Campus Chatbots

At the current moment in time the cost of providing a generative Ai chatbot to every student, teacher and campus administrator in a further education college is prohibitive. The nature of consumer facing chatbot services means that they are not designed to meet the needs and demands of schools, colleges and universities. By that I mean having access to a generative Ai campus centric platform which allows for the creation and sharing of chatbots, a platform that is linked to campus datasets which allows for the delivery of contextualised responses back to students and employees at the school, college or university; a platform which is designed to support students, teachers and campus administrators at all points along the student-life-cycle, and above all, a platform which adheres to the universal principles of safeguarding which includes no child being exploited for commercial gain. In addition, the monthly premium fees exclude all but the most affluent communities from accessing generative Ai chatbot services, thereby exacerbating the digital divide between those who can afford to access them and those who can’t. Furthermore, further education colleges like Bolton College are financially constrained and would find it impossible to finance the purchase of a campus license from vendors who meet the above criteria.

Bolton College seeks to address the issue of affordability and access to generative Ai chatbots by developing a campus chatbot platform for all students, teachers and campus administrators at the College. The platform will allow students and teachers to create and train their own chatbots using documents and websites that are relevant to their learning or teaching needs. The platform will also enable individuals to share their chatbots with others at the College, and to discover chatbots which are in the open library. The following video provides an overview of the campus chatbot project.

The use of open-source language models is intentional because it allows the College to operate the campus chatbot service with no dependencies on the most common vendors of generative Ai chatbot services. This means that the College can leverage that autonomy to setup generative Ai chatbots that are connected to campus datasets within a closed system, so no data is passed to third parties. The project seeks to demonstrate that educational institutions can take advantage of an affordable and sustainable local campus chatbot service.

The College is pleased to announce that it recently received an offer of grant funding from the Ufi VocTech Trust for the campus chatbot project. We look forward to sharing more once the project gets underway.