Ada Goes To School

Blog Post by Stephen Hinde, Community Manager for Ufi VocTech Trust

Ufi first met Ada in 2018 during the VocTech Seed funding call – a testbed for early ideas.

Ada is the name of an AI-driven campus digital assistant developed by Bolton College, which aims to support teachers and students by providing information as quickly and clearly as possible at the time of need.  

In Ada’s early days, work focused on providing answers to students’ common queries: timetable and college information, and important updates. Teachers could access student information without filtering and sorting data – saving valuable time.  

The immediate impact of Ada’s success was that students could get all of the information they needed in the palm of their hand, and teachers spent less time on tasks that would take them away from doing their main vocational tasks.  

Ada’s 4th academic year at Bolton College

Since her first introduction to the college three years ago, Ada’s capabilities have been increasing. Recent developments have been focusing on supporting teachers and students in a post-Covid college environment.  

This September, a version of Ada will be available to educators across the UK. The college is launching the ‘Ada Goes To School’ platform which will enable teachers across the UK to set up their own subject chatbots and incorporate commonly asked questions from their own students.  

Subject topics will be built on a crowdsourcing model where any number of subject teachers can contribute to the development of the conversations students engage with. So, there could be 1,000 engineering teachers all supporting the build of an Engineering Level 3 chatbot. Harnessing the power of the crowd will increase the number of contextualised questions that Ada can answer, saving more valuable time for teachers  

Speaking about the development of the Ada Goes To School platform, Aftab Hussain, ILT Manager at Bolton College said:

We are making the platform available without charge to teachers and students.  

We hope that the service will help students seek contextualised answers to subject topic questions; especially if they are doing more learning from home.

This is how Ada will support everyone on campus during the start of the academic year:  

  • Ada will provide students with the exam and course results when students ask for them from exams results day.
  • Ada can answer questions about campus safety regarding Covid-19.
  • Ada can answer wellbeing questions from students and staff; and direct them to information and guidance on the student and staff home pages.
  • Ada can respond to timetable questions.
  • Ada can provide contact details for various support teams around the campus.
  • Ada can provide students with login details for various online services.

Since Ada was introduced, students report that they feel more confident in the support offered to them by Bolton College.

Aftab Hussain

The development of Ada is being led by Aftab Hussain, ILT Manager at Bolton College, you can connect with Aftab on LinkedIn.