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. 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.
This blog post is the second one in a series of five blogs. It focuses on student concerns, shedding light on the perspectives students have expressed. From information literacy and data security to regulation and equity, we examine the various dimensions impacting the integration of AI in education.
Information literacy: Navigating trust and accuracy
Students voiced their apprehension about the challenge of distinguishing AI tools from human-generated content. Concerns were raised about the reliability of references, as fabricated sources can easily be created. Additionally, students highlighted the prevalence of inaccuracies in AI-powered platforms like ChatGPT, emphasizing the need for critical evaluation.
Data security: Safeguarding privacy and ownership
The vast amount of student concern centred around their limited understanding of how AI tools handle their personal data. Questions arose regarding data privacy and whether the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) offers sufficient protection. Furthermore, students questioned who ultimately owns the intellectual property generated through AI tools.
Regulation: Striking a balance
Government level: A prevailing sentiment among students was the necessity for regulating AI generally. They strongly advocated for some legislation to establish much-needed boundaries, citing the current lack of restrictions.
Education: In education specifically, students emphasised that banning AI entirely would be an extreme measure. Students stressed their desire for sector wide guidelines, rather than the current mixed picture.
Detectors: Plagiarism concerns and ambiguous guidelines
Students expressed worries about the potential for false accusations of plagiarism arising from AI detectors. They argued that the ability to evade detection algorithms will outrun developments in detectors. Students also criticised the lack of clarity in existing guidelines, where guidelines existed. Some students contended that generative AI tools facilitate cheating if one chooses to do so. Students felt quite strongly about the over emphasis on plagiarism, believing Generative AI to have much wider potential across education.
Staff use: Transparency and confidence
Concerns were raised regarding academic staff employing generative AI to create teaching resources. Students expressed a desire for transparency, emphasising the importance of being informed when this happened. They also noted variations in confidence levels among academic staff when it comes to using generative AI tools and expressed a general preference for increased competence in this area.
Equity: Access and affordability
Fair access and usage emerged as significant concerns among students, particularly following recent changes that introduced charges for accessing AI tools like ChatGPT4. Many students feared that this shift would disadvantage some individuals, exacerbating existing inequalities within education.
Over reliance: Balancing AI and intellectual development
Students raised concerns about an over-reliance on generative AI tools, which could potentially hinder their intellectual growth. Worries were expressed regarding a decline in knowledge and critical thinking skills.
Employability/Jobs: Skills development and impact of automation
Students displayed apprehension about the potential job losses resulting from automation. Nevertheless, some expressed optimism about the creation of new roles that eliminate repetitive tasks. Additionally, concerns were voiced by students who felt they were missing out on developing the AI skills they might require in future employment opportunities. Some students expressed a concern that they were the cohort that was missing out on developing AI skills that they would need when they moved into employment.
Students provided a diverse range of perspectives on AI in education. While some called for responsible regulation and transparency, others expressed worries about the potential negative consequences of AI integration. As we navigate the future of AI in education, it is crucial to consider and address these student perspectives to ensure a balanced and inclusive approach.
In the next blog post, we’ll delve into students’ perspectives on how Generative AI should be integrated into assessments.
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
Vaidehi Simon Martin
Find out more by visiting our National centre for AI 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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Get in touch with the team directly at NCAI@jisc.ac.uk