In a competition involving 123 UK universities, Bolton College managed to impress the jury with Ada, a student help chatbot.
The judges were impressed by how Ada has increased pupil retention, reduced workload and teacher bureaucracy, increased mental well-being and improved support for students with visual impairment.
Bolton is one of the first universities in the UK to introduce a chatbot, which uses artificial intelligence to answer more than 1,000 queries a day from students and staff.
Chatbot is credited with helping the university increase student retention in the first 42 days of the academic year by providing personalised positive answers to repeated questions such as: “What is my next class and in what class will it be?”
“Hundreds of our students have participated in the development of Ada. The computer science students have helped carry out vital development work, which has allowed them to work on the latest artificial intelligence technology, thus improving their future employment opportunities,” said Bill Webster of Boston College.
“The plan now is to extend the technology to our Group partners, starting with Bolton University. This technology has aroused great interest across the industry, and we hope to be able to support its dissemination”.
In addition, the university uses an Alexa Echo, which reads information to students with additional needs. It has been a great help to a particular visually impaired student, who no longer needs to take half-hour breaks to relieve the tension in her eyes.
“This is just the beginning for Ada – we are about to launch an iOS application for the service, and we have published an Android application and an Amazon Alexa application that allows students to access Ada through their smart speakers. There’s a lot more than Ada is capable of; it’s a very exciting time”.