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Alexa Goes to College

August 20, 2018

Saint Louis University (SLU) living quarters are getting an upgrade, and Amazon’s famed voice enabled assistant, Alexa, is finally getting her degree!  SLU announced that they plan to place around 2,300 Echo Dot’s in the student living spaces.  This marks the largest scale deployment of the Alexa enabled devices on a college campus.  


SLU staff worked with Alexa for Business to code responses for over 100 custom questions, all geared towards enhancing the student’s experience on campus.  Now, students can simply ask Alexa to tell them what time the library closes, the location of their next class, or the time of the basketball game. 


Since the platform is being managed on a central dedicated system, it is not tied to any individual accounts and cannot store or record any of the interactions the Echo Dot had with student users.  The devices can also be muted by students who still feel as though this is an invasion of privacy, though they cannot be disabled all together.  


Amazon has managed to become a leader in the digital assistant sector, and most of the students attending SLU will likely have encountered Alexa in their own homes, vehicles, etc.  Placing these devices in the dorms may go a long way to making the student experience feel more familiar to the home environment they are leaving behind. 


The practical aspect of having Alexa automate the work of student leader, school staff and faculty cannot be overlooked.  Alexa handles most of the FAQs that would usually be brought to a staff member.  In addition to practical automation benefits, Alexa could potentially impact the rate of participation for school events, especially for freshman and transfers. Granting easy access to information about social events, venue locations, and time to destination removes one more barrier to participation and social interaction amongst new students.  


SLU understands that effective communication begins by selecting a method of communication familiar to the audience.  Young college students of today grew up in a world technologically enabled.  They have come to expect answers instantaneously, and they are comfortable interacting with AI to get them. SLU is connecting their students to the information they need, when they need it, in the way they need it.  


What can you do to better enable your customers? How can you enhance their experience? 

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