40% Of Students Have Used AI In Their Studies – Survey

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Up to 40% of students who participated in a global survey say they have used generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) in their studies – a practice that appears to be more popular in Kenya than any other of the 15 countries included in the report by the impact, research and advocacy arm of the edtech company Chegg.

Nearly two-thirds – 65% of the 11,816 students who participated in the survey – indicated they would like their curriculum to include training in AI tools that could be relevant to their future careers.

The 2023 Global Student Survey, which aims to discover what students think about challenges in higher education, asked respondents aged 18-21 in Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States questions about mental health, finances, skills and, for the first time, about AI.

“One of the most important findings of our 2023 survey is how widespread the use of Generative AI (or GenAI) tools is among students … [but] there is a wide variation in the number of students using GenAI.”

GenAI use for study purposes is most popular in Kenya (63%), Saudi Arabia (62%) and Spain (62%). At the opposite end of the spectrum, only around one-fifth of US (20%) and UK (19%) students said they had used it to study, according to the report.

Based on the survey, students use GenAI for a number of reasons.

“Gobally, the top reason given by students is that it helps them learn faster (53%). Other reasons include the ability to personalise learning (35%), reducing the cost of extra tutoring (28%), and not always feeling comfortable asking professors for help (23%). [A total of] 13% of students who used GenAI for their studies said they did so because it was assigned by their professor.”

AI policies need adjustment

The Chegg research said the widespread use of GenAI by students also prompts questions about whether and how universities may need to adjust their AI policies.

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of students around the world believe that, given the availability of free GenAI tools, universities and colleges should change the way they assess students.

Among students who hold this view, 51% said there should be better guidance on the acceptable use of GenAI tools in assessments.

The report said that, whether people are thinking about GenAI learning, student welfare and well-being, or preparing graduates for the world of work, one trend is clearly emerging: It is only by being flexible and open to change that today’s students are enabled to thrive.

Despite the benefits of using GenAI, the report said, students throughout the world would still like to see improvements through the involvement of human expertise in generating answers. This is because one of their top concerns in education is receiving incorrect or inaccurate information.

“For universities, careful thinking is needed on how to move forward, especially given that GenAI technologies, in particular, are unlikely to ‘go back in the box’.

“Although students are not of one mind on how higher education should adapt to GenAI, it is clear that many are now using GenAI tools to augment their learning.

“When we asked about the benefits of GenAI, 44% replied that their understanding of complex concepts or subjects has improved, 33% said that their academic confidence has improved, and 32% said their writing skills have improved,” the report said.

“In some countries, these benefits were felt at much higher levels: In Kenya, 46% of students said their writing skills had improved and, in Malaysia, 65% said their understanding of complex concepts or subjects had improved.”

Mental health

Mental health challenges remain a major concern for students and the anxiety students experience is often related to funding difficulties. In this context, the report said two-thirds (66%) of the students would rather their university offered the choice of more online learning if it meant paying lower tuition fees.

In fact, more than two-thirds (67%) of students worldwide say if it were cheaper, they would prefer their university degree to take a shorter time to complete.

The report states that 46% of students globally say they are academically burned out, 54% experience anxiety, and 59% say they are not sleeping enough. In some parts of the world, such as the UK and the US, students reported higher anxiety and burnout levels than the global averages.

“Since 2004, tuition at US universities has increased by between 127% and 158%, depending on the type of university, with the increase being 38% to 56% when adjusted for inflation. At the same time, US student debt has risen from US$500 billion in 2006 to US$1.7 trillion in 2022.

“In the UK, a recent Chegg study of student behaviour found that over one-third (34%) of students cannot afford housing costs, and a quarter (25%) have not been able to afford food. In the UK and the US, the number of students experiencing these difficulties is significantly higher than the global average,” according to the report.

“Against this backdrop, 71% of US students say they are not sleeping enough, 68% have experienced daily feelings of anxiety, and 65% have experienced academic burnout. In the UK, 66% of students have experienced not sleeping enough, 62% have experienced daily feelings of anxiety, and 56% have experienced academic burnout.”

The report showed that, in Africa, South African university students, in particular, are grappling with stress and mental health issues, with nearly half of them (49%) saying they are academically burned out, while 60% say they experience daily feelings of anxiety and 67% say they are not sleeping enough.

2023 University World News

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