AI chatbot introduced to Guardian
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AI chatbot streamlines educator time spend for Guardian Childcare & Education

by Freya Lucas

July 04, 2024

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) provider Guardian Childcare & Education has introduced an AI chatbot to help educators to find critical information in its 160+ network across the country. 


Guardian has grown significantly over the past three years, boosting the number of services in its network by 50 per cent, and employing a staff of around 6,000. Educators working directly with children, or in leadership and support functions often need to access guidance on various protocols, ranging from injuries and illnesses to other unforeseen incidents.


Previously this information was collated on an internal SharePoint Intranet repository, known as Guardian Way. 


Searching through the extensive digital library was often time consuming and ‘cumbersome’ for educators, adding complexity and barriers to finding the information they needed to support children and families. 


Guardian recognised the need for a more streamlined and accessible platform, and transformed its knowledge management system, exploring generative AI and leveraging Azure OpenAI’s cutting-edge technology to reimagine how educators retrieve and process information.


At the conclusion of this process ‘Ask Guardian Way’ was created, an internal chatbot designed to provide instant access to the company’s vast repository of information. 


‘Ask Guardian Way’ is an innovative tool that enables educators to receive immediate, accurate answers to policy-related questions, dramatically enhancing efficiency and confidence.


Billed as being “the definitive guide to the Guardian way of operations,” the chatbot aligns seamlessly with the company’s policies and procedures, fostering a culture of accessibility and efficiency.


It is available directly from the staff intranet homepage, and requires a secure login from a staff device, ensuring that sensitive information remains protected. 


Staff members can ask the chatbot about various topics, from locating documents for new staff check-ins to logging classroom incidents. The generated response also includes direct links to the source documents it references. This not only adds a layer of credibility by verifying the information but also allows staff to delve deeper into the documentation if needed.


“Once we had the product from Microsoft, all it took was a bit of rebranding and instructing it to scan our repository. The pilot was operational within hours”, Keith Hopkins, IT Services & Communications Manager at Guardian Childcare & Education said.


The chatbot’s database is automatically updated every night, ensuring that any changes to policies or intranet pages are promptly reflected. This means the chatbot always dispenses the most current information, providing timely and accurate support to educators.


“The IT literacy of childcare educators is typically low. These are people trained to look after children, so the more time they can spend doing what they’re good at and the less time they have to spend in front of a screen to help them do that, the better,” Mr Hopkins explained.


Real time support to make decisions easier


This real-time support for educators is a ‘transformative tool’ that facilitates prompt and informed decision-making. 


Take, for instance, the scenario of a child falling ill. Previously, educators had to navigate the comprehensive Child Sickness Policy, looking at a number of guidelines to determine the necessary steps. 


Now, an educator can simply ask the chatbot, “At which temperature should I send a 2-year-old child home?” and receive an instant response with the exact information required. 


The chatbot further assists by outlining subsequent actions, such as notifying parents and managing the child’s daily checkout, all sourced directly from the policy.


“This chatbot allows the educator to spend more time with the children rather than combing through 300-page documents to figure out the right thing to do. It’s enhancing the quality of interaction between educators and children by minimising administrative hurdles,” Wenshuo Han, Strategic Customer Success Architect at Microsoft Australia and New Zealand said.


The chatbot now fields hundreds of daily queries, a testament to its effectiveness and the trust educators place in it. For new staff, the chatbot serves as a digital mentor, streamlining the onboarding process and helping them confidently navigate training milestones, fortified by an easily accessible trove of organisational knowledge.


Looking ahead, the company is looking at ways to integrate the chatbot with the organisation’s ticketing system to further refine the support system. This integration would empower educators with AI-generated recommendations and answers, reducing wait times for human support responses. 


Beyond that, Guardian envisions extending the chatbot’s services to prospective parents, allowing them to enquire about enrolments, book tours and receive quotations easily.


This news was first shared by Microsoft. Access the original here

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