Overview

Like many education institutions over the world, 2020 saw our customer scrambling to adapt to a new way of teaching in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. While past events like the SARS outbreak meant that institutions in Singapore were more prepared than most to handle the pivot to at-home learning, increasingly high levels of disengagement among students and lecturers were a concern. Since implementing the Adaptive Learning Experience, known as aleX, the customer has recorded a number of benefits felt by both students and faculty, and are on track to expand the rollout of the platform throughout the institution.  

At a Glance 

  • Over 107,000 Microsoft Teams interactions generated by aleX 
  • 62% of those interactions were between students 
  • 3,700 questions posed to aleX’s AI-powered question and answer bot, QBot, in semester 1 alone  

About the Customer

Our customer is a tertiary institution in Singapore offering both part-time and full-time diplomas in fields such as engineering, applied science, hospitality and management and communications. From humble beginnings of only 800 students, they have grown to a cohort of over 14,000 students. As the first institution in Singapore to introduce an innovative teaching strategy into their curriculum, they are considered industry leaders in technology adoption and modern education.  

About aleX

aleX  is an AI-based digital platform designed to build learning communities while providing the highest quality education experience through technology. Built within the powerful Microsoft Teams framework, aleX provides a new way of learning and interacting in an environment that is familiar to both teachers and students.  

The rise of online and remote learning has brought with it the risk of students falling behind on their work and missing out on valuable connections with their peers and teachers offered through face-to-face learning. By leveraging the Microsoft Education stack, aleX helps to combat this challenge to enable every student to reach their full potential. 

Within aleX is a digital learning assistant called QBot and a powerful analytics engine. They help institutions: 

  • Automate responses to common questions by creating a centralised self-building knowledge base that leverages the questions from interactions with students to accelerate the acquisition of knowledge. 
  • Leverage analytics to provide teaching staff with recommendations to address individual student needs. 

The Problem

COVID lockdowns throughout 2020 saw the institution move their entire student body to at-home learning. Despite their relative preparedness, the scale of the shift had never been attempted, and they found themselves facing several challenges, including:  

  • Increasing disconnectedness among students and faculty 
  • Difficulty getting students to engage with remote learning  

Central to the customer’s requirements was the need to replicate an experience for students and teachers similar to what they would get in the classroom.   

The three aspects of the student experience at the institute are: 

  1. Providing students with the autonomy to work at their own pace, giving them the sense of being in control of their learning.  
  1. A feeling of competence, leaving students feeling secure in the knowledge that they are actively learning and progressing in their studies from home. 
  1. A sense of connectedness with their peers and lecturers. 

The Solution

While the customer’s existing home-based learning framework provided an advantage over other institutions, a lack of consistency in software and limited take-up from faculty meant there was still work to do. 

aleX was rolled out to multiple cohorts throughout the institute in time for the start of semester 1, 2021. As many of the students and faculty were existing Microsoft Teams users, onboarding the platform was quick and easy.  

The Results

In addition to boosting connectedness during the pandemic, there were three long-term objectives the customer wanted to achieve with aleX. 

  1. To create an online learning community that grows organically 
  1. Facilitate interaction between students, rather than just between students and teachers 
  1. Build a knowledge base for students to learn anywhere, anytime, rather than being confined to traditional class times 

Following the first semester of use, several benefits for students, teachers and the institute have been identified. 

Benefits for students: 

  • aleX is easy to use as the majority of students are used to working within the Microsoft ecosystem. The integration with Microsoft Teams in particular has been beneficial for students. 
  • QBot has continued to “get smarter” as students ask more questions. It’s particularly useful for asking contextual questions about course content that may not be available elsewhere.  

Benefits for teachers: 

  • By automating repetitive tasks like answering common questions, aleX has given the faculty more time to do important things like helping students in need and improving course content. 
  • Not only does QBot level the playing field by enabling all students to ask questions, it also improves the quality of questions being asked. 
  • By introducing flexible learning, aleX helps teach students how to learn. 

Benefits for the institution: 

  • By reducing the workload for faculty members, lecturers have more time to dedicate to improving the student experience 
  • Existing use of Microsoft Teams among students and teachers meant there was a small cost to the institution to get the platform up and running 
  • An improved student experience will result in increased student retention and higher performance  

What's Next?

Based on aleX’s success, the customer plans on expanding the platform to more classes throughout the institution. When asked what advice they would give to other institutions considering implementing a platform like aleX, the customer said the most important thing was to just get started.  

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