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Jisc runs trials of chatbot to support further education students


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Students talking

Jisc and Bolton College have co-developed a chatbot to support students in further education in their life on campus.

Trials of the system have begun, to run until Easter 2022, at colleges in Ayrshire, Blackpool, The Fylde, Sandwell and Yeovil.

It is the first pilot to emerge from Jisc’s National Centre for Artificial Intelligence in Tertiary Education.

The technology is based on Bolton College’s Ada chatbot, created in 2017 to support students by answering questions about the campus, timetabling and support services.

Its existing question set has been shared with the pilot participatants to be adapted to their needs.

A decision on whether to continue the chatbot’s development will be made after the trials have been evaluated.

Exciting project

Robin Ghurbhurun, managing director further education and skills at Jisc, said: “This is an exciting project for the tertiary education sector, where the use of AI and machine learning is still in its infancy. Our hope is that this project will demonstrate the potential of emerging Industry 4.0 technologies to help solve key sector challenges.  

“Staff workload is an ongoing challenge and chatbots could really make a difference – freeing up teachers and other staff to concentrate on face-to face support.” 

Bill Webster, principal of Bolton College, said: “Since the launch of the Ada service, we’ve been passionate in our belief that every student in the further education sector should have access to a campus digital assistant that supports their studies and training. The joint chatbot pilot is an important milestone in that longer term journey.” 

Jisc, the membership organisation that provides technology services to further and higher education, said the chatbot could be developed for use by universities.

Image from iStock, monkeybusinessimages

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