IBM Watson helps Deakin drive the digital frontier

25 November 2015

Students at Deakin University ask IBM Watson 1600 questions a week to learn the ins and outs of life on campus and studying in the cloud.

Students at Deakin University ask IBM Watson 1600 questions a week to learn the ins and outs of life on campus and studying in the cloud.

As the first university in the world to introduce IBM Watson cognitive computing technologies, Deakin is progressing its use of Watson, expanding its capabilities and teaching the system to understand new sources of information.

Within 12 months of implementing Watson to enhance the quality of the student experience at Deakin, this ground-breaking system has handled more than 55,000 questions from students

Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Education, Professor Beverley Oliver said Watson exemplifies Deakin’s reputation as a driver of the digital frontier.

“Watson helps students to find information easily and put answers at their fingertips, 24/7/365,” Professor Oliver said.

“By helping students find information easily and quickly, Watson has revolutionised problem-solving at Deakin.”

Chief Digital Officer William Confalonieri said with help from IBM, Deakin was pushing the digital boundaries to make the student experience the best it can possibly be.

“Deakin is a young, inspiring and innovative university with great ambitions, Watson is a breakthrough and cutting-edge system – it’s a perfect match and represents thinking right on the edge of the digital frontier,” Mr Confalonieri said.

And thanks to a recent upgrade, Watson is now even smarter:

  • It can use the Deakin website to generate answers to questions;
  • Watson can walk students through processes including submission of assignments, paying for car parking and re-enrolling in study;
  • Watson asks students which campus they’re on, and whether they’re an international or domestic student, before tailoring its answers, and
  • A confidence rating is now provided with each answer.

Laura Soding, a Deakin graduate and a Project Watson team member, said students want information that is accessible, accurate and immediate.

“In between assignments, classes, placements and exams, students want their experience at university to be smooth and simple – Watson helps make that happen,” she said.

“As a recent graduate working alongside other graduates and current students in the Watson team, I am impressed by Deakin’s commitment to put 21st century technology into the hands of today’s learners to enhance their university experience.”

The most common questions students ask Watson include:

  • How do I meet other students from my course?
  • Where can I get food on campus?
  • Will I receive course materials for my cloud study?
  • What are the start and end dates for each trimester?
  • How do I find out where my classes are held?
  • How do I find out my timetable?
  • How do I get a student card?
  • When is my exam?
  • Where is the Library?

President of Deakin University Student Association Stuart Lasker said Watson allowed students to ask questions when and how they wanted.

“One of Deakin’s greatest strengths is its ability to relate to the student body and appreciate their varying needs,” he said.

“While some students prefer detailed face-to-face dialogue, others prefer the simplicity and ease that IBM Watson offers.

“Deakin University has such a strong culture of student support, and Watson is merely an extension of this but wrapped up in ground-breaking technology.”

IBM WATSON and Deakin University

In March 2015 Watson was first introduced to Deakin to support new students. Using natural language students have been able to ask Watson orientation questions about Deakin and university life.

Over the past six months Watson has evolved and learnt additional sources of information.

Today, Watson is used at Deakin to provide answers to student questions starting with a range of topics such as admissions; enrolment (courses); tuition and fees, financial assistance, student housing, extracurricular skills development, health and wellness, facilities, job placement, employment preparation, job skills assessment and academic help.

Students receive advice from Watson with evidence-weighted answers to help them make decisions. 

Students can pitch as many questions as they like to Watson via text on any device connected to the web.

Watson holds a vast quantity of contextualised information to enable it to quickly answer student questions in language students can easily understand.

What is IBM Watson?

Watson is the first open cognitive computing technology platform and represents a new era in computing where systems understand the world in the way that humans do: through senses, learning, and experience.

Watson continuously learns, gaining in value and knowledge over time, from previous interactions.

With the help of Watson, organizations are harnessing the power of cognitive computing to transform industries, help professionals do their jobs better, and solve important challenges.

For more information on IBM Watson, visit: ibm.com/Watson and ibm.com/press/watson. Join the conversation at #ibmwatson.

IBM Watson Deakin University is the first university in the world to utilise IBM Watson to transform the way students get advice and answers to questions.

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