New virtual assistant

Photo of a laptop with a person operating the mouse. Another person is pointing at the screen.

Overview

RMIT’s Cyber Ready Cloud Innovation Centre powered by AWS, launched its first Cyber Innovation Challenge (CIC) in August 2020 in collaboration with RMIT’s Graduate School of Business and Law (GSBL).

RMIT Challenge sponsor, Dr Ling Mei Cong, Deputy Dean Learning and Teaching, GSBL raised a problem for an interdisciplinary group of students to develop an innovative digital solution that would solve an issue being faced by both RMIT staff and students.

Working with AWS’ Senior Solutions Architect and Digital Innovation Lead over 12 weeks, student participants would experience firsthand the innovation process and frameworks regularly utilised by AWS innovation experts, gain industry experience and the opportunity to solve a real-life problem.

Problem

Dr Ling Mei Cong said the university staff spend significant time answering student emails and found it difficult to keep up with demand during peak periods. Meanwhile, students found the long wait time for responses was impacting their ability to progress their assessments.

When the Graduate School of Business and Law researched the problem further by surveying students and staff they found that majority of students would prefer an easy and effective way to communicate with academics to get course information. During the research, there were two personas identified that the RMIT CIC team could work within a CIC challenge:

  • Staff (30-60 years): Frustrated with responding to repetitive emails asking for information already given to students, students not reading materials properly, and lack of meaningful engagement with students.  They want to manage workload, answer students enquire in an efficient way, improve student satisfaction, and have a work-life balance.
  • Students (18-24 years): Frustrated with reading long documents/searching from various RMIT websites to get course information, waiting for course coordinator/tutor to reply to urgent emails about assessment information. They want efficient ways to get important information, swift responses from teachers, and engagement with interesting materials.

Approach

Nine students from RMIT’s Master of Analytics, Master of Data Science and Bachelor of Entrepreneurship worked in three teams to participate in the challenge. This interdisciplinary team structure meant that each team member brought strong skills in a variety of areas, data collection, technical specifications, prototype building, project management, marketing insights, and customer research.

The teams agreed on a problem statement to get them started on the challenge process:

How might we reduce academic staff email flows from students with common and often repeated concerns, using AI and VA type tools embedded in University systems?

The teams kicked off their work with the Amazon Working Backwards innovation workshops, a core element of the CIC, ably led by an AWS Digital Innovation specialist. By starting with the customer and working backwards, students learnt how to identify the customer and customer’s problem, define a new product, service, or experience that will delight the customers.

The students created empathy maps and used ideation techniques, created visuals, and a press release and FAQ documents to describe the students and staff experience if the problem was solved. Then they worked on their initial prototype developments, storyboards, and wireframes. This built the foundation for their challenge statement summary that in turn informed the solution workshop to design a prototype.  

Their challenge statement: The Integrated Virtual Assistant project aims to develop a personalized communication solution to improve communication efficiency, transform the student experience, and enhance student wellbeing. 

Outcomes

Two teams of RMIT students defined solution prototypes with the help of the AWS solutions architect and RMIT technical interns. Both prototypes were demonstrated during the final showcase presentations, one of which will be developed further and launched for use at the university. 

The interest of the challenge sponsor to take further steps, and the experience of developing a prototype during the challenge, was a valuable takeaway for the students. They took part in creating something that will make lives better within their university and is a milestone for the Cyber Ready CIC team as it was their first challenge. 

Supporting artifacts created by the students

Press releases and FAQs

Visuals

Final presentation

Demonstrations

Code (hosted on GitHub)

Next steps

Following the completion of the innovation challenge, Dr Ling Mei Cong has successfully secured funding through RMIT to initiate a pilot project utilising an Amazon QnA bot to be used within the Commercial Law course with a long term view to scale the solution more broadly across RMIT by integrating it with the university’s existing AI virtual assistant.

About the RMIT College of Business and Graduate School of Business and Law

RMIT College of Business and Law has a proud history of providing programs that meet the evolving needs of students and industry. There are six schools in the College of Business and Law (CoBL) with programs offered in the heart of Melbourne, RMIT Vietnam, and partner institutions around the world.

Thank you to:

Our challenge sponsors

  • Ling Mei Cong, Deputy Dean, Learning & Teaching and Senior Lecturer, Graduate School of Business and Law

The Cyber Ready CIC team

  • Matt Salier, Director, RMIT Cyber Ready CIC
  • Stacey Henderson, Program Delivery Lead, RMIT Activator
  • Mark Seddon, Senior Solutions Architect, AWS
  • Catherine Eibner, Digital Innovation Lead, AWS
  • Daamini Krishnaswamy, Business Innovation Support Intern, RMIT Activator
  • Aishwarya Ramesh, Technical Innovation Support Intern, RMIT Activator

Our students

  • Harini Mylanahally Sannaveeranna
  • Harsha Kumar Kodlipet Shiva Kumar
  • Atchayaa Anbalagan Kannika
  • Milianto Pranajaya
  • John Samaras
  • Stefani Monica Santoso
  • Jinghong Ye
  • Shengjie Tao
  • Binti Yusoff Natrah Nurhidayu

Become an industry sponsor

Engage in a fast-paced innovation sprint that sees multidiscplinary teams of students working on a real-life cyber security challenge faced by your organisation.

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Acknowledgement of country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business. - Artwork created by Louisa Bloomer

aboriginal flag
torres strait flag

Acknowledgement of country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business.