How ChatGPT is reshaping academic performance

Does ChatGPT used by students have harmful consequences or not? A new study would reveal a link between the use of ChatGPT and a decline in academic performance

Over a year ago, another technological marvel forcefully entered our lives: artificial intelligence (AI), bringing along a mixture of advantages and disadvantages. What’s a benefit? Its speed in accessing information. A drawback? It remains an incomplete tool.

Yet, it’s precisely its vast database and role as an “assistant” that has made ChatGPT, the well-known platform by OpenAI launched in November 2022, one of the most used tools even in educational settings.

Increasingly, teachers, especially in the United States, are recognizing and leveraging the educational value of ChatGPT. But is this development beneficial or harmful?

What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT stands for “Generative Pretrained Transformer“, an artificial intelligence technology used for generating text, engaging in conversation with users, and providing virtual assistance.

Like all technological changes, ChatGPT has installed plenty of doubts among skeptics, from the journalism industry to the educational sector: how does it deal with intellectual property? And what level of accuracy can it ensure?

The study

A recent study published in the International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education has shed light on the concerning correlation between the use of AI software, particularly ChatGPT, and the decline in academic performance among university students.

The research, led by Mohammed Abbas and his team from the National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences in Pakistan, delved into the habits and experiences of 494 students regarding their reliance on ChatGPT for completing assignments. It revealed that an increasing number of students are turning to ChatGPT for help with their academic tasks. But what impact does this have on their cognitive abilities and academic outcomes?

Abbas and his team found that students who heavily relied on ChatGPT exhibited:

  • Increased procrastination
  • Memory loss
  • Worse academic performance

Interviews with students unveiled a vicious cycle where students, feeling short on time or overwhelmed by their workload, turned to ChatGPT for quick solutions. This led to a reliance on AI assistance (beyond just smartphones!) that gradually eroded their cognitive efforts and critical thinking abilities, resulting in diminished memory retention and academic performance over time.

Abbas noted that students more focused on outcomes were less likely to lean on AI tools, suggesting a potential correlation between mindset and dependence on such software.

Effects on Academic Outcomes

The study highlighted severe consequences of excessive ChatGPT usage on students’ personal and academic lives. Regular ChatGPT users were more prone to procrastination and reported experiencing memory loss. Moreover, they tended to achieve lower grades compared to their peers who used AI tools sparingly or not at all.

Beyond concerns about growing dependence on AI software, especially among students facing heavy workloads, the study’s authors emphasized the responsibility of academic institutions in addressing this issue. They urged universities to prioritize efficient time management and workload distribution in assigning tasks and deadlines.

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