Chatbots Raise Their Hands in the Education Space

Chris Knight
Mar 29 · 4 min read

Chatbots are a key customer service and perfect for the messenger-happy younger generation in school and college. They help deal with the many queries they have from course advice, lecture locations, personal and health help and choosing their next educational steps.

Bots are rolling out in schools, universities and other educational institutions around the world at a rapid pace. One of the latest to adopt an AI chatbot is Staffordshire University, but new rollouts are popping up every week.

Staffs Uni’s Beacon bot as one of the latest shows the improvement in scope and capabilities of bots. Available as an iOS or Android app, it is badged as “an intelligent digital coach to guide and help you through your university experience, learning more and more skills and knowledge over the years to come.”

Features include:

  • Request important documents
  • Get answers to common questions across all our services (Careers, Counselling, Digital, Library and Student Services)
  • Search the staff directory
  • Find out when and where your next lecture is
  • Order a new student card
  • Search the societies and clubs you can join
  • See campus maps
  • Directly contact your personal tutor
Education chatbots can help students in all aspects of their coursework and social lives

Making all that information available in a bot helps save college staff and faculty an inordinate amount of time. It also helps nervous students get information without feeling they are wasting staff time. And, it is easy to see the bot adding student health and wellbeing features to ensure they are having a positive experience in and around campus.

Rise of the Teaching Bots

As bots continue their march into all verticals, they are playing a key role in education, delivered by big IT names and specialist providers like SnatchBot. As leavers and graduates will be used to working with and expect to see bots in their workplace, in council and government interactions, these bots help further strip away the last vestiges of resistance and enmity towards digital or virtual assistants.

Bots will also provide more than just advice, taking over the delivery of some basic level courses through online or remote teaching, and helping take and moderate tests, providing faster results and helping remove the fear of the exam hall for many.

While there’s a fear of redundancies in the harsh economic college environment, the reality is, in most cases, bots will free staff and teachers up to handle important student queries and focus more of their time on creating and delivering a curriculum, managing student results and driving pass rates up.

Most lecturers will appreciate being able to focus on the value-adding parts of their roles, and pupils or students will simply get used to robot teachers, remote lessons and other benefits over time.

The AI Student Bot Will Help With More Than Teaching

Where the AI element comes in, currently is in understanding what students are asking through natural language processing (NLP) But soon could be used in identifying student areas of weakness automatically and suggesting specific revision work, providing ad hoc testing and lessons to boost comprehension of, and confidence in, a subject.

As student mental health becomes a growing issue, bots will also act as a non-challenging voice to reach out to that can offer advice and information, or just someone to vent to, without the student feeling embarrassed or ashamed. The AI bot can adopt a sympathetic tone and look for warning signs that may require further support or investigation.

Privacy and security remain key issues, but the first time a bot saves a student’s life — or fails to help with a serious case — the debates will rage between media, politicians and bot creators.

Bots can also use their AI power for rapid translation, useful in an increasingly international academic environment. Universities around the world offer English and native language bots, like the University of Hong Kong, but soon there will just be the one bot, auto-translating on the fly to help students from any country make their way in the world.

All of these advances are happening so quickly, it may sound scary for traditionalists. But for the fresher student turning up in a new town or school, having a reliable always-on port of call for information, advice and support will become as normal as lectures and revision. For the staff, the benefits outweigh the drag of another new system to support. And with cloud bots functioning easily enough on social media, apps and websites, the overhead for an institution’s IT is minimal.

Chris Knight

Written by

Tech writer interested in mobile, digital business, IT, smart homes and gadgets - anything with a GHz pulse.

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