22nd February 2024 3:17 pm
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ChatGPT is better than going to class say coding students

  • A new survey from digital coding education platform Programiz suggests that people learning how to code are increasingly turning to the likes of ChatGPT for help.
  • Among other insights from the survey, 30 percent of respondents say that using ChatGPT is more helpful than going to college classes.
  • Around half said that the biggest challenge is getting inaccurate information from the AI platform.

The emergence of generative AI, and ChatGPT in particular, has thrown a spanner in the great works of learning. There are concerns that students are abusing the software to cheat the system and bypass being traditionally educated at all.

When you can use free software to answer homework questions and produce essay paragraphs in seconds, the only thing stopping young people is their own moral standards, and when deadlines are looming these can get fast and loose quickly.

But research shows that there are benefits to using ChatGPT in the education space. This is according to a survey from Programiz, a digital platform that offers free programming lessons. The CEO of Programiz Ranjit Bhatta reached out to Hypertext with the findings of the survey, which he believes provide a fresh perspective on how people are learning how to code in the generative AI era.

The survey saw a huge swathe of respondents, around 10 000 with a majority from the US, followed by India, two countries known for their developer communities. It found that a majority (67 percent) of respondents use ChatGPT as a “primary source” or aid for learning programming.

Three in 10 respondents said that ChatGPT is better for teaching coding than college lecturers, and only six percent said that they found inaccuracies when using ChatGPT to learn coding. Around 30 percent of the 10 000 said they use ChatGPT as a resource for their programming daily.

Around 40 percent said they use it multiple times per week. Most are using the software to understand programming concepts and helping them improve their code. Other notable uses include brainstorming programming ideas, getting a clue of what to learn next and understanding the code of other programmers.

Only 10 percent, or around 1 000 respondents, said they don’t use ChatGPT for programming help at all.

Even though OpenAI only launched its chatbot in late 2022, it has already leapt to the third most used resource when it comes to helping individuals to learn how to code, according to the survey. Google or other search engines are still the top most used medium to learn programming.

This is followed by YouTube or other video platforms, and the ChatGPT which is closely behind with only a four percent point difference. Behind ChatGPT are online courses, from the likes of Coursera, Udemy and others at 38.29 percent.

20 percent said they still use physical or ebooks to learn programming, with less than 20 percent saying that they learn via in-person classes or meetups.

However, despite what seems to be a rapid shift into ChatGPT for learning how to code, some concerns still arise from the surveyed group of developers. Accuracy was among the top of these, with just under half of the respondents saying that the software is “mostly accurate.”

Among the top challenges of using generative AI to learn how to code were technical glitches experienced by the developers, followed by irrelevant and inconsistent responses which over half of respondents reported.

The implications in the report are serious for edtech and the digital learning space. That majority of respondents would rather use ChatGPT to learn coding instead of online courses is something already being felt in the space. Digital learning platforms like Chegg are bleeding money because their usual users are already boosting the analytics of OpenAI instead. Companies that are big enough to create their own generative AI tools are already doing so.

The convenience of asking a chatbot to help with code is beating in-person classes, and students responding that it is better than what college professors and classes can offer should have institutions taking a hard look at what they can offer learners that these generative AI platforms cannot.

But before these universities begin massive reworking of the traditional model, perhaps it would be best to use a wait-and-see approach. Especially as some analysts suggest the generative AI surge is simply a bubble waiting to burst, like cryptocurrencies and the metaverse before it.

A recent Wall Street Journal report indicates that companies that are offering generative AI products are simply not making enough money. For example, Microsoft is losing $20 per user on average with its GitHub Copilot service.

Companies may have to start charging more for access to these products, which means the days of a free ChatGPT may be short-lived. Where then will programmers go for this information on coding? Chances are, not back from where they came now the promised land has been tasted.

[Image – Photo by James Harrison on Unsplash]

Luis Monzon

Luis Monzon

Journalist. Covering education, AAA gaming and consumer tech. Reach me at Luis@htxt.co.za.

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