Students’ Perspectives on Using AI

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Students are using artificial intelligence and other tools to assist them in their academic careers. Three students share their viewpoints on the tools they use and how using these tools helps them in their coursework and prepares them for the professional world.

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Sarah J. Buszka
PhD Student
Cornell University

Jeremy Cortez
2023 Graduate
University of California, San Bernadino

Isabella Meltzer
Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Arts Student
University of Sydney

Speaker 1: If there's an upcoming lecture, maybe I haven't done the readings for, I can ask Chat GPT to summarize the topic and provide me with some background so I can go into the lecture with something to go off and still contribute to class discussion, take notes and understand what's happening. It helps me a lot in editing my own work, so using it as a grammar tool or feeding it a sentence that I've written and I want to make it more concise or I want to make it more scholarly, or academic sounding that's really useful. It helps me with sentence structure and phrasing clarity of expression just to elevate my written expression. I know that at our university we have a lot of international students for whom English is not their first language and this is very useful, and not having to buy a Grammarly subscription. This one tool does perform so many different purposes, and it's easy to just put in a paragraph you've written that could make more sense or doesn't fit your exact word count and you need to cut it down.

Speaker 2: They use probably three tools the most right now in grad school. Although, of course, I'm very nascent in my program, but I use Chat GPT heavily. I use a tool called Zotero, and then I also use a tool called Speechify. And Chat GPT, I think a lot of us know what that is, but Zotero is a way that I can organize and annotate my research automatically so I can have a place where I house all of the research that I find and organize it, and then when I'm writing papers, I can use this tool to automatically generate citations and a full bibliography based on whatever format or anything that I want. And then finally, I use Speechify. That tool helps basically turns any article, any email, any written communication into something you can listen to. So that has been really helpful for me just in regards to time saving because we have hundreds of pages of articles and things to read.

Speaker 3: And so one of the most interesting tools I found were the GitHub Copilot, which was a tool that allowed you to basically have a stack overflow assistance. Basically whenever you're doing stuff, you could look over different code snippets you have and give you recommendations or even type it out based on short prompts. And the most helpful ones I found were the GitHub Copilot and different tools related to text or voice processing when I was trying to create videos for class.

Speaker 1: I think we're excited that there's this tool that makes learning a lot easier and just fast tracks a lot of the tedious processes we had as students, and especially towards the end of our degrees and finding jobs.

Speaker 2: At least for me in my experience in grad school, I don't think I would be able to do this program and be successful in it without the help of some of these tools. It really just saves so much time. I have a family, I have a husband, I have a brand new puppy. I mean, I have things that I want to do instead of spending an hour writing a bibliography that a tool can just generate for me, and I think that's what we should really focus on.

Speaker 1: I think students are so adaptable, amenable. Our minds are still able to be shaped so quickly and we adapted very, very quickly. At first, it was a very experimental phase, I think end of last year, beginning of this year, but now seems that everyone seems to have just taken it in their stride. It's a part of our daily lives. It seems like, if I'm sitting in the library and I look at the person's computer next to me, it's very, very likely they're using Chat GPT. So it's like a new calculator, a new Google search function. It brings together pieces of information that we weren't able to before, and it's becoming a new everyday function tool for us.

Speaker 3: The way I see students using AI in the future is I see the development of AI tools being something that is unavoidable and it'll be something that'll be integrated much more firmly in the workforce. So I think when it comes to education, students are going to have to learn these tools in order to be competitive inside the job market. So I think at some point teachers are going to have to start teaching about these tools just because of how valuable as it is going to be to get a job at whether it be Google or even a smaller company.

Speaker 2: I think we need guardrails and policy in place to do this thoughtfully and intentionally. And I think if we all are talking about this and educating ourselves and really thinking about some of the unintended consequences, I think we can and need to have some of these guardrails and policies in place.

Speaker 1: The entire workforce is already using it for the same purposes of efficiency, and they know that as students, we're about to enter that workforce and we need to be prepared for it. Our employers will be looking for students who are AI literate and know how to use these tools, and if we don't, that's a significant disadvantage, and I'm sure it'll be an interview question or it'll be expected that we'll be able to use it once we start the job. So universities seem to be really aware of that and they want to encourage us to become proficient in it while we're still students, learn how to use it, become productive and efficient in doing so, and so then that can then be transferable to our future careers.

Speaker 3: The only concern I would have in the future is if we have different tools and that makes it so that people are more incentivized to try and replace jobs just simply because it's so much cheaper to have an AI do it. But I think we're still a couple of years off until that becomes a problem that's going to be in the forefront.

Speaker 2: It's okay to say, "I'm afraid of losing my job," or, "I'm afraid of what this could mean," and I just think we should have more conversations about it. In general, I think my ethos here is I think we all have a responsibility, especially folks in higher education and IT in particular and any sector. We have a responsibility, and I think the more that we can do to educate ourselves on what that responsibility is and what that means, I think is what we should be focusing on. And I don't really know what that means today. I just know something's there. I feel it in my gut. I'm doing what I can at least to approximate, I think, realizing and understanding that responsibility, but I think that would be my call to this community is, how can you think about what this means for you, for your teams, for your friends, for your business, for whatever, and how can you educate yourself on it?