What do students know about AI?

Becki Vickerstaff
Dr Becki Vickerstaff
Andrew McFadyen

The updated Jisc discovery tool will help them find out.

A student uses a chatbot on his phone.

How do you even start with AI?

Have a go and play around? Ask that one colleague who’s always talking about it? Read all the articles first? Whether you’re an AI sceptic or whether you are that colleague, each of these starting points offers something crucial on which to build: information, data and evidence.

How do you start working with AI in your university or college? And how do you approach a student body with widely varying experience of and access to AI? The starting point is the same: information, data and evidence.

Find out where you are now

The Jisc discovery tool is a developmental tool that students and staff can use to self-assess their digital capabilities, identify their strengths, and highlight opportunities to develop skills. On 20 March 2024 we updated the discovery tool with question sets for students on their capability and proficiency with AI and generative AI tools.

The discovery tool already includes a question set about AI for staff that has been used by 69 institutions. The questions cover the place of AI in digital proficiency, productivity, data literacy, digital communication, collaboration and digital creativity. Crucially, the new questions cover the responsible use of AI in an educational context.

The question sets for students and staff have been developed with assistance from Jisc. The tool aligns with the latest AI advice and AI guiding principles developed by Jisc and the Russell Group on the responsible and equitable use of AI to enhance learning and teaching.

How the discovery tool helps students and teachers

The new question sets provide students with a basis to self-assess their skills and knowledge of what AI is and how it could, or should, be used in the context of their studies. Students’ confidence levels will vary from ‘developing’ through ‘capable’ to ‘proficient’ depending on their experience.

The questions are specifically aimed at students with the tool producing an individual report for each user designed to point the way to future development. The discovery tool can be embedded in programmes of support for students and is designed to draw out students’ critical thinking. The results can indicate where responsible use AI might give students an advantage, or where it might not be the most appropriate tool. Your own organisational policies can be added to the report to tailor your students’ experience.

Reports from the tool can be shared with tutors to identify and provide personalised support, or even included in students’ ePortfolio as evidence of their proficiency.

AI proficiency as a digital skill will be in high demand across the workplaces that students encounter after graduation. Beyond the classroom, these questions and resources will help teachers to prepare students for an employment environment where AI may soon be ubiquitous.

Get by with a little help from your friends

As part of Jisc’s programme of building digital capability and its digital capability framework, the discovery tool has a wide community of users in both further and higher education settings. AI question sets for staff, released in January 2024, are already being used by over 300 teachers and researchers to help assess, and improve, their skills and knowledge.

Users benefit from individual and organisational frameworks, expert consultancy and a wealth of resources and materials to support staff and students’ development. Above all, the community of practitioners is supported by Jisc to help each other with advice, case studies and the free flow of ideas.

Garry Storer, digital capability adviser at Durham University said:

“The new student AI and generative AI question set is great for anyone who is studying. It offers practical next steps and signposts AI tools and how AI can support you with your studies. It covers many areas from productivity to information literacy to creativity. There is also a responsibility section which covers institutional and ethical considerations.

"From AI novices and sceptics to people who are already comfortable in the AI world, your report provides the next steps based on your assessment levels. Alongside my IT and academic development colleagues, I will be looking to add this to the student induction pathway for next academic year. We will also look at how we can use the question set to support other digital strategies involving AI.”

Start now!

The new question sets are ready to deploy immediately to existing students. With the speed of development and change in AI, we expect and plan to update them frequently.

If your institution is already subscribed to building digital capability you will see the new AI question sets in the discovery tool from Wednesday 20 March 2024. If not, then subscribe now and make this your starting point for getting the most, and the best, out of AI.

Find out more about building digital capability.

About the authors

Becki Vickerstaff
Dr Becki Vickerstaff
Higher education senior consultant, Jisc
Andrew McFadyen
Further education and skills senior consultant, Jisc