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Majority of students are using GenAI study shows

53% of students have used generative AI to help them with assignments but only 5% cheat putting AI-generated text into assessments without editing it personally, according to a study by UK’s Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI). Universities are generally considered reliable at identifying work produced by GenAI. Students want not just clear policies but also support with using generative AI to help them with their studies, the study shows.

One session at the recent World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos had the title ‘Education Meets AI’. Panellists identified two key challenges for educators in the age of AI, the forum reports: 

  • Teachers need training in AI 
  • Education should embrace the technology rather than become laggards, because students are going to get that technology with or without the school system.
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Key finding from the HEPI study:

  • 53% of students (53%) have used generative AI to help them prepare assessments.The most common use is as an ‘AI private tutor’ (36%), helping to explain concepts.
  • 13% use generative AI to generate text for assessments,but they typically edit the content before submitting it. Only 5% of students put AI-generated text into assessments without editing it personally – which is expected to be prohibited by most institutions.
  • 35% who have used generative AI do not know how often it produces made-up facts, statistics or citations (‘hallucinations’).
  • A ‘digital divide’ in AI use may be emerging, with male students, students from the most privileged backgrounds and students of Asian ethnicity much more likely to have used generative AI than other students.
  • 66% consider it acceptable to use generative AI for explaining concepts, suggesting research ideas (54%) and summarising articles (53%), but only 3% think it is acceptable to use AI text in assessments without editing.
  • 63% think their institution has a ‘clear’ policy on AI use, with only 12% thinking it is not clear. 65% think their institution could spot work produced by AI.
  • 73% expect to use AI after they finish their studies. They most commonly expect to use it for translating text (38%), enhancing written content (37%) and summarising text (33%). Only 19% expect to use it for generating text.
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Among the study’s recommendations:

  1. Institutions should develop clear policies on what AI use is acceptable and what is unacceptable.
  2. Where AI has benefits, institutions should teach students how to use it effectively and how to check whether the content it produces is of high quality.
  3. To prevent the ‘digital divide’ from growing, institutions should provide AI tools for those who cannot afford them to aid learning.

Josh Freeman, Policy Manager at HEPI and author of the report, warns that action is urgently needed to stop a new ‘digital divide’ from growing:

“AI tools are still new and often unknown. For every student who uses generative AI every day, there is another who has never opened ChatGPT or Google Bard, which gives some students a huge advantage.”

“The divide will only grow larger as generative AI tools become more powerful. Rather than merely adopting a punitive approach, institutions should educate students in the effective use of generative AI – and be prepared to provide AI tools where they can aid learning.”

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