Issues register

EdTech Assessment Toolkit

Conversational AI / Chatbots (St. Louis, US)

Big-tech model

Conversational chatbots are designed to engage in human-like conversations. An example of an advanced chatbot is ChatGPT, a state-of-the-art language model developed by OpenAI. ChatGPT utilises a vast dataset from the internet to generate contextually relevant responses. It can understand and generate text in multiple languages and covers a wide range of topics. With its impressive capabilities, ChatGPT finds applications in chatbots, virtual assistants, content creation, and more. It is used by educational institutions for personalised learning, writing assistance software, language learning, course design, and professional development. When used as a school chatbot, for example, conversational AI can answer questions, provide information about school events, schedules, and resources, and offer personalised assistance to students. Some schools and educational institutions, like the University of St Louis, have integrated chatbots with voice assistant platforms such as Amazon Alexa (Saint-Louis-University, 2018).
The integration of chatbots at the scale of entire universities allows big tech companies to expand their market power, as only a few companies have the capabilities to provide state-of-the-art language models. This expansion tends to allow major companies like Amazon to imprint their commercial strategies on the education sector (Williamson, Gulson, Perrotta, & Witzenberger, 2022).

Snapshot (July 2023)

System task/function: Answer student questions
Model: Big Tech Model
Deployment: Large Language Model – Conversational Chatbot
Location of application: Worldwide, early stages (e.g., US)
Rationale for introduction: Cost-effective and fast model to retrieve information for students
Vendor: Various, e.g., Amazon
Pricing: Not disclosed
Data and computation: Language data, student data, organisational information
Inequalities/harms: Allows big tech companies to imprint their commercial strategies on the education sector (Williamson et al., 2022).
Status: Active
Authority/regulation: School / university level
Unintended consequences: Reduced communication between staff and students may result in various issues for students to remain unnoticed by their organisation.
Sanction/redress: N/A

References/further reading

Saint-Louis-University. (2018). Ask Slu. Retrieved from

Perrotta, C., Gulson, K. N., Williamson, B., & Witzenberger, K. (2021). Automation, APIs and the distributed labour of platform pedagogies in Google Classroom. Critical Studies in Education, 62(1), 97-113.