Student Perspectives on Using AI

min read
EDUCAUSE Exchange | Season 3, Episode 5

In this episode, we hear from three students who use AI to help them with their coursework. They also share their thoughts about how AI may serve their careers once they graduate.

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Gerry Bayne: Welcome to EDUCAUSE Exchange, where we focus on an important topic from the higher ed IT community and hear advice, anecdotes, best practices, and more. Students are employing assistance from artificial intelligence more and more often in their pursuit of higher education. On this episode, we'll hear some student voices talk about how they are using these tools and their attitudes about how AI will shape their education and the pursuit of their career.

Isabella Meltzer: If there's an upcoming lecture, maybe I haven't done the readings for, I can ask ChatGPT 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.

Gerry Bayne: That's Isabella Meltzer, a 5th year Law and International Relations student at the University of Sydney. She says that ChatGPT can assist her and other students in a number of tasks that make their classwork more manageable.

Isabella Meltzer: It helps me a lot in editing my own work, 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, helps me with sentence structure and phrasing clarity of expression, or 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 in not having to buy a Grammarly subscription. This one tool does so many different purposes. It's easy to just put in a paragraph you've written could make more sense, or doesn't fit your exact word count and you need to cut it down. You can ask ChatGPT to do that for you. So a lot of those little things are helped with a lot.

Jeremy Cortez: Most interesting tools I found were like the GitHub Copilot, which was a tool that allowed you basically like having a Stack overflow assistant.

Gerry Bayne: Jeremy Cortez is a recent graduate of California State University San Bernardino. He now works at their X REEL-Lab on projects related to AI.

Jeremy Cortez: 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 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.

Sarah J. Buszka: At least for me and 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.

Gerry Bayne: Sarah J. Buszka is pursuing a master of public administration degree at Cornell University.

Sarah J. Buszka: 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.

Gerry Bayne: Some are estimating that by 2026, more than 100 million humans will engage with artificial intelligence to contribute to their work.

Isabella Meltzer: I think students are so adaptable, amenable. Our minds are still able to be shaped so quickly. We adapted very, very quickly. At first, there 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, oh, if I'm sitting in the library and I look at the person's computer next to me, it's like very, very likely they're using ChatGPT. So it's like a new calculator, a new Google search. It brings together pieces of information that we weren't able to before and it's becoming a new everyday function tool for us.

Jeremy Cortez: The way I see students using AI in the future is that I see the development of AI tools being something that is unavoidable, 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. At some point, teachers are going to have to start teaching about these tools just because of how valuable it is going to be to get a job at whether it be Google or even a smaller company.

Gerry Bayne: This points to a sort of obvious idea that employers in the future will not only permit the use of AI tools in creating efficient and creative work, but expect it.

Isabella Meltzer: 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 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 that can then be transferable to our future career.

Gerry Bayne: But what does this mean in terms of implementing AI into all of these systems? What sort of attitude should we cultivate to be smart about it?

Sarah J. Buszka: 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.

Jeremy Cortez: The only concern I would have in the future is if we have different tools and that makes it so that people are more sensitized 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 years off until that becomes a problem that's going to be in the forefront.

Sarah J. Buszka: 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. I think we all have a responsibility, especially folks in higher education and in IT in particular. 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, right? I just know something's there, I feel it in my gut. 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 or your business, and how can you educate yourself on it?

Gerry Bayne: If you'd like to learn more about generative AI, check out the EDUCAUSE's 7 Things You Should Know about Generative AI. It's a short article you can find at EDUCAUSE Review online. You can find the link in the show notes to this episode. I'm Gerry Bayne for EDUCAUSE. Thanks for listening.

This episode features:

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

Recommended Resource

"7 Things You Should Know About Generative AI," EDUCAUSE Review.