McGraw Hill finds students are calling for academic AI tools

AI Magazine also spoke exclusively with Justin Singh at McGraw Hill about the report findings
Students are turning to tools like ChatGPT or social media to seek support with their learning, sparking a conversation about AI use in the classroom

It has been revealed that more than 80% of students have turned to ChatGPT or social media for study help.

McGraw Hill recently announced its second annual McGraw Hill Study Trends Report, which examines student and instructor opinions on changing study habits, mental health concerns and student use of digital tools.

The report has found that students prefer study tools that mimic social media, with more than 70% stating it would help them to study more often and more effectively. Likewise, one in three instructors said that all or most of their students were unprepared for their courses because of COVID-related learning loss.

‘Room for AI to grow’: growing faith in academic AI

The effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic are still being felt by students worldwide, with one in five (21%) saying that learning loss as a result of the pandemic has had a negative impact on their education and college preparedness.

McGraw Hill’s survey highlights that, while the pandemic may seem to be in the rear-view mirror, there is a sizable increase in the number of students who indicate that feeling unprepared for courses heading into the semester is the biggest obstacle to their success – up from 11% to 21% since last year.

Most notably, the study also found that students are increasingly turning to social media and emerging generative AI tools to supplement their course materials, with an overwhelming majority of students (80%) using ChatGPT and social media for study help.

It is clear that there is room for AI to grow. 46% of instructors and 39% of students surveyed express that they would be more comfortable using AI tools for coursework if the content was developed and vetted by trusted academic sources.

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Perhaps more readily available and responsible AI systems within the classroom could become a solution. With AI expected to add more than US$15tn to the global economy by 2030, responsible AI is already a leading priority among industry leaders for AI applications, with emphasis on improving privacy, explainability, bias detection and governance.

“The survey's findings emphasise the need for creative solutions to address learning loss and related challenges and to support educators during this time of rapid change,” says Simon Allen, CEO of McGraw Hill. “We are committed to serving learners along their individual journeys, meeting them where they are and adapting our approach to serve their evolving preferences and needs.”

Digital learning aids: “AI can provide personalised targeted support to students”

AI Magazine spoke exclusively with Justin Singh, Chief Transformation and Strategy Officer for McGraw Hill, about these findings. When asked how this type of AI use could affect the global business landscape, he says: “The survey shows that huge numbers of students in college today are struggling because of learning loss during the pandemic.

"That’s not something that has corrected itself simply because students have returned to on-campus learning. This leaves many more students susceptible to dropping out and fewer prepared to fulfil ambitions beyond college."

He continues: “Used purposefully and responsibly, new types of AI can provide personalised, targeted support to students who are struggling and potentially help them catch up. And tools likely to be implemented in education settings in the coming months and years could also have a use in professional settings where employees need to upskill or refresh on a topic.”

When asked about how these findings translate to wider AI use, Singh says: “I think the feelings that educators and students have about AI reflect the larger population as well. There’s excitement about AI in education and how it could make learning more efficient and effective, but it’s still a bit of an unknown, and educators and students say they would embrace it more if certain guardrails are put in place around its use.

“Similarly, other polls have shown that Americans want to see AI regulation, especially around trustworthiness and safety. What this means for us at McGraw Hill is we need to look at ways to apply AI strategically and purposefully. What are the outcomes we’re trying to help educators and learners achieve, and can AI help? We think it can, but the tools we create need to address concerns around trustworthiness, accuracy, cheating and more.

He continues: “We feel we’re in a unique position to be able to use GenAI in meaningful, purposeful ways thanks to our trusted brand, our wealth of high-quality, proprietary content, our established leadership in using AI to enhance learning through platforms like ALEKS, and the rich data that we can aggregate from our experiences.”

These findings are also being released in the midst of the UK AI Summit, which has called global leaders together to discuss both the positive and negative impacts of AI worldwide - which has already seen world leaders urging caution. 

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