Research Roundup: November 2022
Can AI Help Students Overcome Learning Loss?
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to transition swiftly to all-virtual instruction, the transition hit students in kindergarten through 12th grade (K-12) especially hard—resulting in a generation of students affected by pandemic learning loss. In fact, according to one recent headline in The New York Times, the pandemic set 9-year-old students back “two decades” in subjects such as math and reading.
But a team of interdisciplinary researchers offers one solution that could help these students recover from this learning gap: learning apps driven by artificial intelligence.
The research team includes Ga Young Ko of the Haslam College of Business at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville; Donghyuk Shin of the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe; Seigyoung Auh of ASU’s Thunderbird School of Global Management in Phoenix; Yeonjung Lee of ASU’s School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering; and Sang Pil Han, also of the W.P. Carey School of Business.
The researchers examined how a sample of South Korean middle school and high school students used QANDA, a free AI-powered education app for math, over a 13-week period. (Han, an associate professor of information systems, is an advisor for QANDA.) Students using the app can upload pictures of math problems giving them difficulty—the app then sends “solutions with line-by-line explanations.”
As the immediate effects of the pandemic have dissipated, the researchers note, more students have exhibited “compensatory behaviors” in which they try to make up for lost time in the classroom. For example, this study found that the closer students were to the pandemic’s epicenter, the more often they used QANDA to catch up—especially as they were studying for a significant learning milestone, such as a college placement exam.
AI learning apps could benefit not only students who want to make up lost ground after educational disruptions, but also low-income students whose families cannot afford tutors.
The team also looked at whether the app increased incidents of cheating. However, the team found that rather than use the app to find “quick solutions,” an indication of cheating behavior, nearly 44 percent of users accessed multiple features, such as quizzes and the “ask a tutor” function. And nearly 82 percent of 400 students surveyed noted that they “carefully analyze the line-by-line explanations.”
AI learning apps, the researchers conclude, promise to benefit not only students who want to make up lost ground after major educational disruptions, but also low-income students whose families cannot afford tutors. Parents and teachers who want to help young students bridge any learning gaps might want to “encourage students who fall into these situations to use education apps to complement their learning outside the classroom.”
How Did COVID Affect the Motivation of College Students?
A study by a group of education faculty in Finland looks at the pandemic’s effects on motivation and well-being for students at the university level. The inspiration of the study was to “identify and take into account individual differences when planning future teaching measures to support students,” explains Markku Niemivirta, a professor at the University of Eastern Finland.
The researchers examined the “expectancy-cost-value” profiles for a group of Finnish university students. Each profile compares how a student's expectation of achieving a particular goal matches the value the student places on that achievement.
The team identified six expectancy-cost-value profiles among the sample group. These included disengaged students (16 percent) and indifferent students (15 percent), who saw little meaning in their studies; positively ambitious students (13 percent), who placed high value on their studies and had high expectations of success; and struggling ambitious students (9 percent), who placed high value on their studies but had low expectations of success. The profiles also included moderately motivated students (25 percent) and utility-oriented, or externally motivated, students (22 percent), who fell somewhere in the middle.
Regarding attitudes toward remote teaching and learning, positively ambitious and moderately motivated students had the most favorable view of the move to virtual learning, while those who were disengaged viewed it the most negatively. Utility-oriented, disengaged, and struggling ambitious students felt the greatest sense of alienation.
“Positively ambitious and struggling ambitious students experienced the highest levels of motivation,” Niemivirta adds. “Utility-oriented and disengaged students, on the other hand, experienced the highest levels of mental exhaustion. Disengaged students also reported most symptoms of depression.”
The study’s findings confirm that not every student felt the strain of the pandemic: Different students have different experiences of remote teaching and learning. Because of these diverse reactions, it’s important for educators to take steps “to ensure that students don’t feel left alone in these kinds of situations,” Niemivirta says.
The research team will continue to collect data on students’ experiences, at least through this year, “to see what kind of a mark the pandemic has left.”
Good Organizations, Bad Ethics
Even when organizations do their best to act ethically, they can unintentionally set forces into motion that actually encourage employees to engage in unethical behavior, according to Muel Kaptein, a professor of business ethics and integrity management at the Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University in the Netherlands.
In “A Paradox of Ethics: Why People in Good Organizations Do Bad Things,” recently published in the Journal of Business Ethics, Kaptein identifies four forces within companies, which each can inadvertently encourage bad behavior in two different ways. These include:
- Upward force, in which companies ask so much of their employees that either “good is never good enough” or “good is never enough good.”
- Downward force, in which companies adopt policies that inadvertently make bad behavior seem either easier or more attractive to employees.
- Backward force, in which companies either change their goals too often or ask for too little, so that employees do less to support ethical behavior.
- Forward force, in which companies either never change their ethics policies, which could encourage complacency, or call for all employees to exhibit no less than perfect behavior, which could lead employees to merely “keep up the appearance” of ethical behavior.
The more policymakers and compliance officers understand that bad behavior is not always the result of bad organizations, the more effectively they’ll be able to set ethical standards.
Bad behavior is not always the result of bad workers or bad organizations. The more policymakers, compliance officers, and managers understand this, the more effectively they can watch for these effects—and avoid potentially disastrous outcomes. In addition, they’ll be better able to set, regulate, inspect, and evaluate companies based on ethical standards, Kaptein emphasizes.
Kaptein’s research goes one step farther to consider whether a company’s best intentions to enforce ethical behaviors could be the root cause of the problem. “Sometimes the unethical effects come from good people in good organizations,” he adds. “This insight might help to soften evaluations of unethical practices within and by organizations.”
Applications to Graduate Business Programs Decline
In its latest application trends survey, the Graduate Management Admission Council finds that applications to graduate business schools are dipping from the highs reached during the pandemic. Among a matched sample of programs, the number of applications to graduate business programs decreased 3.4 percent year-on-year.
The downward trend especially affected full-time MBA programs at top-ranked schools. According to the report, “programs ranked in the top 50 of the U.S. News and World Report rankings saw their median enrollment rates drop from 49 to 41 percent, while those ranked 51-100 and unranked saw median enrollment rates drop less severely.”
The survey also revealed changes in international application trends:
- In Europe, 51 percent of programs of all types reported declines in international applications, while 50 percent of full-time one-year MBA programs reported increases.
- In the U.K., 54 percent of programs reported receiving more international applications this year than they did last year.
- In Greater China, 59 percent reported receiving more applications overall.
- In India, 56 percent of programs received fewer applications overall.
Furthermore, the survey results indicate that schools are succeeding in their efforts to attract a diverse applicant pool:
- Fifty-two percent of U.S. programs in the survey have maintained or increased the number of applications they receive from underrepresented populations.
- Fifty-eight percent of programs in Europe and 57 percent of programs in Asia Pacific maintained or increased the number of women represented in their application pools.
In the U.S., the number of applications to flexible MBA formats also increased, while domestic demand for online MBA programs fell. Globally, applications to business master’s programs in disciplines such as management, finance, and data analytics grew by 3.2 percent year-on-year.
The full 2022 Application Trends Survey is available on GMAC’s website.
■ Partners receive grant to prevent the spread of retracted research. The National Information Standards Organization, a U.S. nonprofit that sets standards for publishing and library applications, and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) have been awarded an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation grant of 249,998 USD to prevent the spread of retracted research.
The Communication of Retractions, Removals, and Expressions of Concern (CREC) project will be led by Jodi Schneider, associate professor in UIUC’s School of Information Sciences. CREC will build on Schneider’s previous work, Reducing the Inadvertent Spread of Retracted Science (RISRS). The goal of CREC will be to create consistent community practices that enable publishers, preprint repositories, and discovery services to identify and signal that a publication has been retracted or has expressions of concern.
Among the articles related to COVID-19 that were retracted, many were subsequently cited hundreds of times.These steps are necessary, says Schneider, because currently information about an item’s retraction status is not always communicated, which can lead to the continued spread of faulty information.
“To give an example of the problem, over 200 articles related to COVID-19 were retracted during the first two years of the pandemic, yet many of those articles were subsequently cited hundreds of times, without showing awareness of the retraction,” says Schneider.
The CREC Recommended Practice will address this issue “by identifying parties involved in the retraction process. It also will describe their responsibilities, actions, and notification methods, as well as the metadata and display standards needed to communicate retracted research consistently to both humans and machines.”
■ New agreement supports open access in Australia and New Zealand. This month, global research publisher Elsevier and the Council of Australian University of Librarians (CAUL), the negotiating body that represents universities in Australia and New Zealand (ANZ), announced that they had entered into a three-year agreement. Through this agreement, the partners plan to provide immediate open access to ANZ research.
Effective January 2023, researchers at CAUL-affiliated academic institutions that agree to participate in the agreement can make their articles in Elsevier journals open access.
“While this agreement provides opportunities for authors to share research more widely, we will continue to work with Elsevier to evolve this agreement to meet the needs of individual universities and their different research profiles,” says Robert Gerrity, board director of CAUL and University Librarian at Monash University in Melbourne. “This agreement is an important first step in that journey.”