U.S. higher education is slower to adopt generative AI than global peers, but students and leaders recognize its potential.

Students, leaders slow to adopt AI, but cautiously optimistic

U.S. higher education is slower to adopt generative AI than global peers, but leaders recognize its potential benefits and role in university operations

Key points:

While more than half of the students in the U.S. expect to increase their use of AI tools over the next six months, this is a slower rate of increase than their peers in other countries, where 71 percent anticipate their use of AI tools will increase.

The data comes from Anthology’s 2023 global research survey, Comparing Global University Mindsets and Student Expectations. The survey results reveal the perceptions and realities of generative AI use among university leaders and students in the U.S., and how they differ from colleagues in other parts of the world based on a survey of more than 5,000 current students and university leaders across 11 countries.

AI use among U.S. students growing but lags global peers
The survey reveals intriguing differences in the adoption of generative AI tools, like ChatGPT, among university students in the U.S. compared to their peers in other countries. Overall, 38 percent of students in the U.S. reported using generative AI tools frequently or occasionally.

While the U.S. has a lower percentage of frequent users of AI writing tools on a weekly basis (10 percent compared to a global average of 23 percent), a higher proportion are occasional users (monthly use) (28 percent). The study also highlights a comparable rate of experimentation with AI tools between the U.S. and other countries. However, a significant percentage of U.S. students remain unfamiliar with or do not use generative AI writing tools, marking a significant divergence in adoption (22 percent of students in the United States vs. 12 percent of students in other countries surveyed).

These findings unveil a unique pattern of AI tool utilization among U.S. university students, reflecting a blend of cautious exploration and periodic engagement.

University leaders in the U.S. are also slower to embrace generative AI. Only 26 percent report using AI tools frequently or occasionally, in contrast to their counterparts in the United Arab Emirates (54 percent) and Singapore (49 percent), who reported the highest use of generative AI tools. The study’s insights have broader implications for educators, institutions, and technology developers looking to comprehend the evolving role of generative AI tools in higher education.

Students’ AI optimism contradicts university leaders’ concerns
Despite their slower pace of adoption, students in the U.S. see the value of AI. When asked what role AI will play in higher education, students’ top responses were positive with 46 percent indicating AI would enhance student engagement and interactivity and 38 percent believing it would be supportive in helping generate ideas. More than 1 in 3 students said AI would revolutionize teaching and learning.

However, higher ed leaders are not as bullish. Only 16 percent think AI will revolutionize teaching and learning, and more than one-third (35 percent) of university leaders worry AI will create new challenges in identifying plagiarism. In addition, almost one in five (19 percent) are concerned AI will exacerbate inequity and perpetuate bias in education.

To support leaders in higher education in addressing AI-related academic integrity issues, Anthology recently announced a new feature in Blackboard Learn Ultra, its learning management system. Anthology Authentic Assessment will help instructors quickly develop complex, situational prompts that require learners to apply skills, knowledge, and judgment–prompts that are more difficult for AI tools to generate.

Despite plagiarism concerns, university leaders indicate cautious optimism
Although university leaders have concerns, 45 percent say their use of generative AI tools will increase in the next six months. They also cited a number of ways that AI could have a significant impact on higher education and university operations. Nearly 30 percent of university leaders in the U.S. believe AI can assist with brainstorming and 22 percent see the value of using AI to draft assessment questions aligned with learning outcomes. Another possible advantage of AI includes assistance in course building (17 percent). Almost 1 in 5 leaders believe AI can help develop enrollment or admission campaigns.

“Understanding the dynamic landscape of AI in higher education is paramount,” said Anthology Chief Executive Officer Bruce Dahlgren. “Our latest findings offer universities critical insights into the opportunities and challenges presented by AI tools. At Anthology, we are dedicated to providing solutions that empower our clients to navigate these technologies thoughtfully and leverage them to enhance the educational experience. Innovation in higher education is a journey and we are guided by our commitment to keep humanity at the helm.”

This press release originally appeared online.

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Laura Ascione
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