Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been making significant strides in various sectors, and education is no exception. AI chatbots, in particular, have been gaining popularity for their potential to enhance teaching, learning, research, and administrative tasks. A recent survey conducted at Bryant University reveals an interesting trend: while students and faculty are increasingly adopting AI chatbots, staff members seem to lag behind. This guest blog post delves into the possible reasons behind this disparity using the 77 faculty, 111 staff, and 224 student responses collected between November 2023 and February 2024. A full survey report will be published on the Bryant University website at a later date. Bryant University is participating in Ithaka S+R’s cohort project, Making AI Generative for Higher Education.

Familiarity with AI Chatbots

The survey results indicate staff are less familiar with AI chatbots compared to faculty and students. Approximately 21 percent of faculty and 28 percent of students reported being either extremely or very familiar with AI chatbots. In contrast, only 8 percent of staff members reported the same level of familiarity. This discrepancy could be attributed to the different roles and responsibilities of these groups. Faculty and students are more likely to interact with AI chatbots for academic purposes, such as research (46 percent) and homework assistance (46 percent). Staff members meanwhile may not have as many opportunities to engage with AI chatbots, using them primarily for general writing (27 percent) and administrative tasks (18 percent).

Frequency of Use

When it comes to the frequency of AI chatbot usage, the gap widens further. Only 4 percent of staff report using chatbots daily, which more than doubles for faculty (9 percent) and quadruples for students (17 percent). Furthermore, a majority of staff (63 percent) reported that they are not using AI chatbots at all for work purposes. In contrast, only a fifth of students and half of faculty reported that they do not use AI chatbots for learning or teaching. Although administrative tasks are well suited to AI chatbot integration, staff are less likely to incorporate such tools into their daily work, perhaps due to lack of familiarity or trust.

Trust and Satisfaction

Trust in the information provided by AI chatbots also varied greatly among the three groups of respondents. While 48 percent of students mostly trust AI chatbots, only 21 percent of faculty and 24 percent of staff shared this sentiment. Similarly, 77 percent of students reported being either extremely satisfied or somewhat satisfied with AI chatbots, a stark contrast to the 44 percent of faculty and 35 percent of staff who expressed similar levels of satisfaction. While respondents from all three groups expressed concerns about the accuracy of chatbot answers, staff more frequently raised concerns about data privacy and security. These differences could thus stem from varying expectations and privacy needs with regards to AI chatbots.

The Way Forward

While the survey results highlight a disparity in the adoption and perception of AI chatbots among faculty, students, and staff, they also point towards areas for improvement. For example, staff members expressed a desire for AI chatbots to have robust fact-checking capabilities, trustworthiness for research purposes, and the ability to use internal data while ensuring data privacy and security. Addressing these concerns could potentially increase the adoption and satisfaction rates of AI chatbots among staff members.

While the integration of AI chatbots in education holds immense potential, it is crucial to understand and address the unique needs and concerns of all stakeholders, including staff members, to fully harness the benefits of this technology. Since September 2023, Bryant University has been hosting frequent workshops to introduce staff and faculty to the basics of AI chatbots, such as data security and prompt engineering. As AI continues to evolve, it is our hope that faculty, students, and staff can work together to ensure equitable and effective adoption of AI chatbots in higher education.