A new survey has found that college students are earlier adopters of generative AI tools than faculty. The research also found that the majority of learners prefer hybrid, blended or online course formats.

The Time for Class 2023 Study was conducted by Tyton Partners with support from Macmillan Learning, Lumina Foundation, Every Learner Everywhere, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Researchers said that the study is focused on the differences between student and institutional stakeholder experiences with digital learning in higher education and provides guidance on how institutions and solution providers can address these differences to produce better outcomes for students. Researchers surveyed roughly 2,000 students, 1,700 instructors, and 300 administrators in Spring 2023.

The research had key findings both when it comes to emerging technologies and learning preferences.

In terms of emerging technologies, the survey found that:

  • Nearly half (46 percent) of students report that they will use generative AI writing tools, even if prohibited by their instructor or institution.
  • Students and instructors are adopting generative AI at different rates. Roughly 30 percent of students reported being regular users of generative AI writing tools like ChatGPT while only 9 percent of faculty reported the same level of usage.
  • Both faculty and students who are using and experimenting with generative AI tools are more optimistic about their impact on teaching and learning than students and faculty who have yet to adopt the new tools.
  • The overwhelming majority (71 percent) of students say they are anxious about their course-load or expectations. To manage anxieties, the majority of students turn to peers, instructors, or their course materials or supplements for support. Only 10 percent said they prefer to turn to generative AI as their preferred source of information.

When it comes to learning preferences and general technology usage, the survey found:

  • Student preferences for learning trend to hybrid, blended, and online courses, whereas faculty preferences trend to face-to-face. More than half of instructors prefer teaching face-to-face, but only a third of students prefer face-to-face courses. The remaining 70 percent of students prefer digital elements to course modality.
  • Despite having strong digital preferences, students did report lack of access to foundational technology infrastructure. Up to 40 percent of students report they have experienced stress due to limited access to computers/laptops and unstable internet connections. This same statistic for students from underserved racial groups is six percentage points higher than the overall student population.
  • The overwhelming majority (90 percent) of instructors use digital course materials in one or more classes. However, both students and faculty note there remain affordability barriers to accessing course materials. Students prefer access models that reduce price and deliver materials on the first day of class and inclusive and equitable access models show promise in achieving this goal. Faculty are aware of student affordability challenges and leverage free materials more than administrators think.
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