In September 2023, Ithaka S+R kicked off its Making AI Generative for Higher Education project, a two year collaboration with 19 universities who are committed to learning about generative AI’s impact on higher education and developing institution-specific strategies to best leverage the technology. This fall and winter, each university in the cohort has been focused on assessing the needs and experiences of their campus communities in relation to generative AI. One of these institutions, the University of Baltimore, surveyed their faculty, staff, and students about generative AI in Fall 2023. Their findings offer a unique perspective on the effects and implications of generative AI at a graduate and transfer student focused public university that serves non-traditional and returning adult students. The following blog post, authored by the local team responsible for the survey, discusses their findings.

In an era where technology intertwines with every facet of our lives, artificial intelligence stands at the forefront of this revolution, particularly in the academic sphere. The University of Baltimore recently conducted a comprehensive study of faculty, staff, and student perceptions of AI. This survey sheds light on how these diverse groups view the role and potential impact of AI in the educational landscape.

Findings from the study reveal a discrepancy in faculty and students’ familiarity with AI tools. Faculty members, contrary to popular belief, demonstrated higher familiarity with advanced AI tools like ChatGPT and Google Bard. In contrast, students were more inclined towards basic tools like Grammarly. More importantly, students increasingly view AI tools as vital for enhancing their learning, due to these tools’ abilities to make educational content more accessible and understandable. Additionally, students perceive that AI can boost their competency and autonomy, which are key components of intrinsic motivation.

However, this technological integration isn’t without its challenges. Faculty and students expressed concern that overreliance on AI could erode critical thinking skills, while some conversely believe that developing students’ ability to work with AI may increase critical thinking and problem-solving skills. AI presents opportunities for innovation in education, especially in academic writing. It can assist in developing writing strategies when combined with academic support like workshops and peer tutoring. Students emphasized AI’s role in brainstorming, argument development, and helping them to understand genre-specific conventions. AI can also help to level the playing field for first-generation college students, while also helping students whose native language is not English improve their writing skills.

The ethical implications of AI in academia, particularly regarding academic integrity, authorship, and original content creation, formed a critical aspect of the study. Faculty and staff expressed significant concerns about AI’s potential to enable academic dishonesty, a reflection of the broader apprehension about the technology’s misuse. On the other hand, students presented a divided stance on the ethical use of AI in their coursework, hinting at an experiential divide in the perception of AI’s ethical dimensions. This may stem from factors such as personal exposure to AI (e.g., faculty have greater experience with AI), the nature of the course work (e.g., difficulty level), and differing educational backgrounds (e.g., first-generation college students). This divergence in views necessitates a nuanced approach to AI’s incorporation in educational settings, balancing its transformative potential against ethical considerations.

In terms of the perceived usefulness of AI tools for educational purposes, the study uncovered a marked difference between student and faculty comfort and optimism towards using AI in the classroom. Students displayed a notable openness to leveraging AI tools for enhancing their learning experiences, particularly in areas like personalized learning and gamification. This enthusiasm contrasts with the faculty’s more cautious and tempered approach to integrating AI into educational paradigms.

As we embrace this AI-driven era in education, the University of Baltimore study offers valuable insights. It not only illuminates current perceptions of AI but also sets the stage for future developments in AI-driven educational innovation. Balancing the integration of AI with ethical considerations and an informed understanding of its potential and pitfalls is paramount. The study, in essence, serves as a call to action for academia to harness the full potential of AI responsibly, listen to faculty and student voices, understand the impact on learning for the university community, and provide a data-driven approach to enhance the educational experience while upholding the highest ethical standards.

Learn more about the University of Baltimore’s AI projects.