As students graduating this spring have had access to ChatGPT for almost an entire school year, we wanted to learn more about their experiences with ChatGPT and how it compares to studying in a more traditional way.
When we surveyed college students in January 2023, just a few months after ChatGPT became available, close to one-third had already reported using the tool to complete written assignments.
In May, Intelligent.com surveyed 3,017 high school and college students (ages 16-24) along with 3,234 parents of younger students to learn more about student study habits over this past academic year.
Ten percent of high school and college students aged 16-24 say they studied with both ChatGPT and a tutor this past academic year, while 15% of parents with school-aged children say their kids did the same.
We found, of students who studied this past academic year with a tutor and ChatGPT:
- Nearly all have replaced some of their tutoring sessions with ChatGPT
- 95% say their grades have improved since studying with ChatGPT
- 9 in 10 prefer studying with ChatGPT over studying with a tutor
- Most common subjects students have replaced tutors for are math and science
Students Find Studying with ChatGPT to Be More Effective Than Studying with a Tutor
Of students who had the opportunity to directly compare studying with ChatGPT vs. a tutor over the past academic year, the vast majority report a preference for ChatGPT.
“As a current student using ChatGPT, I have found it to be a helpful and convenient tool for studying,” says college Junior Johnson Adegoke. “Unlike seeing a tutor, ChatGPT is available 24/7 and can answer my questions immediately,” he continues.
“Plus, I can study at my own pace and review the information as many times as I need to. While it’s not quite the same as having a human tutor, I appreciate the accessibility and flexibility that ChatGPT offers,” he explains.
Eighty-five percent of high school and college students surveyed say studying with ChatGPT is more effective than studying with a tutor. This number is higher for parents of school-aged children, 96% of whom say that studying with ChatGPT is more effective than studying with a tutor for their children.
Write-in responses from students and parents of students who believe ChatGPT is more effective included the following:
- “ChatGPT’s ability to correct mistakes makes it easier for children to learn correctly.”
- “More relaxed, more efficient.”
- “ChatGPT can provide timely feedback on students’ learning progress and performance, and help students adjust their learning direction and methods.”
Of respondents who believe tutoring is still more effective than ChatGPT, reasons included:
- “Tutors can communicate face to face, which artificial intelligence cannot do.”
- “Mentors can stimulate students’ interest in a variety of ways, including encouragement, discussion, and practice.”
- “Because studying with tutors can build good teacher-student relationships and trust, promote effective interactive learning and feedback, and make it easier for children to understand and absorb knowledge.”
Students Are Reducing the Amount of Tutoring Sessions They Receive in Favor of ChatGPT
Thirty-nine percent of high school and college students surveyed say they have fully replaced tutoring sessions with ChatGPT, while 30% of parents of students surveyed say they have done the same for their children.
When asked why they have chosen to replace tutoring sessions with ChatGPT, respondents offered the following:
- “Kids love it, it’s cheap.”
- “My children prefer to use the software for oral practice, and the results are much better.”
- “Because ChatGPT is better able to know what I need, what my weaknesses are, and what I need to strengthen.”
- “Because ChatGPT can not only save on study expenses, but also save on time.”
“As a foreign language tutor, I admit that at first I was concerned that I could be replaced by ChatGPT,” explains tutor Carolyn Knight. “Not only are its capabilities as a language learning tool remarkable, it’s available 24/7 and doesn’t charge by the hour.”
“However, as amazing as it is, it’s still only a tool, and students need more than just knowledge to learn,” she continues. “The bond between student and teacher, one of trust, encouragement, and bearing witness to the student’s learning journey, is in my opinion what promotes true learning and growth in a way that prompts and computer-generated responses just can’t.”
“My students must feel the same because I haven’t lost any, although all of them now use ChatGPT in one way or another. Since AI is here to stay, I do encourage its use and show my students how to best take advantage of it for their language learning needs,” Knight says.
Math and Science Most Common Subjects Students Use ChatGPT to Study For
Ninety-five percent of students and parents of students surveyed say their grades have gotten better since they or their children started studying with ChatGPT.
When asked which subjects they have replaced tutoring sessions for, both groups reported math and “hard” sciences such as chemistry and biology most frequently.
“As with most things in life, it has its advantages and disadvantages,” says Meteusz Kostrz, cofounder of Edunade and former tutor. “A big advantage is the time saving component, where instead of researching for hours and sometimes days, one can find relevant information in a matter of seconds.”
“This, if used wisely, can free up space for other activities which can be beneficial to students’ growth,” Kostrz continues. “Additionally, basic concepts can also be easily understood using tools like ChatGPT, which is very useful, as one does not always have their tutor at hand to be able to ask questions. However, there is also a negative part to it, as students nowadays tend to use ChatGPT almost too often.”
“This in turn reduces their ability to think creatively and quickly come up with solutions, because they are used to being able to simply input their query and get an answer. That can be very easily seen when writing essays, which some students cannot do anymore without help from AI,” he explains.
Despite Student Enthusiasm, Experts Caution That ChatGPT May Not Yet Be an Effective Replacement for Tutors
Diane Gayeski, a higher education consultant with Intelligent.com, Professor of Strategic Communications at Ithaca College, and internationally-recognized thought leader, is one of many education professionals who remain skeptical of ChatGPT despite its current popularity with students. “Most tutors do much more than provide content – they structure study time, they provide modeling and motivation, and they help to diagnose where learners are having trouble and can then structure the explanations and practice to overcome those obstacles,” Gayeski says.
Instead of a total replacement for tutors, Gayeski sees ChatGPT as an important tool that may be used in the development of intelligent tutoring systems (ITS), computer systems that provide personalized lessons and feedback without a human teacher.
“Over the past thirty years, there has been great interest in creating intelligent tutors. These are programs that not only provide content, but they do so by learning about each user’s interests, prerequisite knowledge, and application areas,” explains Gayeski.
“Intelligent tutoring systems hold a lot of promise for more effective learning – especially in cases where learners are having difficulties in comprehending and applying content. For instance, if I wanted to learn accounting, an intelligent tutor could provide examples of how I’d set up various kinds of reports for my small consulting business, and it could figure out that I lacked prerequisite knowledge in how to set up a spreadsheet for a profit-and-loss statement and provide that remedial teaching before we went on to more sophisticated concepts,” she explains.
“It could present me with questions and track the speed and accuracy with which I answered them to tailor the rest of the content, including specific feedback related to any misconceptions it could detect. ChatGPT may be one of the many tools that instructional designers can use to create these intelligent tutoring systems and many other specific tools are now under development,” Gayeski finishes.
These surveys were commissioned by Intelligent.com and conducted online by the survey platform Pollfish from May 2 – May 10, 2023. In total, a combined 801 participants in the U.S. completed the full surveys.
Student respondents went through demographic filters to ensure they were between the ages of 16 and 24 and identified their employment status as “student.” Respondents then went through a primary screening to confirm their education level and status, a secondary screening to ensure they worked with a tutor in the past year, a third screening to ensure they used ChatGPT to study in the past year, and a fourth screening that required them to correctly identify ChatGPT as an AI tool. 667 respondents were disqualified in the first screening, 1,624 in the second, 271 in the third, and 161 in the fourth.
Parent respondents went through demographic filters to ensure they had at least one child. They then went through a primary screening to confirm they had at least one child in elementary, middle, or high school, a secondary screening to ensure their child had studied with a tutor in the past year, a third screening to ensure their child had studied with ChatGPT in the past year, and a fourth screening that required them to correctly identify ChatGPT as an AI tool. 3,135 respondents were disqualified in the first screening, 1,571 in the second, 458 in the third, and 714 in the fourth.
The survey used a convenience sampling method, and to avoid bias from this component Pollfish employs Random Device Engagement (RDE) to ensure both random and organic surveying. Learn more about Pollfish’s survey methodology or contact [email protected]