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    Surge in Chinese Students Using AI for Academic Edge: New Survey

    While many students admit to utilizing AI for learning and creativity, a majority also expressed concerns over risks of unfair competition, misinformation, and copyright breaches.

    AI tools are growing increasingly popular among university students in China, a new survey by China Youth Daily shows. More than half of the students reported using AI for research and translation tasks, while about a quarter utilize these tools for creative endeavors such as drawing, video editing, and crafting presentations.

    The survey, which reached 7,055 students nationwide, found that 84.88% reported using AI tools, with 16.3% utilizing them frequently. Additionally, 77.51% of respondents believe AI tools help enhance their work and learning efficiency. 

    The proliferation of AI in academic circles mirrors a broader trend. According to Feng Zixuan, vice dean of the school of artificial intelligence and law at the Southwest University of Political Science and Law, rapid advances in AI, including in image and speech recognition and natural language processing, are indicative of its expanding role in everyday life. 

    “Large language models like ChatGPT are beginning to take on tasks across a spectrum of fields such as language, mathematics, coding, vision, law, and medicine, suggesting a significant shift toward a society where humans and machines increasingly coexist,” Feng told China Youth Daily.

    Zeng Yiping, a physics freshman at ShanghaiTech University and a regular user of AI tools, told Sixth Tone that he relies on platforms like ChatGPT and Quora’s Poe for academic assistance. He frequently uses these AI resources for clearer definitions of academic concepts. “It’s much more efficient than searching through books,” said Zeng.

    He also underscored that AI tools weren’t just useful for finding facts — they also help him find inspiration when he’s stuck on homework questions. “When I’m out of ideas, they help guide me,” he said. 

    While AI tools offer significant benefits, many students also raised concerns over their widespread use. According to the same survey, 79.38% of respondents agree that the development of AI is crucial, yet also emphasize the importance of proper oversight and governance.

    Concerns are particularly pronounced around misuse; approximately 60% of students worry about the risks associated with AI, such as generating content that could disrupt fair competition, creating false information, and potential copyright infringements.

    Zeng concurs. “I’m concerned that an increasing number of students might excessively rely on AI to complete their assignments, thereby losing their individuality,” he said. 

    Zou Yiming, a sophomore studying applied chemistry at Jinan University, also raised similar concerns. “If ChatGPT is misused by students, it could have an impact on their creativity,” said Zou. 

    The issue is compounded by the lack of formal education on the subject; neither ShanghaiTech University nor Jinan University currently offer classes or specific guidelines on the proper use of AI tools. “Schools need to provide guidance on the use of AI tools, potentially through classroom teaching,” Zeng suggested.

    Vice dean Feng emphasized that the adoption of AI tools calls for an updated approach in the education system to enhance public digital literacy. “The government, media, schools, communities, businesses, and especially resource-rich high-tech companies should be involved,” she said, stressing on the need to recognize the potential risks as well as their significance.

    In recent months, China has taken steps to address the risks linked to the swift advancement of AI technologies. In late August, the government proposed revisions to academic degree regulations, introducing a ban on “using artificial intelligence to write dissertations.”

    And on Aug. 15, the first ever set of rules for AI content creation was implemented, laying out guidelines for service providers to curb excessive reliance on or potential addiction to generative AI services among minors.

    Editor: Apurva. 

    (Header image: IC)