Generative AI can accelerate study time, IU research shows

With the AI learning assistant Syntea, IU distance learning students substantially reduce their study time – by about 27 per cent on average


With the AI learning assistant Syntea, IU distance learning students substantially reduce their study time – by about 27 per cent on average.


Erfurt, 23 February 2024. Time plays a crucial role in higher education learning and influences learning progress and the achievement of academic goals. Shortening learning time through AI-supported, personalised approaches can help to reduce drop-out rates and increase enrolment rates. With its research paper, "Revolutionising Distance Learning: A Comparative Study of Learning Progress with AI-Driven Tutoring", IU International University of Applied Sciences (IU) shows for the first time at scale the positive effect of generative AI in higher education within a large and diverse treatment group (n = ca. 1000 IU students). Results show that generative AI can help to accelerate learning progress. 

The research tested whether the use of the AI-supported learning assistant Syntea, which was made available in almost all IU online courses in October 2023, influences the learning progress of distance learning students. 

Analysis by the IU research team shows that by using Syntea, the average time taken by IU distance learners to complete a course reduced by 27 per cent compared to baseline. This means that for a three-year bachelor programme students will be able to save almost 10 months of their study time. This is based on the assumption that this effect will be extrapolated on the total study time. 

Dr Sven Schütt, CEO, of IU International University of Applied Sciences, emphasises the importance of the study results:

Dr Sven Schütt (CEO)

“This landmark study underscores the revolutionary impact our AI learning companion Syntea is having on higher education. And as we continue to innovate, that impact will only increase. The findings suggest that education is on the brink of unprecedented improvement, paving the way for possibilities we couldn't have imagined just a year ago. Extrapolating this finding to the 15-year educational journey of the average bachelor student implies the potential to accelerate in average 4 years of education, opening up completely new opportunities to reshape our education system.” 

The research focused on the new Syntea feature, “Exam Trainer” which was released for several IU courses (around 40) in October 2023, continuing the history of the LLM (large language models) enabled innovation Syntea started in early 2022. In the future, it is planned that the trainer function will be available for half of IU’s courses. The trainer feature prepares students for the exam giving them the next exam-like question, thus providing personal feedback in the same style as you would have in the exam. By doing so, IU students receive a lot more feedback compared to students at other universities, which helps them progress faster.

Average study durations before and after Syntea rollout

(Source: D. Fabietti, M. Möller, S. Schütt, H. Sommerfeldt, Q. Stierstorfer, M. Zakhvatkin (2024). ”Revolutionising Distance Learning: A Comparative Study of Learning Progress with AI-Driven Tutoring”, IU International University of Applied Sciences) 

The research paper “Revolutionising Distance Learning: A Comparative Study of Learning Progress with AI-Driven Tutoring” can be downloaded here

Press release on the Syntea rollout in October 2023.



Syntea, the AI learning buddy developed by the IU, is designed for the students. Linked to the IU Learn app and available in almost all courses, Syntea offers an innovative learning experience. As a sophisticated, personalised AI learning assistant, Syntea responds to learners' needs and preferences. The AI learning buddy adapts to students' learning pace and rhythm, tracks their progress and helps them to identify and close knowledge learning gaps. 

Syntea comes with four main functions: Pre-Assessment to identify strengths and weaknesses, Question-Answering for immediate exam-relevant answers (after prior review by human teachers), Exam Trainer for personalised exam preparation and Deep Dialogue Learning for interactive dialogues to deepen understanding. 

The AI-supported learning buddy Syntea is now available as a public demo version in the ChatGPT store at the following link: https://chat.openai.com/g/g-P5olqoCPc-syntea

Further information on Syntea can be found at: https://www.iu.org/how-online-studies-work/syntea/ 


 With over 130,000 students, IU International University of Applied Sciences (IU) is the largest university in Germany. The private, state-recognised educational institution with its headquarters in Erfurt began operations in 2000 and is now represented in more than 35 German cities. Students from over 190 nations design their studies according to their needs: whether practice-integrated dual studies, flexible distance learning or individual “myStudium”, which combines online self-study and campus life. IU wants to give people worldwide access to personalised education for a fulfilled and self-determined life. In more than 250 bachelor's, master's and MBA programmes, including over 50 in English, IU teaches students key skills relevant to the future. A digitally supported learning environment and the use of AI solutions help students to achieve optimal learning results and experiences. IU is one of the first universities in the world to have developed and deployed its own AI-supported learning buddy. IU cooperates with over 15,000 companies and supports them in the academic training of professionals. Partners include Motel One, Vodafone, AWO and Deutsche Bahn. Further information at: iu.org