College students who are finishing up their spring semester have now had access to the AI tool ChatGPT for multiple semesters. As ChatGPT continues to rapidly change the way we think about education at many levels, we wanted to find out what college students’ thoughts on the tool are now that the academic year is coming to a close.
In May, Intelligent.com surveyed 1,223 current undergraduate and graduate students. Key findings from the survey include:
- 30% of college students used ChatGPT for schoolwork this past academic year
- Of this group, 46% say they frequently used the tool to do their homework
- English was the subject college students most commonly used ChatGPT for
- 3 in 4 ChatGPT users are likely to recommend the tool to another student
- 1 in 8 saw their GPA increase, majority believe it’s related to their use of ChatGPT
During Its First Year, One-Third of College Students Used ChatGPT for Schoolwork
Since its launch in November 2022, 30% of college students have used ChatGPT to do their schoolwork. Of this group of ChatGPT users, 46% say they ‘somewhat’ (35%) or ‘very frequently used’ (11%) ChatGPT this past school year.
When asked which subjects they used ChatGPT for, the most commonly-reported subject was English (49%) followed by “hard” sciences like chemistry and biology (41%).
It’s no surprise that a large number of college students are using ChatGPT to help with their English homework, as our study back in January 2023, just a couple months after ChatGPT’s release, found that 30% were already using the tool to complete their written assignments.
78% of ChatGPT Users Are Likely to Recommend the Tool to Another Student
Overall, college ChatGPT users seem to have had a positive experience studying with the tool. More than 3 in 4 say they are ‘somewhat’ (46%) or ‘highly likely’ (32%) to recommend studying with ChatGPT to another student.
When respondents were asked to list the advantages of studying with ChatGPT, responses included the following:
- “Good outlines and assists in organizational skills”
- “Ease of use, simplicity”
- “It’s free”
- “It collects specific information which saves time in researching”
Respondents also shared what they believe the disadvantages of studying with ChatGPT are, writing in responses with the following sentiments:
- “Becoming too reliant”
- “It is considered cheating”
- “Reliance on AI to complete work”
- “The information isn’t always accurate”
Though 12% Saw Their GPA Increase, Experts Caution Overreliance on ChatGPT in Education
We wanted to find out if students believe studying with ChatGPT had any concrete effects on their academic performance.
Of students who did not already have a 4.0 GPA last semester, 1 in 5 (or 12% of all student ChatGPT users) say their GPA increased from the fall 2022 semester to the spring 2023 semester, while 4 in 5 (54% of all student ChatGPT users) did not see an improvement in their grades.
Of the 12% who did see an improvement, the overall average improvement rate was more than half a letter grade, from an average 2.9 GPA last semester to an average 3.5 GPA this semester. Seventy-eight percent of this group ‘somewhat’ (53%) or ‘strongly believe’ (24%) that there is a relationship between their GPA increasing and studying with ChatGPT.
However, experts caution that although ChatGPT certainly has its uses, it shouldn’t be seen as the end all be all study tool.
Diane Gayeski, a higher education consultant with Intelligent.com, Professor of Strategic Communications at Ithaca College, and internationally-recognized thought leader, explains why she believes that ChatGPT should be used as a supplement to, not a replacement for, traditional ways of learning.
“ChatGPT may be a quick way to get a summary of important concepts, facts, principles, or terminology, and therefore might be useful to an adult learner who needs a quick overview of some knowledge domain,” Gayeski explains.
“For instance if I were a salesperson preparing to call on a prospective client in an industry I didn’t really understand, ChatGPT could give me some insights into the important terms they use and some of the current challenges in that industry. But it’s clearly not (at least not at this point) something that a person without a base level of knowledge could use to learn a new topic.”
“It requires a lot of sophistication to know what prompts to provide – AND of course, it’s not always accurate,” Gayeski says. “ChatGPT is not designed to be a teacher – it is designed to assemble content FOR you, not to teach you concepts or skills,” she continues.
“Certainly, ChatGPT can summarize information – but not more completely nor more accurately than doing a Google search or consulting a book. The purpose of a teacher is to help explain concepts, figure out where your misconceptions or lack of prerequisite knowledge may be getting in your way, and to drill you on memorizing and applying knowledge. Right now, ChatGPT’s feedback is based on the learner’s ability just to restate what it has originally generated,” she finishes.
This online poll was commissioned by Intelligent.com and conducted by SurveyMonkey from May 12 – May 15, 2023. Respondents consist of a national sample of 1,223 current college students age 18-30, identified here as part time at a two year undergraduate, full time at a two year undergraduate, part time at a four year college, full time at a four year college, part time in graduate school, or full time in graduate school.
Respondents went through a primary screening to ensure they had used ChatGPT in the past academic year, and a secondary screening to confirm they were finishing at least their second semester of college this spring. 854 respondents were disqualified in the first screening and 29 were disqualified in the second screening.
Respondents for this survey were selected from the nearly 3 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. Data for this survey have been weighted for age using Basic Census information in order to reflect the demographic composition of the United States. The modeled error estimate for this survey is approximately plus or minus 7.5 percentage points. Learn more about SurveyMonkey’s methodology or contact [email protected] for more information.