‘Bold’ Becky sees Leeds Beckett triumph in national awards
The university was a big winner at the Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Awards (THELMAs) 2018, scooping the Outstanding Digital Innovation of the Year prize for its development of a clearing chatbot.
Known as Becky, the chatbot supported the university’s clearing recruitment campaign amid concerns potential applicants felt uncomfortable talking to university staff on the phone.
The bot used keywords that prospective students typed in the chat line to assess which courses they were interested in studying, then requested details of their qualifications and exam results before making them a provisional offer.
Becky, which was available on desktop and mobile 24 hours a day during clearing, made 215 offers to 191 individuals, 89 of which were taken up.
The THELMAs judging panel said the chatbot had caught their imagination “as a bold innovation successfully applied in a high-stakes environment”.
The judges said: “We liked the way that a technology that had worked in other sectors was transferred to higher education at Leeds Beckett and got straight on with answering potential applicants’ questions about the university, even offering them places.”
The award was presented at a ceremony, hosted by actor and comedian Richard Ayoade, at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London.
Dougal Scaife, Head of Digital Experience and Engagement at Leeds Beckett, said: “We know that our prospective students already use lots of messaging software for communicating with their friends such as Snapchat, WhatsApp as well as texting, so developing a chatbot was a natural evolution in order to engage with our prospective students in a medium that’s ubiquitous, familiar, and comfortable for them.”