On Friday 27th January 2023, Jisc’s national centre for AI in education were joined by Dr Andrew Cox (University of Sheffield), Neil Dixon (Anglia Ruskin University) and Dr Tim Coughlan (Open University), who co-delivered an absorbing webinar on the topic of chatbots.
Andrew and Neil kicked off the session with an interactive workshop, where participants were asked to conceptualize a chatbot for their own institution.
Who would the chatbot benefit? What types of information would it provide, and in what format? Would the chatbot express a personality? What sources of data would it have access to?
Many interesting ideas arose. One participant put forward the idea of using a chatbot to help international students engage with the local area. Another suggested a chatbot to support wellbeing. Teaching and learning was also a popular domain for chatbot use: from deploying chatbots to review – but not pass judgement on – lecture material, to giving students their own personal tutor.
On the issue of personality, attendees were split on whether the chatbot should be entirely neutral and not presented as a human- or whether it should be friendly, personable and familiar.
Regarding data protection and privacy, there was general agreement that the chatbot would need access to student data in order to deliver personalised answers (i.e. responding with students’ own timetable or predicted grades). But participants were also concerned about protecting data generated through chatbot interactions – particularly where sensitive issues may have been divulged.
Building upon the workshop, participants then got to learn about the practical steps in chatbot development – from conceptualisation to implementation. Dr Tim Coughlan spoke about his experiences in developing Taylor, a digital assistant used by the Open University to support students who need to disclose accessibility needs. If you want to learn more about Taylor, please watch the recording of the webinar, or read Jisc’s blogpost about this innovative use of chatbots.
If you are interested in how chatbots can be used in tertiary education, you may also want to take a look at Jisc’s introduction to chatbots report.
Find out more by visiting our National centre for AI page to view publications and resources, join us for events and discover what AI has to offer through our range of interactive online demos.
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Get in touch with team directly at NCAI@jisc.ac.uk