CONTRIBUTOR
Managing Editor and Podcast Host,
Techstrong

McGraw Hill, an American publishing company that provides educational content, services and software, recently conducted a Study Trend Report which shined a light on how students are approaching education today.

In a recent Q&A session I held with Justin Singh, McGraw Hill’s Chief Transformation and Strategy Officer, he shared that students have been experiencing great success in utilizing social media and AI chatbots to help overcome the lingering effects the pandemic has had on their learning. You can read more information about the survey and this topic below:

Q: Why are college students less prepared today than they were in the past and what role can technology play in combating this problem? 

The survey shows that huge numbers of students are struggling because of learning loss during the pandemic and the disruptions that caused to their routines and their emotional well-being. For many of today’s students, that disruption began in high school and has carried over into higher education.

This is not something that has corrected itself simply because students have returned to on-campus learning. These struggles and stress leave many more students susceptible to dropping out and fewer prepared to fulfill their ambitions beyond college.

Used purposefully and responsibly, new types of technologies, including AI, can provide personalized, targeted support to students who are struggling and potentially help them catch up. For example, we could use generative AI to create smart virtual learning assistants that provide real-time feedback and suggestions to students. Or we could help speed up tasks for educators to save them time and help them better support learners. Or we could permissibly train generative AI on trusted, curated content so educators and students have support they can count on.

We’ve also seen that students have changed the way they study, looking for more self-directed study options like study apps, ChatGPT and other support they can find on their phones. If we want students to feel engaged and supported, they need study tools that they can trust that allow them to study the way they want.

Q: How is social media and ChatGPT changing the ways in which students study? 

According to our Study Trends Report, four in five students have used ChatGPT or social media tools like TikTok or YouTube to find study content in the last year. This shouldn’t be a surprise, given how we all have changed the way we do many things in our day-to-day lives, like tracking our fitness, managing our finances, consuming media and more.

This is one of the biggest lessons that we as a provider of educational content should take away from this study. Students say they would study more if their learning materials were as engaging and convenient as social media. At McGraw Hill, we’re responding to this with a social media-inspired study app that students and instructors can trust and that has been well-received. It’s called Sharpen.

Q: What role will generative AI tools like ChatGPT play in enhancing (or hindering) student learning? How are students and professors engaging with the technology? 

A few key findings from our Study Trends Report on generative AI:

  1. More than one-third of students (35%) saying they’ve used gen AI chatbots like ChatGPT in the past year to help with schoolwork.
  2. Over the long term, most students and instructors believe AI will improve learning (58% of instructors and 62% of students agree more that AI will improve how students learn than that AI will have negative consequences on learning).
  3. With the right guardrails in place, like tools that ensure the accuracy and trustworthiness of responses, 85% of students and instructors say they could be made more comfortable to use AI tools like ChatGPT.

Students and instructors understand that this is a powerful technology that could help them teach and learn more effectively. But we and others in the industry need to look at ways to apply AI strategically and purposefully. What are the outcomes we’re trying to help educators and learners achieve, and can AI help? We think it can, but the tools we create need to address concerns around trustworthiness, accuracy, cheating and more. We feel we’re in a unique position to be able to use GenAI in meaningful, purposeful ways thanks to our trusted brand, our wealth of high-quality, proprietary content, our established leadership in using AI to enhance learning through platforms like ALEKS, and the rich data that we can aggregate from our experiences.

Q: How could higher education be leveraging social media and technology to better serve student learning?

Our Study Trends Report provides a useful pulse on how student study habits are shifting and what learners and instructors think about emerging technologies. This should guide us as we develop technologies that meet students where they are and help them along their learning paths. Innovation begins with listening, and we hear clearly that students want their learning platforms to engage them in similar ways to social media and other apps they use in their day-to-day lives. That’s the challenge in front of us. Can we create learning experiences that are more video-based? That incorporate gaming elements? That create personalized experiences? That can be consumed in bite-sized chunks when students have free moments? This is the direction that education technology will go in the coming years.

We look forward to continuing to evolve the way we deliver our content to students and support higher education institutions and educators by giving them the tools they need to connect with a new generation of learners.