DWS 2019: EHL’s Julia Aymonier on AI’s Role in Education

3 minute read

At this year’s Digital Workforce Summit (DWS), Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne’s (EHL) Chief Digital Officer Julia Aymonier led a breakout session entitled “AI + Education,” in which she highlighted the ways EHL is using Amelia to augment the way its staff works and transform how students access services.

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be applied for a variety of use cases across different industries. It has the power to automate high-volume transactional and cognitive tasks at scale — a functionality which just about every modern business and organization would find useful. IPsoft’s AI solutions have a decades-long history of delivering efficiencies into high-tech industries like telco, banking, and insurance, but that’s only the start as far as we’re concerned.

The world-renowned Swiss-based hospitality school Ecole Hótelière de Lausanne (EHL) has developed three instances for Amelia to automate specific IT and administrative tasks. However, just as importantly, the school has integrated Amelia’s development into its educational mission so students can utilize cognitive AI throughout their careers. This was the premise of the “AI + Education” breakout session at this year’s Digital Workforce Summit (DWS) presented by EHL Chief Digital Officer Julia Aymonier.

“Today, we teach soft skills, we teach the general management skills for hotel, finance, management, and retail, but we do not teach them the skills of digital. And that is, for me, is what's missing,” said Aymonier. “We need this type of hybrid [worker], a person [who] is coming out into the world so that they know how to do the soft part, but they also have that digital knowledge because these are the people who [companies] are looking for on the market. And today they're extremely rare and I want them to be future technology ambassadors.”

Amelia is taking on an expanding role in the school’s operations and expanding students’ familiarity with these technologies, and students themselves are taking part in Amelia’s development at various stages. “We take in between 20 and 30 [students]” for Amelia development, she explained, “and they're actually fighting to get on it.”

Amelia as an IT Support Agent

The first instance of Amelia put into production by the school was for granting guest Wi-Fi access. The previous automated system was complex and problematic, involving passwords sent via SMS. When the school held large events such as its twice-a-year job fair featuring more than 400 companies, the IT team had to assign a specific employee to solely address the queue of guests attempting to navigate the existing Wi-Fi system. Fast forward to today, and the process has been automated and optimized via Amelia.

“As soon as somebody on their phone or their PC or their laptop or their iPad connects to the guest's Wi-Fi, Amelia will take over the conversation,” Aymonier explained. “So she interacts with the Cisco Access points we've got on-site and she will take over the conversation, and in the end she will give you access to the Wi-Fi … What that did was take away the need for me to have somebody always on site … so my service desk thought I was the best thing on earth because they didn't have to work the weekend anymore.”

In the second instance, Amelia helps students regain access to their accounts via a SSO on their PC or through a physical kiosk at the front of the service desk office. “So if they run to the service desk and the service desk is not open, at least they've got the kiosk and Amelia is there to do this one job, which is to unblock their password or their accounts,” Aymonier explained. “And again, my service desk thought I was brilliant because they don't have to deal with people phoning up all the time now asking if they could change the password and/or de-block their account.”

Amelia as a Virtual Admissions Agent

The third instance is Amelia’s most complex undertaking in which she takes on the role as a virtual admissions agent. In this instance, Amelia lives on the school’s website and assists prospective or future students with answering more than 200 questions through her industry-leading Natural Language Interface. In the event that Amelia doesn’t know an answer, she connects the student with an appropriate and available regional human agent. “[Amelia] is intelligent enough to know that if she can't do it, she can pass the conversation over to a live agent,” Aymonier said. “She can see who's online anywhere in the world and will pass that conversation to a human agent who will pick up the conversation. We'll have all the historic [information] of the conversation so she knows what they were discussing and she will take over.”

As with all technical innovations, the leading companies in the AI space have tended to hail from the usual pioneering industries: finance, telco, insurance, etc. However, as cognitive AI becomes more ubiquitous, these technologies will become far more commonplace in all manner of companies and organizations — and pioneers like Aymonier are leading the way.


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