the same hesitancy, stating, “Grammarly should be used sparingly and the writer should go off instinct when they can.”

Professors share the same optimistic but cautious sentiment with Quinones, acknowledging it’s potential usefulness to students while also expressing concern with academic integrity.

“I heard from our grad students that they use [Grammarly], especially someone who is not fluent in English or is not as comfortable writing in English,” Dr. Petia Kostadinova, a political science professor, comments, though she also mentioned she had not used Grammarly herself.

Effective communication is essential not just in the academic world but also in the competitive professional world. UIC Grammarly pilot program could provide UIC students with access to an advanced writing tool for not just their essays but for resumes, cover letters, and emails.

If students want to claim free access to Grammarly for Education, they should consult here for further instructions. Students should also respond to LTS’s Grammarly feedback survey, which will also be emailed towards the end of each semester.