Student perceptions

How students are currently using generative AI

A photograph of smiling man working on a laptop outside on a sunny day, a pattern of interconnecting dots and lines has been added to the image representing data and connectivity.

Following our initial Student Perceptions of Generative AI report last year, we recognised the need to continue the discussion with students/learners as the technology continues to evolve.

Over this past winter, we have run a series of nine in-person student discussion forums with over 200 students across colleges and universities to revisit student/learner perceptions of generative AI. Our goal was to understand if and how views on generative AI have shifted, identify emerging usage and concerns, and explore the developing role students/learners want these tools to play in their educational experience.

As institutions grapple with developing policies and guidance and the complex pedagogical shifts, capturing the authentic student voice remains crucial to inform responsible AI integration that both empowers students/learners and maintains academic integrity.

We’ll start by looking at how the students taking part in our forums are currently using generative AI:

Generative AI Tools:

Most students/learners are using free tools such as ChatGPT,, Wordtune and  Some students are paying for access to improved tools such as Midjourney, Photoleap, Notion, Scholarcy and ChatGPTPlus.  Students/learners are willing to pay for tools that aid accessibility and neurodiversity needs as well as career focused tools.  Other tools mentioned included Perplexity, Motion schedule, Photoshop, Depel Translation, and CoPilot

Communications and content creation

Students/learners we spoke to say generative AI tools are proving essential to help craft clear, effective, and targeted communication in both personal and academic settings.  Generative AI is empowering them to produce high-quality content efficiently, guiding them through research-backed writing processes adding a layer of polish and professionalism. They told us it significantly enhances their capabilities by:

  • Improving the politeness and friendliness of emails.
  • Editing text for clearer more structured text.
  • Transforms bullet points into professional emails.
  • Adapting tone and style to suit context.
  • Provides English language support to non-native English speakers.
  • Breaks down complex information to aid comprehension.
  • Supports content creation, from job applications to blog posts, improving quality and structure.
  • Clarifying complex concepts and offering reading recommendations.


Students/learners told us that generative AI is supporting them on their learning journey, particularly out of hours, as it is always responsive.   There are no stupid questions with AI, students can iterate until they have full understanding, a process they feel uncomfortable adopting with teachers and peers.  For maths we found students/learners using the tools to explain equations, often feeling the answer to be wrong, and so using the generative AI workings to get to the correct answer themselves.   We also found students using generative AI to produce their own tailored revision materials, often using the tools to identify knowledge gaps and produce tailored resources to fill these gaps.  Other uses include:

  • Acting as a personal tutor to guide learning.
  • Understanding different perspectives.
  • Addressing gaps in knowledge, adding depth and removing tangents.
  • Facilitating the learning of English for non-native speakers and other languages.
  • Supporting individuals with SEND and Neurodiversity needs by helping them stay focused and organised.
  • Creating tailored study aids including MVQs and flashcards.


Some of the students/learners described how using generative AI tools streamlines the research process, making it easier to explore new topics quickly.  Summarising lengthy research articles and academic papers to identify relevant papers, worth spending time to digest, saving students/learners hours of research.  Other uses include:

  • Providing concise and clear explanations of complex topics and academic papers.
  • Discovering new sources and relevant literature.
  • Enabling focused searches, complementing traditional search engines.


We found computing students were using generative AI to enhance productivity and creativity by:

  • Identifying coding errors and aiding in script development.
  • Encouraging creative problem-solving in coding.

 Creativity and Idea Development

Generative AI is not just a tool but a collaborator in the creative process, offering new possibilities and inspiration. Creative students described how they are using these tools to build on their own creative ideas and develop those further, pushing creativity.   Generative AI is sparking creativity and helping to materialise ideas by:

  • Generating new ideas and fostering creativity.
  • Producing visuals and design mock-ups.
  • Providing prompts for creative exploration in mediums like Midjourney.
  • Finding, reframing, and merging images to suit project needs.
  • Manipulating and reframing images for specific purposes.
  • Providing rough outlines and timings for storyboards.

Productivity and Task Management

Generative AI’s role in personal organisation is akin to a digital assistant, tailored to individual schedules and priorities.   Students described how it ensured they meet deadlines and manage or rearrange their schedule around emerging priorities easily and gave them more family/free time.  Uses include:

  • Helping re-prioritise tasks and manage calendars.
  • Assisting with daily routines and organising schedules.
  • Providing support for last-minute tasks, enabling quicker research and writing.
  • Condensing reading materials and PDFs to save valuable time.

 Personal Support

Generative AI tools are often operating on a much more personal level, offering support to students/ learners when it is needed.

On a more personal level, generative AI is often acting as guide and support tool.  Some students mentioned using generative AI to help them get over fears such as Imposter Syndrome to become more confident contributors.  Uses include:

  • Being always available.
  • Serving as a guide and coach.
  • Motivating users to stay focused and on track with their tasks.

Emotional support

Perhaps the most challenging finding was that some students reported that they were using generative AI to provide companionship when feeling lonely. In this blog post, we are just looking at what was reported, rather than delving into the deeper issues around it.  This one, above all others mentioned, feels like a complex and perhaps concerning development, worthy of much more thought and consideration going forward.

 Developments since Spring 2023

The adoption of generative AI in education by students/learners is undergoing a remarkable transformation, mirroring the rapid evolution of the technology itself. Over the span of just nine months, since our previous report, we have seen a distinct change in how students utilise generative AI, into a coaching relationship.  Students/learners are reshaping their learning to suit their needs.

The key developments from 2023 to 2024 in student usage of AI include:

From utility to collaborative partners

The use of generative AI in communications and content creation has matured from a utility to a partnership. Initially, generative AI tools were seen as offering guidance and support from the sidelines. Now, these interactions have deepened, with AI becoming akin to a trusted collaborator, fostering a two-way conversation that enriches students’ understanding and output.

Creativity as a shared journey

In the realm of creativity and coding, generative AI has transitioned from being an assistant to a collaborator. This shift emphasises how students perceive and utilise generative AI. Rather than viewing it as just a tool for task completion, we found students recognise generative AI’s potential to enhance creativity. It’s no longer just about finding solutions but about exploring the potential together.

The move towards digital coaching

Perhaps the most significant development is the transformation of AI’s role from an answer provider to a digital coach. This marks a pivotal shift in educational paradigms, moving away from passive consumption of information towards active engagement and learning. AI as a digital assistant reflects a deeper, more nuanced understanding and utilisation of the technology, emphasising critical thinking, problem-solving, and adaptive learning journeys. It signifies students moving towards an educational model that values and cultivates independent thought and inquiry, positioning students as active participants in their education.


The progression in student/learners usage of AI from 2023 to 2024 signals the potential that generative AI has to change tertiary education to become more creative and efficient. It’s a journey that promises to make tertiary education more responsive, inclusive, and attuned to the evolving needs of students/learners.


We’d like to thank the following institutions for supporting our student generative AI discussion forums:

  • University of the Arts London
  • Belfast Metropolitan College
  • University of Bolton
  • Gateshead College
  • Glasgow College
  • Midlands Innovation
  • Northern Regional College
  • Queens University Belfast
  • Southern Regional College
  • University of Ulster

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.

For regular updates from the team sign up to our mailing list.

Get in touch with the team directly at


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *