Reading College students team up with Pexip to create a chatbot

IT students from Reading College partnered with a video communications company, Pexip, to take part in some project-based learning.

Pexip conducted a Masterclass with our ICT Level 2 students in December, introducing the company and focussing on how companies look at project planning within the IT sector.

The masterclass also introduced a project-based learning opportunity for the students, supported by Pexip, which began in February. The project-based learning provided students with the opportunity to plan, design and create a chatbot application, using Pexip’s own version as an example. A chatbot is a computer program which is designed to encourage conversation with users, usually via the internet, for example, communicating with visitors to a website.

Working in small teams, the students had to research all the products and services that Pexip provides to its customers. They then had to gather requirements, identify roles and responsibilities, prepare a project plan, and design, develop and test a virtual chat bot, that addressed customer enquiries regarding Pexip’s products and services.

Finally, the students were required to prepare and present a final presentation.

The final presentations took place recently, with the winning team (Team PENDS) receiving a certificate and prizes from Pexip.

The winning team with their teachers and representatives from Pexip

The Industry Specialist Teaching and Knowledge Exchange Programme (ISTKEP)

This is just one example of how the Industry Specialist Teaching and Knowledge Exchange Programme (ISTKEP) works in further education colleges. SMEs can also provide insight placements for teachers, co-create our curriculum, get involved in project-based learning, take part in employer forums and advisory boards and provide placements for students studying T Levels.

ISTKEP has been commissioned by Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership. It is part-funded by the European Social Fund. The three-year programme will run until December 2023.

Activate Learning is working with three partners to deliver this programme: Activate Learning Education Trust, Newbury College and Windsor Forest Colleges Group.

As a government white paper highlighted in January 2021, there is an urgent need to boost current industry skills and knowledge for further education students and transform post-16 education and training.

The purpose of this project is to work in partnership with small and medium-sized enterprise employers within the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) industries in Berkshire to help young people get the skills they need to gain fantastic, local job opportunities and address the current skills deficit.

Providing opportunities

The runners up with their teachers and representatives from Pexip

Manahil Younis, one of the runners up said: “Taking part in this project gave me an opportunity that looks good on my CV, so when I apply for jobs, they can see the qualification and experience that I have, which will help me to go further.

“I got to improve my leadership and communication skills and I was able to pull my team together and help them to work together and get them to work on everything in time.”

Mike Hatfield, Engineering Manager at Pexip, said: “This was Pexip’s first time partnering with an educational establishment, and we were keen to witness for ourselves how Activate Learning are helping young people develop industry-relevant skills for the modern workplace.

“Finding new talent is challenging, so we are proud to support initiatives that provide technical learning paths for local talent. Several of our software engineers mentored and advised students in developing a chatbot application as part of their Project-Based Learning.

“I was encouraged by the work being done at Reading College to build relevant skills with the students. The Pexip engineers enjoyed guiding the groups, advising them on areas such as teamwork and testing as well as answering questions about their own career paths. I want to thank Chris, Sajeeth, and the team for giving us the opportunity to partner with Activate Learning.”

Thanking Pexip for their engagement

Sajeeth Nair, IT Lecturer at Activate Learning, said: “I want to thank the team from Pexip, for helping our students to develop the skills they need for the workplace. Their engagement with us has been fabulous.

“Thank you also to the students for getting involved.”

Chris Craig, Project Coordinator for the ISTKEP project at Activate Learning, said, “We are incredibly grateful for the support and knowledge the team at Pexip have provided our Level 2 ICT students over this academic year.

“With their encouragement and critical feedback to the teams over the project, our students were able to create some fantastic prototype chatbot systems and learn more skills around teamworking, planning and delivery of project work, chatbot creation and presenting in front of a group of people.

“We look forward to continuing this relationship with Pexip over the following year and developing the learning of our students through their expertise in the industry.”

Find out about our IT and Computing courses at Reading College or contact us on 0800 612 6008.