The University of Sheffield
A Report on the Use and Attitudes Towards Generative AI Among Disabled Students at the University of Sheffield_Information School and DDSS.pdf (442.26 kB)

A Report on the Use and Attitudes Towards Generative AI Among Disabled Students at the University of Sheffield Information School

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The aim of this study was to increase our understanding of how generative AI (GenAI) tools are used by students who self-identify as having disabilities. With the rapid appearance of GenAI technology during 2023, there has been a surge of concern about its impact on education, especially academic integrity. However, there remains a significant gap in research specifically addressing how students employ GenAI tools in self-directed learning. Even more scarce is research investigating the challenges and accessibility issues faced by marginalized user groups, such as those with disabilities. While often seen negatively by educators, GenAI has the potential to level the playing field for some students. To inform the University of Sheffield's policies and practices in supporting disabled students, the Information School and the Disability and Dyslexia Support Service (DDSS) conducted a collaborative survey. This survey builds on insights from previous research, including interviews and observational studies with students at the University of Sheffield, focusing on the use of GenAI for academic writing (Zhao, Cox, & Cai, 2024). 

The report is organized in three main sections: 1) Demographic data. The survey collected data on participants’ demographic information such as gender, level of study, academic department, perceived English language competence, perceived digital competence, and commonly used GenAI tools; 2) Disability-related questions. Data collected included about what disabilities participants said they had and their impact on academic writing, and tools used to address these challenges; and 3) General GenAI usage. This covered aspects such as tool use across different stages of academic writing, how much they spent on premium tools, students' perceptions of GenAI, their current concerns, and recommendations for the university. 

Distributed to all students at the University of Sheffield, including DDSS-registered students during February and March 2024, the survey gathered 124 valid responses from disabled students. As of February 2024, the University of Sheffield has 7188 disabled students. 



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