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‘Excited, concerned and curious’: student perspectives on learning and working in the era of AI

21 Feb 2023 | Dr Kay Hack (PFHEA) Ahead of February’s Tweetchat, Kay Hack, Lead Consultant Education at Advance HE, considers the potential impact of AI on the student experience and students’ future career choices.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) will have a profound impact on the competencies graduates will need to survive and thrive in the changing world of professional work. We recently discussed the implications of Large Language Models like ChatGPT for institutions but in this blog we consider the potential impact of AI on the student experience and students’ future career choices.  

Chatbots and the student experience 

Many educational institutions are recognising the potential of chatbots to enhance the overall student experience. They have been successfully used to support recruitment and retention, triage pastoral care and student support, and help students navigate professional services and libraries (JISC,2023).  

Chatbots offer 24/7 access to support and the opportunity for students to ask questions they might otherwise feel uncomfortable asking in person. As the underlying learning models continue to improve and chatbots become more integrated with other data systems, they will be able to provide increasingly sophisticated and personalised responses, further enhancing the student experience.  

Assessment and academic integrity 

Assessment is central to the student experience and has the greatest impact on what and how students learn. The majority of students want fair and transparent, authentic assessment tasks that allow them to showcase what they have learnt and receive appropriate recognition. Students are quickly realising the power of text generation tools such as ChatGPT to help complete assignments; however, they have also noted the limitations. The inability to provide accurate citations, use technical terms appropriately, or develop evidence-based arguments can result in a superficial overview of a topic, which may compromise the overall quality of the assignment. 

ChatGPT is not foolproof. It makes mistakes and, whilst its responses are impressive, they're not great…it should be used in the classroom, for example, have students mark an AI response and improve on it.”

Liam Brady, Post-graduate student, University of Aberdeen 

Agreeing the acceptable use of AI in assessment is not going to be straightforward. Figure 1 below illustrates some potential ways students could use ChatGPT in their coursework.  

Which of these would you consider academic misconduct, which are enhancing learning and developing skills for the future workplace, and which would you use to improve your own efficiency at work? 

Figure 1: Shades of grey: academic dishonesty or developing skills for the future workplace?

Figure 1: Shades of grey: academic dishonesty or developing skills for the future workplace? 

Although there is consensus that submitting the direct output from ChatGPT represents academic dishonesty, the challenge of detecting such behavior remains a concern. Several detection tools developed specifically to identify text generated by ChatGPT claim to have a high probability of accurately detecting AI-generated content. But even at the reported accuracy of 98%, there is still a risk of falsely accusing 2 in every 100 students of academic dishonesty. 

As applications like Bing and the Microsoft Office suite incorporate AI technologies it has become imperative to review policies and practices, as well as training for both staff and students. Universities will need to provide guidance for staff and students on how we can use AI to support learning and teaching and identify how these technologies can be employed in a responsible and transparent manner. 

Universities should work with students to co-produce assessments which are authentic, and which embed technologies such as LLMs (ChatGPT) and other AI in a meaningful and critical way. It is easy to automatically assume students will cheat using AI, but it is an opportunity to embed a deeper digital element into pedagogy.”

Jack Medlin, Education Office, Student Union, University of Keele

Excited, curious or concerned: AI and the value of higher education 

The following three contributions illustrate the concerns and curiosity of future and current students. 

My passion is computing, but I don't really feel accomplished and I worry that computer jobs like software development, data analyst and InfoSec will be replaced by AI:
especially seeing things like OpenAI's ChatGPT and how efficient it will get.”

University applicant 

I have an open book exam in January, which I know I will struggle to pass. I have run typical questions through ChatGPT, and I know that would give me a good enough answer to pass - but what would be the point. I could get through and struggle on until the end of my degree but what then? ChatGPT and other AI tools will be on the market doing a better job than I could, so what am I being trained for?”

Current undergraduate computer science student 

I think AI use will become the norm pretty soon and employers will expect us to be able to use it in a critical way. If we can do something much more efficiently, why wouldn't we?”

Liam Brady, Post-graduate student, University of Aberdeen

Artificial Intelligence is changing the way we work and learn. Increasingly sophisticated natural language processing (NLP) tools are competently completing academic and professional tasks. It is important for students to develop the skills they need to work alongside AI in order to take advantage of the opportunities it presents while understanding its limitations and mitigating potential risks.  

Join @AdvanceHE_chat and @LTHEchat at 20:00 GMT on Wednesday 22 February using the hashtag #LTHEchat to discuss the implications of AI for learning, teaching and assessment and explore questions suggested by students.  

We feel it is important for voices to be heard to stimulate debate and share good practice. Blogs on our website are the views of the author and don’t necessarily represent those of Advance HE.

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