By Ethan Minkoff
One sophomore mentioned that they found ChatGPT to be “extremely helpful [because it] does what you want Google to do” at a higher level.
ChatGPT has taken the internet by storm after being launched by software developer OpenAI in November 2022. Students have taken a liking to the chatbot due to its ability to write essays and code, as well as solve problem sets.
The Brown Opinion Project decided to investigate whether or not this technology had permeated throughout the undergraduate body in its March 2023 poll, asking if students had used ChatGPT to assist with a class assignment.
61.48% of Brown undergraduate students surveyed responded that while they knew about ChatGPT, they had not used the software to help them with an assignment.
One sophomore who took the poll remarked that they “haven’t really had any interest or necessity to use it.” Another sophomore said that they use ChatGPT exclusively for entertainment.
Other students discussed how they felt uncomfortable using the technology in an academic context. A junior commented that it would be wrong and dishonest to “pass off [a ChatGPT written] essay as your own,” while a member of the class of 2025 remarked that “it’s [not] moral to write an essay on ChatGPT … and it also doesn’t give you as good of a result.”
Approximately one-third (31.23%) of Brown undergraduates reported that they used ChatGPT to help them with schoolwork. A sophomore mentioned that they found ChatGPT to be “extremely helpful [because it] does what you want Google to do” at a higher level.
Only 6.44% of respondents answered that they had not heard of ChatGPT, a testament to how well-known the technology has become among the student body.
According to the data, ChatGPT has been used by students across each field of concentration. 48% of physical sciences concentrators (which include those who are concentrating in math and computer science) reported that they had employed ChatGPT within an academic context, the highest proportion of any field of concentration at Brown. Additionally, one-third (33%) of life science concentrators, 27% of arts and humanities students and a quarter (25%) of social science concentrators (which includes Cognitive Linguistic & Psychological Sciences [CLPS] and Economics) also indicated that they used the software for an assignment.
Some students speculated that “it’s a little bit harder to use ChatGPT [in some classes] maybe than for [other] classes,” which could explain the discrepancy between concentrations.
Its usage was also interestingly varied between men and women: 42% of men reported that they had used the technology, a considerable 20% higher than the 22% of women who said that they had used ChatGPT for school.
Professors have adopted different measures in reaction to perceived threats to academic integrity that have been caused by the emergence of ChatGPT. One student observed that “it’s going to pose an interesting challenge to education because it’s hard to assess people when you don’t really know if the work is theirs or not.” In response, some have outright prohibited the technology, while others have adopted it into their curricula.
A sophomore who agreed to an interview after taking the poll noted that one of their professors “said that [they are] aware of ChatGPT, and [they were fine with it] as long as you submit whatever writing you’ve processed yourself.”
Students have varying views about whether or not ChatGPT should be permitted within an academic setting. A member of the class of 2025 said that “I definitely think Brown should have some sort of standardized rule about it,” but was unsure about what the rule should be. Another sophomore stated that “it absolutely should be allowed because … limiting the resources that we have access to now and will for the rest of our lives just doesn't really make any sense. Why would we not use the resources we have?”
*In the spirit of this question, I asked ChatGPT to write a news article about these findings. Find the article here.
Note: All quoted poll-takers remain anonymous to maintain the integrity of Brown Opinion Project surveys. Brown Opinion Project conducted its March 2023 poll on March 1st, March 2nd, and March 6th, collecting 700 total responses from Brown undergraduate students. The margin of error is 3.84% with 95% confidence.