RMIT is piloting a 'digital assistant' for students, which it says will remove the need for students to queue and fill out forms to complete university admin.
The interface with the assistant, known as AIDA (Artificial Intelligence Digital Assistant), has been created with Amazon Web Service's Sumerian tool. Sumerian enables users to build customisable 'hosts' which can be placed into augmented reality and virtual reality environments.
AIDA will "provide dynamic and personalised guidance to students to help and support them in navigating University life" the university said today.
The assistant, presented as a young woman in a RMIT hood, will give students a better sense of 'belonging' said Helen Souness, CEO of RMIT Online. Students can interact with AIDA via Facebook, text, across all web browsers and on any device.
"A really important strategy for us, is our students on campus and studying with us online as well, is 'belonging'. It's important they have a social connection to the university and their fellow students," Souness said at an AWS public sector summit in Canberra this morning.
"We know from our own research…that social connection and belonging not only increasing student engagement while a student is studying but it also impacts longitudinal academic outcomes. They aren't as successful if they don't have a sense of connectedness with students and the institution. She is responding already to queries about fees, she can answer questions about timetabling and locations and activities around the campus… adding to that sense of belonging," she added.
The assistant is the latest in a bevy of university chatbots that are on trial or have launched over the last year.
In May, the University of Adelaide revealed it had piloted a chatbot to handle the tsunami of enquiries that come at the end of the academic year from prospective students regarding ATAR bonus points.
The Oracle, cloud-based bot – implemented by Rubicon Red – was trialled late last year and led to significant reduction in telephone calls to the university’s six-person admissions team.
In February Open Universities Australia (OUA) engaged LivePerson to roll out bots to handle processes such as username and password resets, and to provide after-hours assistance to current and prospective students, via SMS and Facebook Messenger.
Deakin University has its ‘Genie’ chatbot to provide personalised student advice. Late last year the University of Canberra unveiled two Microsoft Azure based chatbots to handle IT requests from students and staff. Meanwhile, the University of Sydney in March revealed it was piloting chatbots to remove the administrative burden on its finance department by handling queries regarding purchase orders, invoices and supplier-relations.
AWS launched Sumerian in preview mode in November last year. After choosing their basic gender, voice and language options, users can integrate their 'hosts' with Amazon’s automatic speech recognition and natural language engine Lex to understand user questions and Amazon’s Polly so input text can be expressed in a ‘lifelike’ way in response.
Users can also build scenes and import objects in its WebGL and WebVR based editor, and script the logic that controls how objects behave.
RMIT today also announced three new short online courses focusing on AI, AR and VR. Developing AI Strategy, Developing AR and VR Strategy and Developing AR and VR Applications ‒ are adapted from AWS courses, and participants can earn AWS certifications on completion.
The courses will "help fill skills gaps among executives, professionals, as well as developers looking to future-proof their careers in a more accessible and convenient manner" the university said.
The strategy course will teach executives to "think strategically about implementing these new technologies" into their businesses, and includes mentoring from Versent.
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