The popularisation of artificial intelligence chatbots amongst students has steadily grown, concerning educators and scholars on the impact of AI on education as we know it. Launched in November of last year, ChatGPT allows the user to instantly generate text by typing down pieces of information and steering the system in the desired direction with specific commands. “It is easy to learn by yourself and there are quite a lot of videos on YouTube on how to use the tool”, explains Hubert (18), who just started his bachelor’s degree at EUR. His first contact with ChatGPT happened in search of new ideas to create motivational video content for his Instagram and YouTube accounts.

Hubert thinks ChatGPT doesn’t help you learn something new. Image credit: Sara Cardoso

Despite the helpful initial experience, nowadays, the Communication and Media student declares to not use the platform anymore: “Why would I use it when I’m a student trying to learn something new?” In Hubert’s perspective, making mistakes is one of the most important parts of the learning process, and a ‘beneficial’ aspect of organic thinking that would be removed by using artificial intelligence in university work.

Likewise, Lina (21), a first-year master student of Commercial Law, doesn’t use AI frequently: only as a ‘source of inspiration’ for assignment topics, but remaining cautious to avoid plagiarism.

According to Lina, ChatGPT isn’t serving an academic purpose. Image credit: Lina Mingers

Both students believe that universities should use generative artificial intelligence in small doses, as a search tool for information and to source out ideas, but not to generate academic text. “For educational purposes, I think that ChatGPT is a bit problematic”, states Lina, “because it is not serving the academic purpose, since an individual should learn how to do their own research and writing.”

On the contrary, Chiara (24), starting her Premaster in Media, Culture and Society, considers the AI chatbot a ‘good tool’ that can ‘democratise knowledge for everybody’. For the student, who started using ChatGPT during an internship, the amount of data contained in a single platform ‘can help bridge some educational and even social gaps’ when it comes to accessing information.

Chiara believes that AI chatbots can democratise knowledge. Image credit: Sara Cardoso

Nevertheless, Chiara alerts for the dangers of not fact-checking ‘what AI is giving back to you’, as platforms like ChatGPT ‘have their limitations’ and can provide misinformation. The student also believes that there are some ‘other ethical issues’ that should be taken into consideration, such as the sourcing and protection of data used to train the algorithm.

But should ChatGPT be allowed in universities? Chiara figures that it can be advantageous when its use is ‘properly’ taught to students. “I think that prohibiting it is more damaging than having it regulated because students will use it, of course, but they will use it the wrong way”, she adds.