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Beneficial or Harmful? Impacts of Using Generative AI on University Students

We present the findings of a study conducted on the use of generative AI, specifically ChatGPT, among university students, providing insight into how this artificial intelligence tool is redefining the academic environment.

What are the motivational factors behind the use of ChatGPT?

  • Academic workload and time pressure increase the likelihood of using ChatGPT. Students facing a high academic load tend to use ChatGPT more frequently. This is due to the search for strategies to efficiently manage the amount of work required, using ChatGPT as a resource to complete tasks and projects more effectively. On the other hand, time pressure also motivates students to turn to ChatGPT. The tool offers them a quick way to generate content and meet deadlines, thus reducing time-related anxiety and increasing the possibility of completing their academic commitments on time.

  • Students sensitive to rewards tend to use ChatGPT less. The findings suggest a negative relationship between reward sensitivity and the use of ChatGPT. This implies that students who deeply care about their grades and academic rewards might be less likely to use ChatGPT, possibly due to fear of negative consequences on their academic integrity and performance.

  • Sensitivity to quality No significant relationship was found between sensitivity to the quality of academic work and the use of ChatGPT. This indicates that concern for the quality of the work submitted does not necessarily determine whether a student decides to use this AI tool for their academic tasks.

What consequences were detected from the use of ChatGPT?

The consequences of using ChatGPT in the academic environment are mixed. While this tool can offer valuable assistance for research and idea generation, its excessive use has significant negative effects on key aspects of a student's educational experience.

  • The use of ChatGPT is associated with an increase in procrastination and memory loss. The study suggests that students who frequently use ChatGPT for their academic tasks may develop a dependence on this tool, leading them to postpone their tasks with the belief that ChatGPT will allow them to quickly complete them at the last minute. This dependence can foster procrastination habits, affecting the learning process and time management. It was also found that excessive use of ChatGPT is associated with memory loss among students. Dependence on ChatGPT for performing academic tasks can lead to a lesser need to retain information and a deep understanding of the subjects studied, which could weaken students' cognitive and memorization skills.

  • Excessive use of ChatGPT can impair academic performance. It is drawn from the study that excessive use of ChatGPT can harm students' learning and understanding, resulting in a lower GPA (Grade Point Average). Relying excessively on ChatGPT to complete tasks could limit the development of critical thinking and analytical skills, essential for outstanding academic performance.

The report also discusses the role that ChatGPT plays in higher education, acting as a mediator between academic stressors and students' educational outcomes.

The speed and agility provided by ChatGPT are contrasted with the negative consequences it can have for students.

Mediating Roles of Using ChatGPT

  • Mediation in the Relationship Between Academic Load/Time Pressure and Procrastination. It was discovered that the use of ChatGPT mediates the relationship between academic load and time pressure with procrastination. Students facing high levels of academic load and time pressure tend to use ChatGPT more, which in turn increases the tendency to procrastinate. This suggests that although ChatGPT can initially be used as a tool to efficiently manage work under stressful conditions, its use can encourage undue postponement of tasks.

  • Mediation in Memory Loss The use of ChatGPT also acts as a mediator between academic load and time pressure and memory loss. This implies that excessive recourse to ChatGPT to assist in academic tasks can lead to less need for active mental processing and, therefore, a reduction in information retention capacity, reflecting a decrease in memory skills.

  • Impact on Academic Performance The use of ChatGPT has a negative mediating effect on the relationship between academic load and time pressure and students' academic performance. This indicates that reliance on ChatGPT under conditions of high academic load and time pressure can result in decreased academic performance. This mediating effect suggests that the use of ChatGPT may be counterproductive in achieving desired learning and academic performance objectives.

  • Sensitivity to Rewards Furthermore, it was found that the use of ChatGPT mediates the relationship between sensitivity to rewards and both procrastination and memory loss. Students more concerned about their grades and rewards tend to use ChatGPT less, which in turn is associated with lower levels of procrastination and memory loss. This reflects that concern for academic performance can moderate the use of tools like ChatGPT, thus contributing to better time management and information retention.

The report concludes that although the use of ChatGPT can offer some temporary benefits in managing workload and time pressures, its excessive use has detrimental effects on procrastination, memory loss, and academic performance.

These findings underscore the importance of using ChatGPT in a balanced and conscious manner, maximizing its potential benefits while minimizing the adverse effects on students' learning and academic development.

Here is the access to the full report:

Citation: This study was conducted by Abbas, M., Jam, F.A. & Khan, T.I. Is it harmful or helpful? Examining the causes and consequences of generative AI usage among university students. Int J Educ Technol High Educ 21, 10 (2024).

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