BOLTON College’s pioneering use of artificial intelligence to help students has been rewarded with the Innovation Award in the Bolton Business Awards.

The college is the only further education establishment nationally to actively use AI to support students’ learning.

Its Learning Technology team, headed up by Aftab Hussain, developed the technology after identifying a need for a service that would enable students to access information and college services in a much more intuitive and accessible manner.

The team, including the college’s lead systems developer Dean Baggaley, used this as a basis to build “Ada” – a cognitive assistant for students, teachers and support teams.

Students and staff at the college have described Ada as being akin to Siri or Alexa for students.

Ada – also known as Ask Ada – can be found on the college’s student homepage as an embedded service.

Learners simply type a question or talk to Ada to garner information about their studies or the college. Ada can respond to student questions across three broad categories: general inquiries, specific questions and subject-specific inquiries.

Bolton College is regarded as an innovator in the field and has attracted interest from all over the world. Last year, representatives from IBM Watson Conversation flew in from the United States and Canada to visit the college and see how the Ada service works first-hand. It is also making waves throughout the education sector.

After picking up the award, a delighted Mr Hussain said: “We are delighted that our innovation, hard work and commitment to this pioneering project has been recognised with this award."

FULL COVERAGE - read the winners' stories

Editor's award - John Carr 

Business of the year - Darts Corner

Businessperson of the year - James Bancroft 

Apprentice of the year - Ellie Entwistle

Employer of the year - ExcluSec 

Manufacturer of the year - Pure Fabs 

Retailer of the year - Market Place 

Family business of the year - HCS 

Innovation award - Bolton College

Customer excellence award- Market Place

Not for profit - Bolton Young Person's  Housing Scheme 

Community award - Bolton Family 

SME business of the year - Handrail creations 

Start up of the year - A Year of Dates