AI – Learning the “Smart” Way

Just a few days ago, I had been doing my regular scroll through my TikTok ‘For You Page’ when suddenly a video about a new AI tool for learning popped up. Not in the mood to listen, I simply swiped past it when a similar video showed up only a few minutes later – Once again, all about new tools for “studying” with the help of AI. This time, I actually decided to see what it was about.

The short video detailed a quick introduction to an AI tool that supposedly made studying a whole lot easier. This particular TikTok centred around the company Mindgrasp, who market themselves with the statement “The World’s #1 AI Learning Assistant”; a bold claim indeed. Nevertheless, the creator of the video emphasized the prowess of the machine, starting the video of by telling us viewers:

“Guys, this is truly the next level study hack that I wish I knew about earlier.”

Kyle Krueger, TikTok

I find it particularly interesting that he uses the term “study hack” when referring to the tool, considering the word hacking is often associated with cheating or illegal activities. To many people, especially within the academic field, using AI for academic purposes is just that: a form of cheating. But more on that later.

Following that video, I decided to go through the #aitoolsforstudents for a little while longer, finding a large variety of videos detailing different kinds of AI’s useful to students, a lot of them geared towards university students especially. The tool I mentioned earlier, Mindgrasp, is a paid service but there are many free alternatives, or ones where the user can opt whether or not to upgrade to a subscriber status for more features. What most of these TikToks had in common – beyond the mere fact that surround the same topic – is the similarity between their openings.

Don’t waste hours studying; use these 4 AI tools instead.”

A+ Student Tips , TikTok

“You will never have to make [your own] flashcard[s] again.”

Aghogo , Tiktok

A lot of them put very heavy emphasis on just how useful these tools are. With the ability to take notes or make flashcards based on uploaded video lectures, return questions or summaries based on submitted academic papers and of course, helping to write the papers themselves, the AI Tools are praised for being accurate and efficient. As a student myself, I can obviously see the appeal, especially in terms of saving me time I could be spending elsewhere.

However, is learning “faster” really learning better? And when do we draw the line on how much AI can help us without completely doing the work for us, leaving us with nothing to learn in the process?

A quick google search turned up some articles that discussed these and similar questions. The following article by Sofia Riaz brings up both advantages and disadvantages to using AI Tools in a learning environment, but considering most of the videos have already shown the pros, I want to emphasize the cons. There are multiple mentioned in the article, but the ones that stood out most to me are concerns about “over-reliance on tools”, “plagiarism risks” and “ethical concerns”.

The first one relates to my earlier question as to whether studying quicker really is the “best” way to study. By leaning too heavily on these supposed “tools”, we run the risk of becoming too lax and far less inquisitive about what it is we’re meant to learn. What’s more, it also lessens our creativity and ways to think about and reproduce knowledge in our own words.

The second concern ties back to my earlier comment on how the choice “study hack” really stood out to me. AI tools rely massively on resources taken from all over the internet, with most of them failing to credit the actual people who put in the work. Moreover, if you let an AI write your texts for you, then are they still really yours? My personal opinion is that they’re not, because again you are not using your own words to showcase what you’ve learned.

The third issue regarding ethical concerns is also often overlooked when working with these tools. As most of us are likely aware and as the article mentions, AI software “are not regularized and anybody can use them for whatever purpose”. This raises questions as to data privacy and what the companies behind these programmes are going to do with the information we willingly feed them while making use of their services.

For these reasons and more, some academic institutions have doubled-down on the use of AI and are considering banning the use entirely, or severely restricting it. On the flipside, there are some that embrace the new AI era, such as Stanford University, who recently published an article geared towards teaching staff to help “integrate and address emerging technologies and understandings in the science of learning”, presenting a rather positive view on AI learning tools. Whether or not this course of action will serve to benefit them only time will tell.

Have you guys come across/do you use any AI learning tools? Do you view them as helpful? How do you think they will look in the future?