AI-driven coach which settle students into university life shortlisted for international award

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An AI-driven coach created for students at Staffordshire University has been recognised among the world’s breakthrough projects in digital education.

‘Beacon’, a mobile phone app designed to help students settle into university life, has been shortlisted for Breakthrough of the Year in the Digital Education category at Falling Walls Remote 2020.

Beacon provides personalised and responsive information on student timetables, enables contact with personal tutors and provides answers to 400 frequently asked questions covering campus facilities and support services as well as other day-to-day services.

Andrew Proctor, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Digital) at Staffordshire University, explained: “We have a high proportion of commuter and non-traditional students who have additional challenges and responsibilities beyond their studies. As a result, the need for a personalised student experience with on-demand access for help and support 24/7 has grown dramatically.

“Beacon was developed to support the experience of all our students and we can already see the positive impacting that it is making.”

The digital coach goes far beyond traditional reactive ‘FAQ-bot’ approaches by pro-actively engaging with students and starting conversations; making personalised recommendations for societies to join, providing access to wellbeing and mental health support and nudging students towards activities that can help them integrate into university life.

After launching in January 2019 Beacon had an immediate impact, providing 25,000 instant answers and completing more than 5,000 self-service tasks in the first four months.

The Falling Walls conference highlights breakthrough thinking from around the world and received over 900 nominations from 111 countries. Beacon is one of 16 projects shortlisted in the Digital Education category and winners will be announced on Falling Walls Day, on November 9.

Andrew added: “To be recognised as a digital innovator alongside breakthrough projects from around the world is a fantastic achievement.

“Artificial Intelligence is a disruptive technology with huge potential that has yet to be realised across higher education. Beacon was the first AI-driven coach for students to launch in Europe and we are committed to continue driving the digital agenda in Staffordshire and beyond.”

Amy Platts

Media Communications Officer

t: 01782 292702

m: 07799 341911


Staffordshire University is the Connected University; connected to the needs of students, academic partners, business and society. Our main city campus in Stoke-on-Trent features excellent learning and teaching facilities and good transport links. We have specialist Centres of Excellence in Healthcare Education at Stafford and Shrewsbury.  

We were recognised with a Gold award in the 2019 Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) for delivering consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for students.  

We have been shortlisted for University of the Year at the THE Awards 2020 and were named ‘Midlands University of the Year’ at the Midlands Business Awards 2020. 
Staffordshire University has signed up to the Civic University Agreement, pledging to play a leading role in improving the regional economy and enhancing quality of life in local communities. We were recognised in the top 15 for social inclusion in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021. We aim to be a leading university for digital technologies building on our proud computing heritage and in 2019 launched Staffordshire University London’s Digital Institute which is committed to preparing students for careers in new and emerging tech industries. 

We are a Top 250 Young University (Times Higher Education Young University Rankings 2020) and are connected globally, with more than 11,000 people are studying Staffordshire University degrees overseas.