Student perceptions of generative AI

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

As promised this is the next in a short series of posts looking at students' perception and use of generative AI. Last year the UK Jisc published a report, 'Student Perceptions of Generative AI' while recognising the need to continue the discussion with students/learners as the technology continues to evolve.
Over this past winter, they ran 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. Their goal. they say, 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. An updated version of the report was published in May of this year. In the introduction the report outlines the key changes 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 are utilising generative AI, and a maturing expectation of their institutions to support them in their journey into employment in an AI enabled world.

Transition to Collaborative Learning: Students/Learners increasingly view generative AI as a collaborative tool to coach and support active learning and critical thinking, using these tools as a digital assistant rather than seeing them purely as answer providers.

Emphasis on Future Skills: Students/Learners emphasised the importance of generative AI-ready skills relevant to their future industries. There’s a growing demand for an education to integrate generative AI across the curriculum and reflect the AI enabled world we all now inhabit.

Ethics, Equity, and Accessibility Concerns: Students/Learners are increasingly aware of and concerned about equity, bias, and accessibility issues related to AI, advocating for measures that address these challenges to ensure a safe, inclusive, and responsive educational experience.

Comprehensive Integration and Educator Competence: There’s a clear expectation by students/learners for comprehensive generative AI integration across education, with competent usage by educators and policies that ensure a fair and effective AI-enhanced learning environment.

The report is relatively short, well produced and easy to read. It concludes with the need for Institutions to respond to evolving student/learner needs and concerns.

Students/Learners have clearly articulated the need for comprehensive support from their institutions, including access to generative AI tools that cater to a wide range of needs, the development of critical information literacy skills, and guidance on ethical use to ensure academic integrity and intellectual development.

The importance of preparing students/learners for the evolving generative AI influenced job market is also becoming increasingly clear. Incorporating relevant generative AI skills and knowledge into curricula is essential for keeping up with technological advancements and preparing them for future challenges.

Is Generative AI just a hype?

Amritha R Warrier & AI4Media / Better Images of AI / tic tac toe / CC-BY 4.0

A new study into the use of generative AI has been published by the Reuters Institute and Oxford University. The study, "What does the public in six countries think of generative AI in news?", looks at if and how people use generative artificial intelligence (AI), and what they think about its application in journalism and other areas of work and life across six countries/

Researchers surveyed 12,000 people in six countries. The data were collected by YouGov using an online questionnaire fielded between 28 March and 30 April 2024 in Argentina, Denmark, France, Japan, the UK, and the USA.

The survey fund that ChatGPT is by far the most widely used generative AI tool in the six countries surveyed. Use of ChatGPT is roughly two or three times more widespread than the next products, Google Gemini and Microsoft Copilot. But even when it comes to ChatGPT, frequent use is rare, with just 1% using it on a daily basis in Japan, rising to 2% in France and the UK, and 7% in the USA. Many of those who say they have used generative AI have only used it once or twice, and it is yet to become part of people’s routine internet use. However, they found young people are bucking the trend, with 18 to 24-year-olds the most eager adopters of the tech.

The research indicates that, for all the money and attention lavished on generative AI, it is yet to become part of people’s routine internet use.

"Large parts of the public are not particularly interested in generative AI, and 30% of people in the UK say they have not heard of any of the most prominent products, including ChatGPT," the report's lead author told the BBC.

Dr Fletcher said people’s hopes and fears for generative AI vary a lot depending on the sector.

People are generally optimistic about the use of generative AI in science and healthcare, but more wary about it being used in news and journalism, and worried about the effect it might have on job security.

AI, laundry and dishes

I couldn't resist sharing this image from LinkedIn - I cant find the link to the original image but please tell me if you know where it is. The quote comes from Joanna Maciejewska on X on March 29 of this year. Joanna it seems "might be a bit too cautious to do anything even remotely daring or dangerous herself, so she writes about daring adventures and dangerous magic instead."


The AI pioneers project which is researching an developing approaches to the use of AI in vocational and adult education in Europe is presently working on a Toolkit including analysis of a considerable number of AI tools for education. Indeed a problem is that so many new tools and applications are being released it is hard for organisations to know what they should be trying out.

In the UK, JISC has been piloting and evaluating a number of different applications and tools in vocational colleges. Their latest report is about TeacherMatic which appears to be adapted in many UK Further Education Colleges. TeacherMatic is a generative AI-powered platform tailored for educators. It provides an extensive toolkit featuring more than 50 innovative tools designed to simplify the creation of educational content. These tools help in generating various teaching aids, such as lesson plans, quizzes, schemes of work and multiple-choice questions, without users needing to have expertise in prompt engineering. Instead, educators can issue straightforward instructions to produce or adapt existing resources, including presentations, Word documents, and PDFs. The main goal of TeacherMatic, the developers say, is to enhance teaching efficiency and lighten educators’ workloads. To allow teachers to dedicate more time to student interaction and less to repetitive tasks.

For the pilot, each participating institution received 50 licenses for 12 months, enabling around 400 participants to actively engage with and evaluate the TeacherMatic platform.

The summary of the evaluation of the pilot is as follows.

The pilot indicates that TeacherMatic can save users time and create good quality resources. Participants commended the platform for its ease of use, efficient content generation, and benefits to workload. Feedback also highlighted areas for improvement and new feature suggestions which the TeacherMatic team were very quick to take on board and where possible implement.

Participants found TeacherMatic to be user-friendly, particularly praising its easy-to-use interface and simple content generation process. The platform was noted for its instructional icons, videos, and features such as Bloom’s taxonomy, which assists in creating educational content efficiently. However, suggestions for enhancements include the ability to integrate multiple generators into a single generator. It also remains essential for users to evaluate the generated content, ensuring it is suitable and accessible to the intended audience.

TeacherMatic was well-received across institutions, for its capabilities, especially beneficial for new teaching staff and those adapting to changing course specifications. Feedback showed that TeacherMatic is particularly valuable for those previously unfamiliar with generative AI. Pricing was generally seen as reasonable, aligning with most participants’ expectations.

TeacherMatic has been well-received, with a majority of participants recognising its benefits and expressing a willingness to continue using and recommending the tool.

A Game Changer for Education?

Amritha R Warrier & AI4Media / Better Images of AI / error cannot generate / CC-BY 4.0

Open AI launched its latest product – GPT 4o – yesterday. Its difficult to tell from a demo but it seems to be faster model of GPT4 with new audio capability, improved quality and speed of ChatGPT’s international language capabilities, and an ability to upload images, audio and text documents for the model to analyze.

It may have much more capability as a tutor – or more likely as a personal research assistant. As MIT Technology Review says the big pictureis, the company’s demonstration suggests, “a conversational assistant much in the vein of Siri or Alexa—but capable of fielding much more complex prompts.” But none of this is game changing. What is new is the business model. Although the increasingly outdated ChatGPT, based on GPT3.5 is free to users, ChatGPT4 which is the basis for the new model, costs 20 Euro a month. Now this is being provided for free. And for education which is concerned with access and equity allowing all to participate free use is a game changer.

Of course we have to wait to try it out. And there are still issues about the accuracy of what it returns. I enjoyed this this “hallucination” from Benjamin Riley quoted by Gary Marcus in his newsletter, Marcus on AI, this morning.