Student perceptions

Student Forums 2023: Generative AI and how students are using it

Generative AI is the topic everyone is talking about, including students. Recently, we organised five discussion forums for tertiary education students on Generative AI. Our aim was to understand how students are currently using this technology and explore its potential impact on their learning experience.

In this blog post, we’ll delve into the diverse ways in which students are using Generative AI and the tools they find most useful. This is the first in a series of five blog posts.  To ensure a broad range of perspectives, we conducted both online and face-to-face sessions, allowing students to engage and express their thoughts anonymously.

The forums centred around five key areas of interest:

  1. Current Usage of Generative AI: During the discussions, students shared seven prominent areas where they are currently leveraging Generative AI. Let’s take a closer look at each of these areas:

Writing: Generative AI has become an invaluable tool for students in the realm of writing. It assists them in initiating their work, generating ideas, and aiding with the organisation, structure, and flow of their writing. Moreover, students use Generative AI to enhance grammar and spelling, paraphrase content, and receive valuable feedback. Notable tools mentioned by students include ChatGPT, Notion, Quillbot, Grammarly, and Turnitin.

Understanding: Generative AI proves especially beneficial for international students and those for whom English is a second language. These students rely on Generative AI to clarify meanings of words and images, applying auto transcription and translation features to enhance their understanding of complex concepts.   Students are also employing ChatGPT as a useful revision aid, creating their own quizzes and other materials.  A student said, ‘It’s great for answering questions when teachers aren’t available’.

Maths: Several students use Generative AI to solve maths problems and verify the accuracy of their own solutions. However, the multiple answers generated by the AI can sometimes create confusion. Nonetheless, there was an active discussion on how Generative AI could aid in comprehending the practical application of formulas.

Coding: Students are using Generative AI, particularly ChatGPT, as a faster alternative to conventional resources like Stack Overflow. Some students have even developed automated algorithms empowered by Generative AI. However, concerns about the reliability of coding responses from ChatGPT were raised during the discussions.

Research: Generative AI is proving to be a game-changer for students engaged in research activities. Many participants shared how they employ Generative AI tools to streamline their search for academic papers.  Students are using tools such as Elicit, which make use of generative AI to overcome restricted access to certain publications, allowing them to obtain the majority of a paper’s content, even when it is behind a paywall.

Images: Students are deploying Generative AI tools like DALL-E, Midjourney, and Canva to create visually engaging images, enhancing their presentations and projects.

Personal Life: Generative AI is finding its way into students’ personal lives as well. They are discovering countless applications, ranging from obtaining book recommendations and recipes to creating customised playlists, managing tasks, writing short stories, and even enhancing gaming experiences.

In the next blog post, we’ll delve into students’ perspectives on how Generative AI should be integrated into assessments.

Thanks to:

University of Manchester for their help in setting up and running the HE Student Discussion Forums, in particular:

Dr Miriam Firth
Dr Amanda Banks-Gatenby
Krishna Wiananda
Vaidehi Simon Martin

Find out more by visiting our Artificial Intelligence page to view publications and resources, join us for events and discover what AI has to offer through our range of interactive online demos.

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