Students positive about AI but not sure if it’s cheating

(Last Updated On: August 9, 2023)

New research shows that students are generally positive towards the use of AI tools such as ChatGPT in education. However, they do see challenges with the technology and where the boundary for cheating lies remains highly unclear.

Students are almost all aware of AI tools such as ChatGPT. One-third use it regularly and more than half are positive about using chatbots in their studies, according to a survey from Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg in Sweden, the first large-scale study in Europe to investigate students’ attitudes towards artificial intelligence in higher education.

Nearly 6,000 university students participated in April and May this year. The survey was distributed through social media, as well as targeted efforts from multiple universities and student organisations.

Two-thirds opposed a ban on chatbots, and 77 per cent were against a ban on other AI tools (such as Grammarly) in education. Sixty-two per cent believed that using chatbots during exams was cheating. However, where the boundary for cheating lies was highly unclear.

Comments made to researchers included:

“I am afraid of AI and what it could mean for the future.”

“Don’t worry so much! Keep up with the development and adapt your teaching for the future.”

“ChatGPT and similar tools will revolutionise how we learn, and we will be able to come up with amazing things.”

“The students express strong, diverse, and in many cases emotionally charged opinions,” said Hans Malmström, Professor at the Department of Communication and Learning at the University.

More than a third use ChatGPT regularly

A majority of the respondents believed that chatbots and AI language tools made them more efficient as students and argued that such tools improved their academic writing and overall language skills. Virtually all the responding students were familiar with ChatGPT, the majority used the tool, and 35 percent used it regularly.

Lack guidance – opposed a ban

Despite their positive attitude towards AI, many students felt anxious and lacked clear guidance on how to use AI in the learning environments they were in, not knowing where the boundary for cheating lies.

“Most students have no idea whether their educational institution has any rules or guidelines for using AI responsibly, and that is of course worrying. At the same time, an overwhelming majority is against a ban on AI in educational contexts,” said Malmström.

No replacement for critical thinking

Many students perceived chatbots as a mentor or teacher that they could ask questions or get help from, for example, with explanations of concepts and summaries of ideas. The dominant attitude was that chatbots should be used as an aid, not replace students’ own critical thinking. Or as one student put it: “You should be able to do the same things as the AI, but it should help you do it. You should not use a calculator if you don’t know what the plus sign on it does.”

Aid in case of disabilities

Another important aspect that emerged in the survey was that AI serves as an effective aid for people with various disabilities. A student with ADD and dyslexia described how they had spent 20 minutes writing down their answer in the survey and then improved it by inputting the text into ChatGPT: “It’s like being colour blind and suddenly being able to see all the beautiful colours.”

Giving students a voice

“We hope and believe that the answers from this survey will give students a voice and the results will thus be an important contribution to our collective understanding of AI and learning.”

Compiled by the INTERFACE Team.

Summary of results

  • 95% of students are familiar with ChatGPT, while awareness of other chatbots is very low.
  • 56% are positive about using chatbots in their studies; 35% use ChatGTP regularly.
  • 60% are opposed to a ban on chatbots, and 77% are against a ban on other AI tools (such as Grammarly) in education.
  • More than half of the students do not know if their institution has guidelines for how AI can be used in education; one in four explicitly says that their institution lack such regulations.
  • 62% believe that using chatbots during examinations is cheating.
  • Students express some concern about AI development, and there is particular concern over the impact of chatbots on future education.


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