An Alexa Skill for HE Students with Autism

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The number of students with autism in UK Higher Education is on the increase, but the percentage of them who successfully complete their studies is at only 40%, the lowest amongst groups of students with disabilities. This can be explained by the difficulties brought about by ASD, which are both social (e.g. struggling to communicate with peers and form relationships) and academic (e.g. finding it hard to manage time and be motivated in studying). This project aimed to identify problems that HE students and those with ASD face and develop a technological tool - a Skill on the popular Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA) Amazon Alexa- for helping HE students with ASD overcome these challenges. We went through the following steps:
• Reviewing literature on the difficulties faced by HE autistic students and guidelines for designing technology for them.
• Conducting studies with neurotypical students and experts in HCI, ASD and Education to understand the difficulties faced by HE students and the requirements for a Skill for HE students with autism. The prioritised difficulties were the ease of getting distracted and the lack of motivation when studying.
• Developing the Skill through two iterations with a round of formative usability evaluation with neurotypical students and HCI and Education experts in between. The final Skill allows users to set and start timed study tasks (helping with maintaining focus), while also providing motivation through the use of a virtual character (tree or cat) which grows as more time is spent on the task and the closer it gets to an initially estimated duration.
• A final evaluation with neurotypical students and experts in ASD, HCI and Education focusing on the Skill’s usability and potential impact for HE students with ASD. The final evaluation revealed the appropriateness and potential for motivation for autistic HE students, and a good level of usability.
The purpose of this presentation is to introduce the the Alexa Skill through a short demonstration and gather feedback about continuing its development for HE students with ASD, but also other HE students.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2021
Event University of Edinburgh Learning and Teaching Conference 2021 - Virtual
Duration: 15 Jun 202117 Jun 2021


Conference University of Edinburgh Learning and Teaching Conference 2021
Internet address


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