Who is 'Alexa' and What Role Does She Play in the Future of Learning?


You can ask her what the weather is, to turn your lights on and off, play your favourite song and even notify someone if you trip over. She is the closest thing to a personal assistant and the world is just getting to know her.

Meet the virtual personal assistant, ‘Alexa’.

Whilst more and more people are using ‘Alexa’ each year, many are still unfamiliar with the service (Reisinger, 2016). For us at Belvista Studios, we are beginning to see the benefits of this new platform and are excited to explore how it can impact the world of learning (and of course share this with you).

Learning through audio is very convenient in our day and age. We live in a busy world with email after email popping up, notifications pinging on our phones, new YouTube videos being constantly uploaded and podcasts being released. There is so much content for us to consume and not to mention our to-do lists screaming from the side-lines for attention. This is why learning through audio can be so convenient. I would say that every single day I listen to some sort of audio track, whether it is a song, a podcast, or the audio of a YouTube video. I do this because I know I can consume content whilst not pushing any of my work or daily duties to the side-line. With audio I can multitask, and it’s made learning and consuming content, for me personally, easier than ever.

When our team heard about ‘Alexa’ and ‘Alexa Skills’, I am not going to lie, we got excited. We were on an eLearning online networking session and someone was explaining who ‘Alexa’ was and her place in the future of learning. It was futuristic and made perfect sense and we had a strong feeling that this was going to be embedded in society in a few years’ time. As soon as the session ended I messaged the founder of Belvista Studios on Skype, “Let’s do it!?”, and from there we started researching and getting to know ‘Alexa’. We are now at a stage where we would love to share with you what we have learnt and how we see it supporting learning solutions into the future.

Who is ‘Alexa’? 


‘Alexa’ is a virtual personal assistant designed to listen to your voice commands and respond with contextual responses (Reisinger, 2016). ‘Alexa’ lives inside a speaker and enables users to dictate commands to her to control products in homes, listen to music, learn skills and more (Reisinger, 2016). This is where ‘Alexa Skills’ come into play.

What is an ‘Alexa Skill’?

‘Alexa Skills’ are applications that give ‘Alexa’ even more abilities. There is an ‘Alexa Skill’ for almost every need and the list is growing as time goes on. For more context, check out some of the skills available on Amazon here.

The awesome thing about ‘Alexa’ is that you can also create your own ‘Alexa Skill’, which opens up the doors of possibility for future learning. We have decided to test the application of learning through ‘Alexa’ by creating our own ‘eLearning Tips Skill’. The intent for this skill will be to inspire and teach the art of instructional design and eLearning creation. Users will be able to launch the ‘Skill’ and each day ‘Alexa’ will have tips, blog content and podcast content to share. We are so excited to launch learning on this type of platform as it allows users to easily access our content (given they invite ‘Alexa’ into their home), when they want and potentially while they are doing something else important, as multitasking is made easy with ‘Alexa’.

We have a plan for using ‘Alexa’ and the more we get to know the potential of this platform, the more we will know how it could work for future learning solutions.



A simple overview of sharing tips through our ‘Alexa Skill’.

Here are some potential applications for learning:

1. Sharing Content

Imagine you have a skill that you need to teach through a learning solution, whether it’s writing skills, recruitment and selection or putting out a fire. When you have a clear understanding of what the skill is, you can break down the skill into components and implement these components into an ‘Alexa Skill’. The user can then for example say, ‘Launch Writing Skill’, and ‘Alexa’ can share content with them as well as quiz them by asking questions. It’s all about figuring out what content the end-user needs to achieve the objectives and uploading this content into a ‘Skill’. ‘Alexa’ can be interactive with the user or it could also be set up as a ‘Flash Briefing’ which involves sharing content without interaction.

2. Virtual Sessions

We have not yet seen this done, though we as a team have discussed the potential of creating virtual sessions. For example, if we wanted to teach an audience how to create an ‘eLearning storyboard’, we could create a skill that enables learners to hear content relevant to storyboarding as well as receive challenges to complete as a group. We are still in the process of exploring the possibility of this, though the potential is very exciting for the future of learning and virtual training. I have included an example below to provide you with more context.



An example interaction for a virtual session with ‘Alexa’.

The possibilities for ‘Alexa’ are awesome and whilst we are just getting to know her, we are very excited for how she can support our learning solutions.

If you are using ‘Alexa’ for your learning or have been inspired by ‘Alexa’ and her connection to learning, we would love to hear about it! Stay tuned, you may be hearing from us through ‘Alexa’ very soon!

                                                       References

Reisinger, D. (2016). Who (or What) Is Alexa? We Explain Amazon’s Digital Assistant. Retrieved from https://www.tomsguide.com/us/amazon-alexa-faq,review-4016.html

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