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Not trending at UC Davis? Generative AI use among students

New study shows Generative AI usage not as high as expected at UC Davis

Generative AI is a hot topic across college campuses, but widespread technology adoption may be less common than expected. A recent survey found UC Davis students tread cautiously and "thoughtfully" into this arena. Seeking to better understand the impact of Generative AI on the UC Davis community, the Center for Educational Effectiveness recently surveyed UC Davis students and published the results online in the Generative AI Student Survey Report. 

 "The students are using it as a generative tool to unpack challenging course content, brainstorm topics for papers and creative projects, and organize their learning, such as outlining a paper or helping build study plans," said Kem Saichaie, the center's executive director.

He said students and faculty question AI tools and Generative AI's impact on the university landscape. Some of the more common AI tools, including ChatGPT, Scribe and Dall-E2 can generate answers to questions, write a paper, design art and translate information. 

 "The impetus for the study first came about at last December's Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Conference and was shared with students just three months later," said Lead Programmer Matt Steinwachs

Jenna Thomas, a data analyst at CEE, led the design and majority of the analysis for the survey. According to Thomas, "the survey's purpose was to better understand students' use of and attitudes towards Generative AI and to convey major findings to our audience."

Steinwachs said, "Survey results confirmed that student usage wasn't as frequent as many faculty presumed, and the student's approach was more thoughtful and considered than public perception indicated."

The survey revealed four key themes around student use of Generative AI:

  • They deeply consider the ethics of using Generative AI for academic work.
  • Generative AI use is less frequent than assumed.
  • They take caution in the accuracy of Generative AI content.
  • They believe Generative AI is important for working after college.

The survey also found that students strongly desire to improve their understanding of AI technology. An anonymous survey respondent said integrating Generative AI into their studies is more valuable in the real world after leaving college. This was a common desire among the students surveyed and one they hoped faculty would address. 

To meet this need, the Center for Educational Effectiveness, a program within Undergraduate Education, offers a variety of resources and programs to aid instructors in incorporating these techniques and knowledge into the classroom. Teaching strategies, consultations and AI syllabus policy guides are a few of the many resources available. 

Through the center’s work and surveys like this, UC Davis equips instructors with the tools and resources to create top-tier teaching and learning experiences for students. By providing information and support, UC Davis ensures effective learning and positive outcomes for all.