AWS Government, Education, & Nonprofits Blog

Delivering innovative student experiences in higher education through voice technology

Universities around the world are using voice technology to bridge the gap between students and institutions and addressing key challenges for universities today including student retention and satisfaction. At the BETT Show 2020 in London in January—focused on future tech trends, innovation, and wellbeing—Alex Denley, Director of Innovation and Transformation at London South Bank University (LSBU), discussed how voice technology can help.

Educational institutions around the world like LSBU are using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to create conversational platforms that allow students to make the most of student life on campus. This is fueled by a desire from students to simplify how they keep track of everything from class schedules to financial aid deadlines.

Introducing Ellie to LSBU

LSBU uses Amazon Alexa to simplify information delivery including access to grades, appointment reminders, and meal card balance. Now, this is streamlined through one Alexa skill—Ellie—without the need for multiple websites and apps.

In addition to answering general day–to-day questions about courses, sports, and students societies, Ellie uses ML and analytics to provide customized recommendations to each student to enhance their experience.

Denley believes that technology needs to be accessible to all and help to make life easier, so he knew from the beginning that Ellie would have to be a voice-first platform. He said, “Voice technology is accelerating the way that humans interact with everyday services. LSBU believes that by introducing voice within higher education, we can transform the way we interact with our students as well as building in a level of automation that will make us far more operationally efficient.”

A glimpse into the future with LSBU’s Alexa skill

In September 2020, collaborating with ANS, Ellie will evolve into an avatar format using Amazon Sumerian. Ellie will be available throughout the university campus at strategic access points to help students new to the campus find their way around and feel welcome in their new home.

Alexa around the world

Outside of LSBU, Lancaster University’s Ask LU and Universidad CEU Cardenal Herrera’s Ask CEU are providing personalized voice experiences for campus information, updates, and appointments. ASK LU plays audio from lectures and gives students with disabilities access to additional resources. Ask CEU is bilingual (English and Spanish) and helps to link its 33,000 students from more than 80 different countries with the local communities. CEU hopes this choice of language will help students become more engaged and productive.

To learn more about how universities from around the world are using Alexa in education, join the follow-up webinar featuring Chris Dixon from Lancaster University.

Ana Cavez

Ana Cavez

Ana Cavez is a Business Development Manager for Amazon Web Services, based in London, UK. She helps customers from the education sector such as universities, schools, EdTechs, and academic publishers, deliver innovative experiences for both students and developers using Amazon Alexa and artificial intelligence and machine learning solutions.