U.S. students and university leaders have some of the lowest usage of AI in the world, according to two new reports.
Photo illustration by Justin Morrison/Inside Higher Ed | Getty Images
Students and university leaders in the United States are lagging behind their peers elsewhere in use of artificial intelligence, two new reports suggest.
According to a report by the education technology firm Anthology, 38 percent of students reported using AI at least monthly, with only the United Kingdom having a lower usage rate. Chegg, another ed-tech firm, conducted its own global study with similar results: 20 percent of students in the United States reported using generative AI, followed only by the U.K. with 19 percent.
However, in the U.S., more than 30 percent of the university leaders surveyed by Anthology are concerned that AI is unethical and could result in plagiarism—a higher degree of suspicion than leaders in any country but the U.K.
Mirko Widenhorn, senior director of engagement strategy for Anthology, said the relatively lower use of AI may create opportunity for institutions.
“The lower usage opens a valuable window of time for university leaders to dig in and assess the landscape and deepen their understanding of how AI can be applied effectively at their institution,” he said via email. “It’s moving fast and the clock is ticking, but this is an opportunity for leaders to catch up and plot a course ahead.”
The Anthology survey was conducted in August, polling roughly 2,600 university leaders, which included deans, provosts and rectors, and 2,700 students in 11 countries: Australia, Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, the U.K. and the U.S. In the United States, 255 students and 251 university leaders responded to the survey.
The Chegg survey, also conducted in August, polled roughly 11,000 undergraduate students were polled across 15 countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, the U.K. and the U.S. Roughly 1,000 U.S. students were polled for the study.
While both studies covered students’ thoughts on the use of generative AI, different takeaways emerged from each.
In Anthology’s study, one of the biggest surprises was the perceived potential for AI to boost student engagement.
Students in the U.S. had a more favorable opinion of AI’s ability to enhance student engagement and interactivity, with 46 percent stating it is AI’s top use, than did their peers globally (just over 40 percent).
That view could relate to U.S. students’ relative familiarity with AI chatbots. Despite low usage of generative AI, six in 10 students polled said they are “somewhat or very” comfortable with AI chatbots, which have seen a bigger usage in student engagement over the last several years.
University leaders also view AI through a lens of potential student engagement. According to the Anthology survey, more than 30 percent said they felt AI’s could be student engagement — which was the top use case for AI, followed by helping generate ideas and “revolutionize” teaching and learning.
Widenhorn said the focus on student engagement from both students and leadership was one of the most surprising findings from the survey.
“That’s a clear indication of the potential to improve the overall student experience using AI,” he said in an email.
Other findings include:
More than half of students in the U.S. expect their AI usage to increase in the next six months. Elsewhere in the world, 71 percent expect their usage to increase.
University leaders also have lower usage, both compared to students and to leaders in other countries. Just 3 percent of university leaders said they consider themselves “frequent” users of AI, with 23 percent stating they are monthly users. About half of campus leaders in the United Arab Emirates (54 percent) and Singapore (49 percent), by comparison, said they are frequent users.
While leaders could see a use for AI with student engagement, more than 30 percent of leaders in the U.S. stated AI is unethical and should not be allowed in higher education.
The area with the biggest difference in views between students and leaders was AI’s impact on teaching and learning. While 38 percent of students said AI could “revolutionize” it, only 16 percent of leaders said the same.
U.S. leaders had the near highest concern in the world about AI’s role in plagiarism, with only the U.K. having a higher concern.
Highlights from Chegg’s study included:
55 percent of those surveyed across the globe called for a human expertise in generating answers.
While 40 percent of students across the globe use AI, roughly half of them (47 percent) are concerned they could be receiving wrong information. They typically use AI for writing tasks, according to the survey, and use it less often when it comes to STEM subjects.
About two-thirds (65 percent) of students stated that due to the wide availability of AI, universities should change how they assess students.
That same proportion, 65 percent, said they would like the curriculum to include AI training to help better prepare them for their future careers.