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U.S. Students Slower Than Others Globally to Adopt Generative AI, Survey Reveals

In a recent survey done by ed tech company Anthology comparing United States university students and leaders with their counterparts globally, results revealed that U.S. students have been slower to adopt generative AI tools, and leaders should take note of why and prepare for increased use in the future.

Anthology surveyed 2,728 students and 2,617 university leaders across 11 countries in August 2023 about their perceptions and use of AI tools; U.S. respondents numbered 255 students and 251 institutional leaders. In the survey report, "AI in Higher Ed: Hype, Harm, or Help," significant results included:

  • Only 10% of U.S. university students are frequent AI users, compared to 23% in the rest of the world.
  • About the same percentage of U.S. students and global counterparts are occasional users, have experimented with generative AI tools, or are familiar with them but have never used them.
  • Dramatically, about 22% of U.S students are not familiar with and do not use AI tools, as opposed to about 12% of their global counterparts.

As for students' perception of the role AI currently plays or will play in higher education:

  • Significantly more global students (about 52%) believe it will revolutionize teaching and learning, while 38% of U.S. students believe it will.
  • More global students believe AI will provide personalized learning experiences (about 38%), as opposed to U.S. students (about 24%).
  • In terms of whether AI is helpful or harmful, roughly the same percentage of U.S. and global students believe that, positively, AI will enhance student engagement and interactivity, will be supportive of helping generate ideas, and will help increase efficiency; and they believe that, negatively, it will have a limited impact on higher education and is unethical and should not be allowed in higher education.

As for how leaders view the role of AI in higher education, results showed:

  • A significantly higher number of global leaders (about 38% as opposed to about 16% of U.S. leaders) believe that AI will revolutionize teaching and learning methods.
  • More U.S. leaders feel AI is unethical and should not be used in higher education (about 33% as opposed to about 28% global leaders).
  • Roughly the same percentage of U.S. leaders and their global counterparts feel that, positively, AI will enhance student engagement and interactivity, provide personalized learning experiences, be supportive in helping generate ideas, and help increase efficiency; and believe that, negatively, it will have a limited impact on higher education.

In answer to U.S. (and UK, researchers said) educators' concerns about potential plagiarism problems of AI usage, 53% of higher education institutions have developed policies concerning the use of generative AI writing tools like ChatGPT, and 52% of students are aware of such policies. Another 20% of institutions are currently developing such policies.

The study's authors feel that because the use of AI will no doubt increase in the future, more conversation about it is needed. Based on survey results, they offer the following suggestions as "opportunities":

  • Based on student sentiment, determine how AI can help facilitate student experience.
  • Determine how AI can enhance student experience both inside and outside the classroom.
  • Determine how the use of AI chatbots to answer easy questions for students can free up time for staff to give students more in-person attention.
  • Educate students about the appropriate and beneficial use of AI and encourage continued use to enhance their education.

More information about the survey and a link to download it can be found here.

About the Author

Kate Lucariello is a former newspaper editor, EAST Lab high school teacher and college English teacher.

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