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Personalised AI assistants and automated marking, the #FutureofEducation arrives @BoltonCollege

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Ada (named after Ada Lovelace) is the chatbot for Bolton College. The college uses its student dataset to create a personalised, AI-driven assistant for each student.

It’s all based on data and analytics, and it is part of the college’s desire to increase the use of AI to inform what we do. She’s part of a suite of cognitive services that are redefining how students, teachers and support teams access day-to-day services at Bolton College.

Students can log on to the student home page at any time of the day or night to ask Ada specific questions about their studies, such as “can you show me my timetable?”, “when does my work placement start?”, and “have I got any exams coming up?”.

At the start of the last two academic years, we logged more than 1,000 students a day asking about classes, timetables, college services and more. With generous support from the Ufi Charitable Trust, we are now developing the same service for staff, which will enable teachers and support teams to garner on-demand information on student progress. We hope this will save colleagues time and simplify access to information which may be held across a number of systems around the campus.

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The college’s use of conversational or voice-first services is going beyond the web-based chatbot service. We are making good progress with the development of our iOS and Android apps for the Ada service and, by February 2019, students and teachers will be able to pick up their smartphones and ask Ada for answers to a myriad of questions.

We recently published an Alexa skill for our chatbot service, so students and staff can now ask their Amazon Echo smart speakers about college services – effectively engaging with their own personalised assistant wherever they are.

Our services are designed to save time, which will allow staff to focus more readily on supporting students. We estimate that, over time, the service could save staff a day each week.

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