One-third of college instructors are using genAI—here’s how

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Faculty and staff members who regularly use AI are most likely to use it for content creation.

Since ChatGPT launched, students have had higher usage rates compared to those working in higher ed. June research from Tyton Partners found three in five students say they are regular users of AI compared to 36 percent of instructors.

However, research points to a growing acceptance of the technology among higher education practitioners both inside and outside the classroom. Tyton’s study and newly released data from EAB highlight where generative AI is being applied to benefit students’ academic and overall success.

In general, practitioners have yet to widely adopt the technology, but many are using it to create student-facing content and communication, sometimes without institutional policy or guidance.

Tyton Partners’ “Time for Class 2024 Report: Unlocking Access to Effective Digital Teaching and Learning” surveyed around 1,600 students, 1,700 instructors and 300 administrators in February and March. EAB’s “From Caution to Curiosity: Higher Ed Success Staff Weigh in on AI’s Role in Student Success” research pulls from 220 or so student success professionals and executive leadership. The survey was distributed in March and April. Both surveys represent a variety of institution types, including both two- and four-year institutions of varying sizes.

Professors outsource: Among those using AI, faculty members are most likely to apply it for course design and content-related purposes, with 91 percent of faculty using generative AI at least monthly. They are doing so for course content purposes, according to Tyton’s report.

Four in five use ChatGPT for course content and 63 percent use it for assessment. Also popular tools are Bard/Gemini and BingChat, both used for content and assessment. Instructors at public two-year institutions are more likely to use generative AI tools for course content.

Some, however, are automating the feedback and grading process, using tools to provide tailored feedback and personalized instruction as well as grading and communication with students. Two-thirds of regular AI users say they utilize tools for providing grades or feedback, the most common tool being ChatGPT (63 percent).

Seventeen percent of instructors say generative AI has reduced their overall workload. Developing course materials is the No. 1 task that’s decreased (61 percent), followed by course-related research (52 percent) and providing tailored feedback to students (38 percent). One in five say it has decreased grading, and 16 percent say it’s reduced the time they spend communicating with students.

On high alert: Twenty-eight percent of instructors say generative AI has increased their workload. The most common facet that’s grown is monitoring for academic integrity or enforcing policies (81 percent). Seven in 10 faculty say their workload has grown because they’ve redesigned assessments to counter AI.

Concerns about students’ academic integrity and ethical use of AI are not misplaced, as shown by student respondents, half of whom say they would be likely or extremely likely to use generative AI tools, even if they were banned by their instructor.

Whether or not a faculty member used AI impacted their feelings toward student learning, as well. Just over 60 percent of non-users say they think generative AI will have a negative impact on student learning, compared to 36 percent of regular (at least monthly) users.

Staff plug in: EAB found 69 percent of respondents have used AI in their jobs at least a few times in the past year, and an additional 12 percent know of colleagues who use it, even if they don’t.

Among users, 38 percent say it helps reduce the time they spend drafting student emails and communications, and 31 percent use AI-powered chat bots to field questions from students.

Career service professionals use the tools to help students write cover letters or résumés (18 percent) or assist students with career search activities (16 percent).

Staff are also aware of the limitations of generative AI, with 64 percent worried about errors in AI communication that could negatively impact students and 56 percent concerned about how AI-generated content might contain biases.

Institutional policies: Tyton’s survey noted 76 percent of administrators say their institutions have not fully developed or implemented institutionwide policies on AI use. Around one-third (37 percent) are working on policies, and a quarter already have them in place (up from 3 percent in spring 2023).

Among student affairs professionals, EAB found 64 percent of institutions rarely or never encourage their teams to use AI in their roles, 60 percent never collect information on how student success teams are using AI and 49 percent never encourage staff to share what they’re learning about AI with their peers.

Training is top of mind for administrators surveyed by Tyton, with 40 percent indicating that they are currently or are planning to offer faculty and staff training on the use of generative AI tools.

Student success professionals want more time to experiment with AI technology (62 percent), examples from their peers who are using AI (62 percent) and institutional working groups to explore AI together (52 percent).

We bet your colleague would like this article, too. Send them this link to subscribe to our weekday newsletter on Student Success.…Read more by Ashley Mowreader

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