AWS Public Sector Blog

Alexa, ask Bolton College about what’s happening on the campus this week

Ada, Bolton College’s chatbot, has been supporting students since April 2017, answering a broad range of questions about the College and its services. Recently, the college launched its staff-facing chatbot, which responds to questions from teachers and support teams regarding campus services, student progress, and more. Through the voice-first Alexa Skill, students, teachers, and support teams can get information about the College, their studies, and their work through their Echo smart speakers or via their Alexa smartphone app.

The UK college’s voice-first Alexa Skill has further simplified access to on-demand information and services for students and staff at the campus. For example, if students or members of staff want to find out about campus events, they can simply say “Alexa, ask Bolton College about what’s happening on the campus this week.”

Now, the introduction of Bolton College’s flash briefing skill offers an opportunity for students, teachers and support teams to talk at greater length about news and events across the campus. Students and staff simply have to enable the skill on their Alexa app and ask “Alexa, what’s in the news today.” The Flash Briefing complements the broader suite of voice-first services at Bolton College. The ability to engage with an Echo smart speaker or an Alexa app enables the campus to add considerable value to the overall student experience at the College.

To learn more about Alexa at Bolton College, we sat down with the team who brought Alexa to campus. Read on for the Q&A with Aftab Hussain, Strategic ILT Leader at Bolton College.

A Q&A with Bolton College

How was the process of creating an Alexa Flash Briefing?

Creating an Alexa Flash Briefing was incredibly straightforward. The Alexa Developer Console required no coding. We just needed to ensure that we had a pre-recorded audio file prepared when we were ready to publish our skill. Since launching the flash briefing skill, we have updated it with further episodes. Each additional episode only took a few minutes to add to our flash briefing skill.

Which services from the College are being featured?

So far, the team that manages the College’s Learning Resource Centres and the College’s Learning Technology Team have produced episodes for the College’s flash briefing. There are a number of other teams around the campus who are currently preparing recordings. These include the College’s Staff Development Team, the Student Recruitment and Admissions Team, Student Services, and the College’s Marketing Team. Students who are members of the College’s Student Forum are also scheduled to publish a Flash Briefing.

How are you aligning with the different departments to work on this?

Like many campuses, we have a sound recording studio and colleagues are available to support the recording, editing, and publishing process. The college plans to publish a weekly flash briefing. The campus at Bolton College is a busy one, so teams around the campus will have a lot to share through their Flash Briefings.

How is this going to help the College?

The Flash Briefing will support the College by distributing campus news to students and staff. Individual departments or faculties will also be in a position to publish their own Flash Briefings to support their students. Flash Briefings will be of particular use to the College’s Marketing and Admissions Teams, who will use them to promote the College and to provide new student applicants with up-to-date information regarding the start of their studies.

What’s next?

As Ada evolves into a digital assistant on the campus, she will start to nudge students and teachers with tailoured Flash Briefings. For example, if the Business Department produced a Flash Briefing for its students, Ada will be able to present that Flash Briefing to them alone. The same would hold true if the Arts Department produced a Flash Briefing for their Art students. The ability to use Flash Briefings across other modalities is welcomed by Bolton College. Elsewhere, we hope that students across the wider campus will also produce and publish their own Flash Briefings.

Thanks Bolton College for sharing your experience! Learn more about Alexa for Education.