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Students are outrunning faculty on AI usage—both in frequency and the depth of using the tech tools.

Photo illustration by Justin Morrison/Inside Higher Ed | Getty Images


Students continue to run laps around faculty when it comes to using generative artificial intelligence, two unrelated surveys find.

More than half of spring semester college students (51 percent) say AI has helped them get better grades, up from 47 percent last fall, according to a report Pearson released Monday. Even more students (56 percent) said AI has helped them be more efficient , a seven-percentage-point increase since the previous semester.

Additionally, while proofreading and clarifying concepts are still the top student uses for AI, the survey found that students desire to delve deeper with the technology in many ways. Those include using it in the future to walk through problems without giving answers (44 percent), creating study materials (43 percent), brainstorming ideas (42 percent) and summarizing class notes (41 percent).

Meanwhile, a separate survey of faculty released Thursday by Ithaka S+R, a higher education consulting firm, showcased that faculty—while increasingly familiar with AI—often do not know how to use it in classrooms. Two out of five faculty members are familiar with AI, the Ithaka report found, but only 14 percent said they are confident in their ability to use AI in their teaching. Just slightly more (18 percent) said they understand the teaching implications of generative AI.

“Serious concerns about academic integrity, ethics, accessibility, and educational effectiveness are contributing to this uncertainty and hostility,” the Ithaka report said.

The diverging views about AI are causing friction. Nearly a third of students said they have been warned to not use generative AI by professors, and more than half (59 percent) are concerned they will be accused of cheating with generative AI, according to the Pearson report, which was conducted with Morning Consult and surveyed 800 students.

Ithaka had similar findings from its polling of 2,600 faculty, with 42 percent of them saying they do not allow students to use any generative AI in their courses.

Students are also increasingly concerned about misinformation created by generative AI, with 59 percent citing it as a worry, up six percentage points from when Pearson asked the question last fall.

Students also say they see more reports about AI misinformation and have directly received more misinformation from the AI tools themselves, with 27 percent of students saying that AIs have provided made-up or incorrect answers.

Despite concerns from both students and faculty, according to the Ithaka survey conducted in February and March, generative AI is still seeping into the classroom. Close to three-quarters (72 percent) of faculty said they used generative AI for at least one instructional purpose. The most common uses were designing course materials (22 percent), followed by helping with emails or other administrative tasks (16 percent) and creating images (15 percent).

The two reports solidify earlier studies last fall that also found students outpaced faculty in AI use. Higher education institutions themselves are also leaving AI largely unaddressed—the vast majority of universities have not implemented any AI policies, according to a survey of provosts from Inside Higher Ed earlier this year. However, nearly 80 percent have offered training to address faculty concerns and questions.

The Ithaka report found that younger faculty members had a higher adoption rate and overall understanding of generative AI. That decreased the older the faculty members got—those 65 years old and older had the lowest adoption rates, with roughly a quarter (26 percent) stating they are familiar with generative AI in general. Every other age range had close to 40 percent, if not more, familiar with the emerging technology.

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