AI and its affect on College students

By Diego Pizarro, Mike Sloan, and Alex Chittock

2023 was the year Artificial Intelligence, or AI, began to dominate our social media feeds and public conversation. Since then, AI has been rampant in education, with 40 per cent of Canadian students witnessing cheating with AI tools in the past year, according to a study by Studiosity Canada. Canadians have seen the adoption of AI chatbots and writing tools like Chat GPT and image generators like Midjourney. AI has been used previously, but in the past year, Generative AI is what has really gained public attention. Generative AI can generate text and images based on prompts. For example, you ask Chat GPT to write an article about students using AI, and it does. 

As the public becomes more accustomed to AI, its use by students is only becoming more common. A study by KPMG Canada revealed that 52 per cent of Canadian students aged 18 and up use generative AI to assist them in work. 

Bachelor of Film and Television Sheridan student Erik Knuff says he does not use AI for school work but in his job. Knuff edits top 10 countdown videos as part of his job. 

 “They make us use Midjourney to generate images when we don’t have good stock photos or images to take from,” says Knuff. 

An example of an AI generated image. (image courtesy Midjourney)

Darren Patey, VP of Creative Technology at Advertising Service No Fixed Address, works to understand emerging AI models and services. He believes AI will play a crucial role in the future of work. 

Where the real distinction is going to start to show is there is going to be a difference between people who are really good at using the [AI] tools and the people who are good at using them [AI tools] and are also great thinkers,” says Patey. 

Patey affirms that AI should act as a creative partner and not do the thinking for you. 

Regarding students using AI at Sheridan College, the official policy on AI is left up to the heads of each program. Joan Sweeney Marsh of Academic and Career Learning at Sheridan College says the college is adapting co-op programs and career education to the development of AI.

“We are talking with our employers who have hired our co-op students; we are asking them, are you using AI? and how are you using AI?” says Sweeney Marsh.

Sweeney Marsh’s message to students is to question any AI tools they use.

“First of all, I would understand, what is AI? What are these different generative AI tools? How was the data extracted? Who put it in there? Is it biased? I would become really familiar with that,” she says. 

As for AI tools that may be useful to college students, Tutor Me is an AI chatbot. Created by the Khan Academy, the bot will assist you with questions you present and help you learn concepts in math, science, and the humanities. The bot will also ask questions to test your knowledge of a subject. Grammarly also comes highly recommended by Patey. The real-time text editor will help its users with correctness, clarity, engagement and delivery in their writing. Grammarly will also check for plagiarism. 

The Grammarly keyboard. (photo courtesy of Grammarly)

“It’s a really mature product at this point,” says Patey. 

Patsy stresses the importance of using AI to refine your work, not to do the work for you. 

“AI should not be a replacement for your own thoughts,” he says.