Is ChatGPT harmful or helpful for students?

Students experiencing high academic stress are more likely to use ChatGPT than their less anxious counterparts. — AFP Relaxnews

Since it went online in November 2022, ChatGPT has been a hit with students, many of whom use it to write their academic papers. However, this use is criticised by the academic community, which fears that it contributes to an impoverishment of critical thinking.

This fear seems to be backed up by a recent scientific study.

The researchers, based in Malaysia and Pakistan, who conducted this study wanted to find out whether generative artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT really help students in their day-to-day university lives. To do this, they first surveyed 165 students about their use of OpenAI's conversational agent for academic purposes.

They asked them if they recognised themselves in statements such as “I use ChatGPT for my course assignments”, “I am addicted to ChatGPT when it comes to studies” and “ChatGPT is part of my campus life”.

In a second phase, the scientists collected data on, among other things, the workload, level of pressure felt and sensitivity to rewards of 494 other students. At the same time, they analysed their use of ChatGPT to determine whether this technology made their lives easier, and whether there were any predictive factors for its use.

It turns out that students with high levels of academic stress are more likely to use ChatGPT than their less anxious counterparts. In their eyes, this tool helps them save time and better manage their workload. Surprisingly, students with a high sensitivity to rewards are less likely to use ChatGPT. This is because they fear being penalised by their teachers if this comes to light.

Whatever the reasons that drive students to use ChatGPT, the authors of the study warn them about the harmful effects it can have. “Use of ChatGPT was likely to develop tendencies for procrastination and memory loss and dampen the students’ academic performance,” the researchers write. “Our findings suggested that excessive use of ChatGPT can have harmful effects on students’ personal and academic outcomes.”

The researchers urge students to exercise caution if they use ChatGPT as part of their studies. This generative artificial intelligence software can help them in their thinking, but it is not without its limitations. That’s why it’s better to view it as an assistant, not as a miracle solution for achieving success in higher education. – AFP Relaxnews

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