Chatbot helps students choose courses

Image source, Leeds Beckett University
Image caption,
Students can chat to the AI about the options available to them

Leeds Beckett University has launched a chatbot to help prospective students find the right course.

It follows the publication of A-level results in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Using Facebook Messenger's chatbot technology, students would be able to "assess their suitability" for different courses, the university said.

But if they would prefer to speak to a human, "phone lines will continue to be open throughout the clearing process".

The university's head of digital experience and engagement, Dougal Scaife, said: "We know that our prospective students already use lots of messaging software for communicating with their friends, such as Snapchat, WhatsApp, as well as texting, so developing a chatbot was a natural evolution in order to engage with our prospective students in a medium that is ubiquitous, familiar, and comfortable for them."

Pamela Clark-Dickson, an analyst at research firm Ovum, thinks it is a good use of the technology.

"More and more organisations are using chatbots and for quite simple tasks they can be useful and effective."

"It frees up human agents to deal with more complex enquiries."

Leeds Beckett is not the first university to employ chatbot technologies.

Georgia Tech University used a chatbot to answer questions from students enrolled in an artificial intelligence course last year.

It is dubbed Jill Watson because it is based on IBM's Watson technology.

The chatbot was one of nine teaching assistants answering thousands of questions on the course's online forum.

And Prof Ashok Goel, who hired Jill Watson, did not reveal that she was not human until after the students had completed their final exams.