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AI-Edubots: Intelligent Personal Assistants for university teaching, research and services


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Key facts

Type of research degree
Application deadline
Sunday 3 July 2022
Project start date
Saturday 1 October 2022
Country eligibility
International (open to all nationalities, including the UK)
Professor Eric Atwell
School of Computing
Research groups/institutes
Artificial Intelligence
<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Summary</h2>

This project will contribute to an international research initiative to explore use of online chatbots to improve university student learning, interaction and feedback. We investigate the use of chatbot platforms such as Differ Chat and Hubert to encourage student interaction, learning and feedback in natural language - English at Leeds University, and other languages elsewhere. We also want to investigate a broad range of other platforms and services for implementation of chatbots, and other uses of chatbots in university teaching, research, and administrative services, eg (Abbas et al 2021). We can collect a corpus of chatbot-student interactions, then investigate the use of text analytics and natural language processing to identify key themes, topics and issues for students. <br /> <br /> One example use of chatbots is as a front-end to AI Personal Assistants, to assist and advise students and/or staff in interactions with University systems, such as digital education systems, timetables, library, IT service. University students and staff have to use and interact with a wide range of digital education systems and services with different interfaces, such as: IRIS, Outlook, FacultyServices, E-expenses, Jadu, Word, KeyTravel, Calendar, Grad, Symplectic, Teams, OneDrive, Yammer, Zoom, Minerva, LeedsforLife, etc. Leeds University departments cannot afford to employ Personal Assistants (PAs) to all students and staff, to help them navigate and use these systems. AI researchers have developed chatbots to emulate human language and communication e.g. (AbuShawar and Atwell 2007,15,16); for example, the Companions project investigated whether and how an AI chatbot Personal Assistant could support elderly people living in isolation (Wilks 2005, Legat et al 2008). So a specific topic is to investigate the feasibility of developing a personalised AI-PA Artificial Intelligence Personal Assistant for academic staff and/or students who want one, for natural language communication and navigation of university digital education and IT systems. You will survey existing tools and frameworks for chatbot engineering, for example EDDI ALICE <br /> <br /> A more specific example you could use as a case study is an AI Personal Assistant for autistic and dyslexic students and/or academics, working with researchers in Disability Studies at Leeds University, eg (Cannon 2018), who will act as &quot;customers&quot; or &quot;clients&quot; to aid in specification and evaluation of the AI Personal Assistant. You also need to investigate methods for assessment of needs of adult IT users, for example see <br /><br />

<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Full description</h2>

<p>Differ Chat:&nbsp;<a href=""></a></p> <p>Hubert:&nbsp;&nbsp;<a href=""></a></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>REFERENCES:</p> <p>Abbas N, Pickard T, Atwell E, Walker A. 2021. University student surveys using chatbots: Artificial Intelligence conversational agents. Proceedings of HCI&rsquo;2021 Human Computer Interaction conference.</p> <p>AbuShawar B, Atwell E. 2016. Usefulness, localizability, humanness, and language-benefit: additional evaluation criteria for natural language dialogue systems. International Journal of Speech Technology, 19 (2), pp. 373-383.</p> <p>AbuShawar B, Atwell E. 2015. ALICE chatbot: Trials and outputs. Computacion y Sistemas, 19 (4), pp. 625-632.</p> <p>Abu Shawar, B. and Atwell, E., 2007, April. Different measurement metrics to evaluate a chatbot system. <em>Proceedings of the workshop on bridging the gap: Academic and industrial research in dialog technologies.</em>&nbsp;pp. 89-96.</p> <p>Abu Shawar B, Atwell E. 2007. Chatbots: are they really useful? Journal for Language Technology and Computational Linguistics, 22 (1), pp. 29-49.</p> <p>Cannon H. 2018. Autism and form filling. <a href=""></a></p> <p>Hien, H. et al. 2018. Intelligent assistants in higher-education environments: FIT-EBot, a chatbot for administrative and learning support. Proceedings of international symposium on information and communication technology. pp69-76.</p> <p>Leg&aacute;t M et al. 2008. Wizard of Oz data collection for the Czech senior companion dialogue system. In Fourth International Workshop on Human-Computer Conversation</p> <p>Ranoliya, B et al. 2017. Chatbot for university related FAQs. <em>Proc ICACCI </em>pp. 1525-1530.</p> <p>Wilks Y. 2005. Artificial companions. Interdisciplinary science reviews, 30(2), p.145-152.</p> <p>Zhou, L. et al. 2020. The design and implementation of xiaoice, an empathetic social chatbot.&nbsp;<em>Computational Linguistics</em>,&nbsp;<em>46</em>(1), pp.53-93.</p>

<h2 class="heading">How to apply</h2>

<p>Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the&nbsp;<a href="">University&#39;s website</a>. Please state clearly in the research information section&nbsp;that the research degree you wish to be considered for is <em><strong>AI-Edubots: Intelligent Personal Assistants for university teaching, research and services</strong></em> as well as <a href="">Professor Eric Atwell</a> as your proposed supervisor.</p> <p>If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University&#39;s minimum English language requirements (below).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">Entry requirements</h2>

Applicants to research degree programmes should normally have at least a first class or an upper second class British Bachelors Honours degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate discipline. The criteria for entry for some research degrees may be higher, for example, several faculties, also require a Masters degree. Applicants are advised to check with the relevant School prior to making an application. Applicants who are uncertain about the requirements for a particular research degree are advised to contact the School or Graduate School prior to making an application.

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">English language requirements</h2>

The minimum English language entry requirement for research postgraduate research study is an IELTS of 6.5 overall with at least 6.5 in writing and at 6.0 in reading, listening and speaking) or equivalent. The test must be dated within two years of the start date of the course in order to be valid. Some schools and faculties have a higher requirement.

<h2 class="heading">Funding on offer</h2>

<p><strong>Self-Funded or externally sponsored students are welcome to apply.</strong></p> <p><strong>UK</strong>&nbsp;&ndash;&nbsp;The&nbsp;<a href="">Leeds Doctoral Scholarships</a>, <a href="">School of Computing Scholarship&nbsp;</a>, <a href="">Akroyd &amp; Brown</a>, <a href="">Frank Parkinson</a> and <a href="">Boothman, Reynolds &amp; Smithells</a> Scholarships are available to UK applicants. &nbsp;<a href="">Alumni Bursary</a> is available to graduates of the University of Leeds.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Non-UK</strong>&nbsp;&ndash; The&nbsp;<a href="">School of Computing Scholarship&nbsp;</a>&nbsp;is available to support the additional academic fees of Non-UK applicants. The&nbsp;<a href="">China Scholarship Council - University of Leeds Scholarship</a>&nbsp;is available to nationals of China. The&nbsp;<a href="">Leeds Marshall Scholarship</a>&nbsp;is available to support US citizens. <a href="">Alumni Bursary</a> is available to graduates of the University of Leeds.</p>

<h2 class="heading">Contact details</h2>

<p>For further information regarding your application, please contact Doctoral College Admissions<br /> e:&nbsp;<a href=""></a>, t: +44 (0)113 343 5057.</p> <p>For further information regarding the project, please contact Professor Eric Atwell<br /> e:&nbsp;<a href=""></a></p>

<h3 class="heading heading--sm">Linked research areas</h3>