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Back to School: How Generative AI is Challenging Traditional Educational Institutions and Workplaces

September 5, 2023
Jaden Sher

Jaden Sher

Summer Intern, Reach3 Insights

School is back in session, and so is AI/ChatGPT

It’s back to school season and as students head back to the classroom, I wonder how many are also bringing their new helper ChatGPT into class with them? As a high schooler myself, more and more students are using Generative AI like ChatGPT to help them with their essays, study guides, summaries, and more. The thing about generative AI is that it can be hard to catch sometimes, allowing students to get away with using it for their work when they aren’t supposed to. Even OpenAI themselves had said they aren’t able to reliably detect when something has been written by own ChatGPT tool. Despite their attempts, my school has not yet established a policy on the usage of AI, but as AI becomes more popular the need is becoming increasingly apparent.

To explore this further, we used our conversational approach andA phone displaying a conversational chat style survey Rival's mobile-first market research platform to talk with nearly 750 consumers from across the US, aged 13-60, who are at least somewhat familiar with Generative AI. We gathered information about how consumers feel about generative AI, and how it might impact society in the future. Along with today’s topic of AI and education, we also recently did a deep dive on current AI usage, e-commerce and online advertising as well as a follow-up on which top brands/companies are now associated with these new AI tools.

How AI is transforming school, work and retail, and what it means for the future of business

Is Generative AI really that widespread in schools and workplaces? 

As familiarity with AI grows, optimism towards AI grows as well to the point that most (78%) people feel either cautiously optimistic or excited towards Generative AI. With increasing positive sentiment, we’re starting to see AI being implemented in creative fields such as art and cinema, and even in more scholarly areas such as education and work. An overwhelming majority (71%) of people who are at least somewhat familiar with generative AI have used it, and most of those (63%) who haven’t used the tech plan to do so in the coming months. The question is, is Generative AI as prevalent in schools and workplaces? Should we expect students and employees to make different choices?


Your Essay, Authored by AI

AI is a powerful tool. It can write essays and emails, generate ideas, conduct research, and more. To give you some concept of what I’m describing, here’s part of an essay I’ve just generated by using ChatGPT:

ChatGPT essayPrompt given to ChatGPT: “Could you please write a short essay about climate change? it should be appropriate for a student that's a junior in high school.”

Amazing how human it is, right? Well, yes, but that is what has made it a prevailing tool for cheating. Why should someone put hours of work into an essay if a chatbot like Chat GPT can create an essay in 30 seconds? Well there is the obvious point that students should actually go through the creative process to develop their thinking and writing skills, and most importantly, to learn. However, for students who don’t value learning, there’s never been an easier way out than AI tools. With so many students these days just “doing” school for grades and college, I wouldn’t put it past them.

Our data shows it’s not so speculative after all. In fact, 84% of Americans (who are aware of AI) know that AI is being used for assignments or projects in school or work. Almost half (46%) have used generative AI on a project or assignment themselves. They found AI to be helpful, as it increased productivity and efficiency and helped spark creative thought.

A whopping 88% of people aged 13-30 who are familiar with generative AI, have used it for school. Additionally, among those aged 31 or older who are familiar with it, over half have used it for work (55%). Even most people who haven’t used Generative AI yet are open to using it in the future (81% of non-users).

Uses include gathering general information and writing/outlining and essay or academic paper.

Types of Assignments/Projects Used AI

Education blog image 1

As more people use Generative AI to complete work in schools and workplaces, I keep asking myself… should they?


Positives and Negatives of AI in School and Work

That’s up to personal opinion and will be a very divisive issue as AI tools become even more prevalent. Some think that generative AI is a useful tool no matter what it’s used for—school, work, or for other aspects of life.

“No, there’s no difference, it’s an assistive tool, no matter how you view it.”—Female, age 21-30

“I don’t really think there is much difference. If you’re already using it for work or school, you might as well use it in your everyday life.”—Female, age 21-30

Others disagree though and see AI usage in schools and workplaces as cheating.

“Yes. I think that when it is used for schoolwork it is in essence cheating. In other areas of life, it is more like a tool.”—Female, age 41-50

“Students are at school to learn and by using AI to complete their work for them, they are diminishing the purpose of being in school.”—Female, age 13-17

School and work are about doing the work. There’s a slippery slope between AI being the assistant and/or a reference and AI being the producer and misrepresented as the work product of the student or employee.”—Male, age 51-60

"In terms of how it can be different, I think in school, there definitely are some repercussions for using ChatGPT. And there definitely are gonna be some guidelines around how you can use it. But in personal use, I think that it can be used however you want.”—Male, age 13-17

"In school, you're meant to be learning. So, when you're using a tool to do that learning for you, you're not getting the experience, you should be—and same thing with work, you're working not only to make money but to get experience and to learn how to do something.”—Female, age 13-17

For many, AI in school and work seen as ‘cheating’ and ‘unethical’

Opponents of using AI for school and work are not shy about listing out all the reasons it shouldn’t be acceptable. Top of the list:

  1. Cheating: Many expressed concerns that using Generative AI for school assignments is no different than cheating and will undermine a student’s work ethic.
  2. Learning and Growth: Using AI for schoolwork might hinder learning and intellectual growth, as it could replace genuine effort and understanding with taking the easy way out.
  3. Ethical Concerns: Several mentioned ethical considerations, such as plagiarism concerns, the need for transparency, and potential biases in AI-generated content.
  4. Tool vs. Replacement: Some differentiated between using AI as a tool to assist in tasks and relying on AI to entirely replace human input, which may impact the quality and authenticity of the output.
  5. Concerns about AI Impact: A few participants raised concerns about AI potentially making people lazy or reducing human ingenuity and critical thinking beyond simply a single school assignment.
  6. Uncertainty: Some admitted uncertainty or lack of knowledge about the topic, indicating the need for further exploration and understanding.

So, when is it acceptable to use AI?

A small portion (14%) feel that AI shouldn’t be used for any assignments. On the other hand, half are unbothered that others use AI-generated content for school or work. A third (35%) are somewhere in the middle and are slightly bothered that others use AI for assignments. They believe AI is unsuitable for assignments that require personal opinions as well as creative or autobiographical writing. However, they concede that using generative AI is okay in some cases, like:

  • When they have time constraints
  • Research and information gathering
  • Math and science assignments
  • Outline and structure
  • Non-credit or experimental assignments
  • Low-stakes assignments
  • Repetitive or mindless tasks
  • Language learning or translation
  • Proofreading or grammar checking
  • Slideshows and spreadsheets
  • Headshots
  • Aid for learning disabilities
  • Plagiarism checking
  • Prototype creation
  • Customer service
  • Data analysis

These responses indicate a variety of opinions about the appropriate use of AI for different types of assignments. I see a consensus that AI can be helpful in specific scenarios, such as research, data analysis, and non-critical assignments, but it should not be used to complete assignments that require personal creativity, critical thinking, or opinions. Overall, Americans agree that AI should be used as a tool to complement human work, not as a replacement.

Opinions vary whether AI is acceptable to use for school/work

I don’t think the public will come to a consensus on whether it’s ok to use generative AI tools for school anytime soon, but I’m pretty confident we won’t see ChatGPT listed on a back-to-school supplies list anytime soon.

Overall, there’s a mix of opinions on generative AI usage in schools and workplaces. Some embrace the use of generative AI while others are still cautious about the future implications in educational and professional settings. Responses highlight the complexity of the issue, reflecting ongoing discussions of the practical applications of AI technology in different domains. I know I’m quite interested in where the topic will end up a year from now.


I’m back to school, but if you are still curious…

Curious how we capture those insights? It's because of conversational research—an approach that feels immersive, natural and organic to participants. The tech that we use, combined with the way we design our research studies, delivers a more fun respondent experience without compromising on rigor or robustness of our studies. 

If you're looking for a full-service market research firm to partner with to understand what's next in Generative AI, Reach3 has the experts you need in the tech industry who can help you navigate what's ahead. Also, the Rival platform, which is the core technology in most our research studies, uses AI to make it easier and faster to capture deeper insights. 

Have a new research topic on your roadmap? Curious about our capabilities and product roadmap? Reach out to our team and see how we can work together. 


Jaden Sher
Jaden Sher

Summer Intern, Reach3 Insights

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