Harvard Graduate: Students only use Chegg, ChatGPT for homework

Nadia Okamoto

Nadya Okamoto attends the NOVUS #WeThePlanet forum at the United Nations on September 21, 2019 in New York City. Rob Kim/Getty Images for Novus

Generational attitudes towards AI in the classroom were upended on Tuesday at Fortunes Brainstorm Tech conference.

A Gen Z audience member expressed skepticism about the long-term educational benefits of AI, saying ChatGPT could do nothing but spit out the right answers to homework, while Cheggs Boom CEO Dan Rosensweig showed uncharacteristic enthusiasm for the ability of AI to help students with homework.

I used Chegg, but not because I gave a shit about learning, says Nadya Okamoto, who graduated from Harvard in 2021. But because it gave me answers to a lot of problems. I meet many young students out there who are not necessarily interested in using ChatGPT for learning. They are using it because it makes it easier to complete tasks.

Chegg is an education company that provides a subscription service that helps students with their homework and study. Its business has recently come under threat from the likes of OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard, which provide the same service for free. In May, its stock price lost 49% of its value in minutes when, despite strong first-quarter earnings, the company said its business was threatened by a significant spike in interest in generative AI by the students who make up its client base. During the same interview, Rosensweig called himself the poster child for having his ass kicked by artificial intelligence

Rosensweig attended Brainstorm Tech in part to announce the company’s foray into generative AI with the Cheggmate virtual study assistant.

We’ll be able to know exactly what you’re learning on Tuesday next week and bring it to you in the format you learn best in the language you learn best at the level you learn best and show you that you’re improving, Cheggmate’s Rosensweig said.

In theory, the advantage of a tool like Cheggmate is that it’s tailor-made to help students with schoolwork versus something like ChatGPT and Bard, which were designed with broader applications in mind. Unlike ChatGPT, Chegg doesn’t do the work for you, but does it with you, at your level, so you can master it, Rosensweig said Fortune in an email. Chegg focuses on the student who wants to use education to improve their opportunities, not those who want shortcuts.

But Okamoto, who is the 25-year-old founder of Period, a non-profit organization working to destigmatize periods and eliminate the tampon tax, was skeptical of Rosensweig’s hopes that Cheggmate or any other AI tool would be used solely to the search for knowledge. These tools, he said, ultimately create little incentive for students to actively engage with course materials.

A concern of mine, as an elder of Gen Z, is the sense that these kinds of tools are making it increasingly easier to get answers honestly and devalue engaging trivia, Okamoto said.

Drawing on her own experiences, Okamoto shared how she raised a pre-seed round for her startup during her senior year, causing her to lose focus on her studies. She turned to Chegg because it was easy and the C’s graduate. Okamoto did not respond to a request for comment.

Rosensweig countered that Okamoto was thinking exactly the wrong way, explaining that Chegg was created for the type of student who doesn’t have the same level of resources as a student at an elite university.

So what the Harvard kids did, I don’t give a damn, he said. I care for children who are trying to improve their lives.

The students Chegg serves, Rosensweig says, are the ones who have historically been unsupported [their] school system. They may also have a slightly more unconventional college experience, perhaps needing to work 20 to 40 hours a week to afford schooling; or they may have children who take their attention away from schoolwork.

My view is that we are built for the student who is self-initiated, he said. That he wants to learn, and that he needs to graduate with a skill.

He went on to call academic institutions lazy, berating them for not updating their curricula and professors for not writing more thoughtful exam questions that couldn’t be answered from a ChatGPT prompt.

[This article has been updated with a comment from Chegg CEO Dan Rosensweig.]

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Image Source : fortune.com

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