SUNY Canton English Professor Explores Artificial Intelligence in New Publication


Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing the educational landscape. One of SUNY Canton's most prolific researchers has now studied the impact of three AI applications on students in one of her online classes.

Professor Eunjyu Yu, Ph.D., who teaches English in the college's School of Business and Liberal Arts, recently published the research paper, "Intelligent Enough? Artificial Intelligence for Online Learners," in the January 2023 edition of the Journal of Educators Online. Among other findings, Yu said online student-driven suggestions reflect their desire for AI assistants to provide meaningful feedback that helps them develop ownership of their education.

Eunjyu Yu sits in a classroom with a laptop.

"The article discusses the increasing use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in education, particularly in providing feedback for student writing in online learning environments," Yu said. "While there is an extensive focus on OpenAI's ChatGPT and other new programs used to generate text, it's important to note that many students are already using AI applications, including Grammarly, SafeAssign and PackBack, to improve their own unique writing styles."

During the COVID-19 pandemic, online learning became more prevalent, and teachers began looking for ways to simulate an in-person learning environment. Automated feedback on student performance increasingly became an alternative for human instructors. The article further explores the conflicting evidence on AI's impact on student learning outcomes. It investigates the effects of AI-generated suggestions on students' writing practice and attitudes.

"Evidence showed us that high-performing students felt comfortable using AI to improve their writing skills and asserted that AI-generated feedback enhanced their metacognitive skills and autonomy," Yu said. "Underperforming students reported that their overall writing performance was moderately improved, but they did not feel comfortable using AI or experience a positive impact on their autonomy."

Three AI-based writing tools were provided to 68 student volunteers in Yu's English 301 professional writing and communication course offered during SUNY Canton's Summer Sessions in 2021.

Grammarly is a writing and grammar checker that uses natural language processing to identify and correct grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and punctuation errors in students' writing. SafeAssign is a plagiarism detection tool that compares students' work against a database of other writing to detect possible plagiarism. PackBack is a writing tool that provides students with personalized feedback on their writing, helping them improve their grammar, sentence structure and overall writing style.

"Good writing is creating the best presentation of your idea," she said. "Good writing requires essentials and something special, just like a delicious dish made out of a secret recipe. Based on a recipe, AI could quickly help you find the essentials. But don't let algorithms over-season your voice. It should be you who create a unique signature dish with handpicked ingredients. So, you can take ownership of it."

Yu, an English language and culture enthusiast, is well-noted for her popular online courses at the college. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, she's written a book chapter on Halloween flash-fiction for English as a second language students and researched culturally inclusive teaching methods in multi-cultural urban school settings, among other topical and significant subjects related to her teaching. In total, she's authored 13 publications, including US-based and international articles.

Portions of this article were created and edited using AI with direct supervision of the author and Professor Yu.

About SUNY Canton

As Northern New York's premier college for career-driven bachelor's degrees, associate degrees and professional certificate programs, SUNY Canton delivers quality hands-on programs in engineering technology, management, and healthcare fields. It is home to the Center for Criminal Justice, Intelligence and Cybersecurity. Faculty members are noted for their professional real-world experience in addition to outstanding academic credentials. As SUNY's leader in online education, SUNY Canton OnLine offers hundreds of flexible and convenient courses as well as 23 online degree programs. The SUNY Canton Kangaroos 15 traditional athletic teams compete at the NCAA Division III level as part of the North Atlantic Conference. SUNY Canton also features varsity esports and cheerleading.