Using the Microsoft Bot Framework to Create Educational Bots

Bot Building Steps
Photo by Amber Case

         1.Microsoft QnA Maker
         2.Create a list of frequently asked questions
         4.Student review

Building on the achievements of the innovative chatbots created at Georgia Tech and Georgia State University, the faculty and staff at Brock University’s Centre for Adult Education sought to use the Microsoft Bot Framework to create a bot that would support student success in an online undergraduate degree program.
With the goal of providing students with a means to be able to quickly and efficiently get answers to the questions they may have at any time during the night or day, the program began to develop a list of frequently asked questions. The experiment at Georgia Tech noted that many of the questions that students ask are routine and are usually related to readily available information (Korn, 2016). With this in mind, the student success bot created at Brock University simply provided answers to common questions and included a link to the webpage where the answer was located. This enabled students to easily and quickly find the answer to their question without having to click through numerous pages of the university’s often, difficult to navigate website. Being able to make anonymous inquiries also allowed students to save face and avoid feeling trivial.  Students that used the Georgia State bot noted that they didn’t feel judged for asking what might seem like a “stupid” question. They also appreciated the instantaneous responses, especially when they asked questions at all hours of the night (Herndon, 2017).
Instead of having one person create the bot, a collaborative approach was used to develop the knowledge base that powered the Brock chatbot. This inclusive approach provided the faculty and staff with the opportunity to discuss potential student questions and then consider the answers, as well as to create proactive solutions to common student problems. This resulted in a collaborative professional development opportunity while also serving to develop a comprehensive listing of student services and advising resources that could be used to support individual staff or faculty knowledge development.

The use of Microsoft Office 365 facilitated a collaborative and dynamic process by allowing all contributors to provide their insight into the content and context of the types of questions that were to be included in the knowledge base. The knowledge base was created using an Office 365 Word file that allowed all faculty and staff members to contribute to and edit the content. Sharing access to the bot knowledge base, question log and analytics also serves foster a collaborative approach to the maintenance and review of the bot data. The ability for multiple people to access this data can foster further discussions regarding the when and why students are asking specific questions. 


Further Reading:

        Microsoft Bot Framework
        Microsoft QnA Maker

Flickr Photo by Amber Case