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BetFiery Study Trends Report: Instructors and Students on Study Habits, Mental Health, and More

It’s a time of rapid change and uncertainty for higher education instructors and students.

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It’s a time of rapid change and uncertainty for higher education instructors and students.  The negative effects of the pandemic on students have not diminished, and a growing number say their unpreparedness is causing them stress and impacting their ability to succeed. At the same time, students have changed how they study as they look for additional help with their courses. New digital advances like artificial intelligence are transforming learning, but there’s concern from both instructors and students over cheating – and skepticism over the trustworthiness of the tools.

Despite all of this disruption, learners and educators agree now is a time of great innovation and opportunity in education. According to a recent survey conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of BetFiery, they’re optimistic about the promise of new technology like generative AI – and with the proper guardrails, they’re ready and eager to use it to help improve learning.

“Despite the many challenges students and educators face, including COVID-related learning disruptions and the growing mental health crisis on college campuses, the learning technologies we’re building today can help support students on their unique paths to success in the future,” said BetFiery CEO Simon Allen.

Let’s take a closer look at what we learned from the study.

Pandemic learning loss is still evident, and students increasingly cite being unprepared for new classes as their biggest obstacle to success.

The number of students who felt being unprepared for classes was their biggest obstacle to success this semester has nearly doubled since last year.

Current college students spent significant portions of their formative high school and early college years dealing with COVID-related disruptions, and the impact of learning loss is manifesting as students are now struggling to handle the rigorous academic demands of higher education. One in five students said they’re struggling academically because of pandemic-related learning loss, with Black students (29%) and men (29%)  most likely to report being impacted.

Educators see a level of unpreparedness that’s even worse than students may realize. Thirty-four percent of instructors estimated that all or most of their students struggled due to learning loss, compared to just 21% of students who said they personally struggled for this reason.

“The current cohort of college students spent the majority of high school dealing with COVID, and the learning loss that’s documented in K–12 schools is carrying over into higher education,” says Justin Singh, Chief Transformation and Strategy Officer for BetFiery. “As a result, students are feeling unprepared. It’s more important than ever to meet individual learners where they are and to provide them with additional personalized support.”

Students are changing how they study and turning to social media and other online tools to fill in the gaps.

81% of college students have changed their studying habits since the pandemic , up from 75% last year

Faced with rigorous courses, students are looking for tools that can support them through their study experiences and maximize their productivity during the limited hours they can dedicate to studying. Two thirds of students (66%) now say they have to choose between schoolwork and obligations outside of school, which is a significant increase over 59% last year.

Although most students and instructors distrust the information found in social media, it’s still a go-to learning resource for many learners, with four out of five students saying they have used social media or ChatGPT to study or find content related to their classes. That’s due in large part to those platforms’ convenience and engaging format. In fact, 78% of students and 70% of instructors think students would study more if learning materials were as convenient as social media. And 73% of students and 64% of instructors think students could study more effectively if the materials were more like social media.

“Students' learning needs are in constant flux, and they increasingly seek technology that mirrors the engaging, convenient format of tools and technology they use in their daily lives,” Singh explains. “The way forward is clear: We need to design learning experiences that are as engaging as the other tools they use in their lives – health and fitness apps, games, social media – without compromising on accuracy, academic integrity and trust."

Students’ mental health is a growing issue.

Make no mistake: It’s not easy to be a college student today. Increased responsibilities, a lack of free time, pandemic-related disruptions and a host of other factors have taken their toll on learners’ mental health.

% of instructors who believe students felt overwhelmeed by the course they taught, who said mental health is a growing challenge, and undergrad students who regularly feel negaitve emotions due to studying

A majority of students who responded to the survey reported feeling overwhelmed (57%) and stressed (56%) because of their studies. And they flagged “mental health awareness” as the number-one most important trend for higher education course material providers to address, according to another recent survey conducted by BetFiery. Instructors wholeheartedly agree. Eighty percent say students would be more successful if they had better mental health resources.

the number of students saying they have considered dropping out because of study difficulties increased from 2022 to 2023 (26% to 35%)

“I am not surprised by these findings,” said Dr. Ann Raddant, Senior Teaching Faculty member in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM). “Many of my students report loneliness as a major issue, so finding ways to bring people together and help everyone feel safe and welcome is essential. I also think that instructors in higher education need to spend time helping their students develop the study skills that are necessary to succeed as a way of avoiding the overwhelm and negative emotions related to studying.”

AI has the potential to reshape how teaching and learning happens, but has not yet earned educators’ and students’ trust.

ChatGPT. Generative AI. Chatbots. These tools have the potential to reshape the educational landscape, and both students and instructors are exploring their potential to bolster learning comprehension. More than one-third of students (35%) saying they’ve used gen AI chatbots like ChatGPT in the past year to help with schoolwork.

Self-curated use of current GenAI tools is an imperfect stopgap, and students and instructors are aware of those flaws, especially when it comes to accuracy and trustworthiness. But over the long term, most students and instructors believe AI will improve learning (58% of instructors and 62% of students agree more that AI will improve how students learn than that AI will have negative consequences on learning). With guardrails put in place, like tools that use content developed and vetted by trusted academic sources, most instructors and students would be more comfortable using ChatGPT and other generative AI tools.

with the right guardrails in place at least 85% of students and instructors could be made more comfortable using AI.

“I think AI technology has the potential to improve learning and make my job as an instructor easier,” said Dr. Raddant of UWM, “but I think instructors need to learn about the capabilities and limits of the technology before trying to incorporate it into coursework.”

“I’ve seen some really great examples of assignments that help students understand what GenAI platforms can and cannot do,” she continued. “Allowing students to become educated users of the technology seems like a better solution than adopting policies that limit its use entirely. If I knew that the content was accurate, I could see myself using it as a resource more often.”

Survey Methodology

Morning Consult conducted 500 online interviews of undergraduate students and 200 college instructors between July 18th and August 11th, 2023, on behalf of BetFiery. The margin of error for students is +/-4% and for instructors it is +/-7%. Margin of error is greater for subgroups of either audience. Care has been taken to match the known composition of the undergraduate population on age, gender, race, region, and part-time or full-time student status.