University dean fears ‘99.9 %’ of his students are using AI to write essays

University students studying in a circle
The professor said 'you literally don't need to know anything to use the technology' - Clerkenwell

A leading academic and expert in artificial intelligence has warned the technology is “de-skilling” and demotivating university students.

Professor Laurent Muzellec, Dean of Trinity Business School at Trinity College Dublin, said AI was for analysing data and enhancing the curriculum, but lamented the use of chatbots by “99.9%” of his students for their essays and coursework.

“You literally don’t need to know anything to use the technology,” he said.

He added that generative AI, a new form of artificial intelligence that can create new ideas from large volumes of data, was “a huge threat to our ability to learn”.

The professor in marketing and digital business said: “What the preliminary studies on AI show is that if students just use it to take the question their lecturer has asked, put it into the AI software and then give back the answer, they are less motivated to learn.

‘Huge threat’

“They literally don’t learn anything.”

Prof Muzellec added: “What’s happening with AI, especially with generative AI, is that you literally don’t need to know anything to use the technology, at least to use it badly.

“You just need to ask it the question and it will spew out some kind of algorithmic answer, and that brings a huge threat to our ability to learn and our ability to upskill.

“The threat is that we will de-skill.”

Prof Muzellec fears undergraduates are starting to get sloppy as they increasingly incorporate machine learning models such as ChatGPT into their academic work.

IBM Consulting’s generative AI chief Matt Candy has insisted AI has a place in education and industry.

He said graduates with a background in the liberal arts could be a hot commodity in the tech labour market, adding: “You don’t need to have a degree in computer science to [work in tech].”

Mr Candy added: “Questioning, creativity skills and innovation are going to be hugely important because I think AI’s going to free up more capacity for creative thought processes.

“The speed at which people will be able to come up with an idea, to test the idea, to make something, it’s going to be so accelerated.”