While popular with Canadian students, six in 10 consider generative AI tools cheating


As students across Canada prepare to head back to class, many of them will be using generative artificial intelligence (AI) in their research, papers, and even for exams, creating ethical dilemmas, privacy concerns, and opportunities for both educators and students, finds recent research by KPMG in Canada.

More than half (52 per cent) of Canadian students aged 18+ surveyed by KPMG are using generative AI to help them in their schoolwork, despite 60 per cent feeling that it constitutes cheating, the findings reveal.

Almost nine in 10 say they saw the quality of their schoolwork improve after using generative AI and nearly 70 per cent say their grades improved. Four in five (81 per cent) believe using generative AI tools will become a critical skill for the future, much like coding has become, and 72 per cent want courses on how to use these tools more effectively.

“The growing popularity of these tools puts a lot of pressure on educators and educational institutions to quickly develop and communicate guiding principles and guardrails on how they should be used. But the dilemma is, where do you draw the line?” says C.J. James, Partner and National Education Practice Leader, KPMG in Canada. “With so many students feeling like they’re cheating by claiming AI-generated content as their own original work, that’s a big problem. Educators will need to become AI literate and students need to know what’s expected of them.”

With the clear demand from students to learn best practices around generative AI, educators and educational institutions have an opportunity to expand their academic curriculum by offering courses, including AI ethics, says Ms. James.

“If educators can offer more courses about generative AI, it will help students develop the skills they need to use it properly, responsibly, and effectively both for school and in their work careers,” she says.

Key poll findings:

  • 52 per cent of Canadian students are using generative AI to assist them in their schoolwork
  • 60 per cent of students who use generative AI for their schoolwork feel that it constitutes cheating
  • Almost nine in 10 (87 per cent) say generative AI improved the quality of their schoolwork
  • 68 per cent say their grades improved after using generative AI
  • 81 per cent believe all students should learn how to use generative AI tools much in the same way that coding has become a crucial skill
  • 72 per cent want more courses on how to use generative AI and an equal percentage (72 per cent) want their educators to use generative AI in the classroom to enhance the educational learning process
  • 76 per cent say the more they use generative AI, the more excited they are about its potential
  • 65 per cent say the more they use generative AI, the more worried they are about what it’s capable of
  • Only 14 per cent agreed strongly that their educators are using generative AI in the classroom (e.g., create new teaching materials, generating questions or personalized study plans, creating games and simulations, providing personalized real-time feedback, etc.)

Removing the ambiguities  

Students primarily use generative AI for idea generation (70 per cent), research (55 per cent) and writing essays or reports (39 per cent). Fourteen per cent say they use these tools for tests or exams. Almost 70 per cent admit they always or sometimes claim AI-generated content as their own original work. And, they aren’t consistently validating the accuracy of their AI-generated content, with only 37 per cent saying they always do a fact-check.

“Barely one-third (36 per cent) of students tell their educators that they’re using generative AI tools, and most don’t know what their school’s policies are or if there are even repercussions for using it,” says Ms. James. “Educational institutions need to have clear policies on responsible AI that lay out what is acceptable use and what is not. That will remove the grey area for students on how or if they can use generative AI in their schoolwork.”

Additional findings:

  • 33 per cent of students who use generative AI say it saves them 1-2 hours of schoolwork a week; 28 per cent say it saves them 3-5 hours of schoolwork
  • 23 per cent always and 46 per cent sometimes claimed the generative AI content as their own original work; fewer than a third (31 per cent) never claimed the AI-generated content as their original own
  • 37 per cent always check the accuracy of the information generative AI tools produce from their queries or prompts; 58 per cent sometimes check the accuracy; and the remaining five per cent never check the accuracy
  • Only 36 per cent say their educators know that they use generative AI for their schoolwork; 35 per cent say they are not transparent and 29 per cent say they are unsure if their educator knows that they’re using it
  • 57 per cent worry they will be caught using generative AI
  • 63 per cent are not aware of any controls over their use of generative AI from their school
  • 38 per cent say their school has implemented or plans to implement disciplinary action (e.g., expulsion or suspension)

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