Coursera Launches Alexa Skill Connecting School and Students by Voice

Education technology developer Coursera has a new voice app for Amazon Alexa designed as a new way for students to access information about their classes. Coursera is one of several companies jumping into the new space created by Alexa for connecting education platforms with the voice assistant.

Asking for Homework

The new Coursera Alexa skill acts as an accessory to the main Coursera platform, without educators needing to create voice-specific elements to their curricula. The skill is free and can be connected to any Coursera account already existing. Once the skill is installed and linked, students can ask Alexa questions about ongoing assignments test scores, grades, and other information about their progress in a class. Alexa can answer some questions without needing to be told to ask the Coursera skill according to the skill page. As an example, Coursera suggests questions for Alexa like “when is my next assignment due?” as opposed to “Alexa, ask Coursera, am I making progress?”

The new skill is possible thanks to the newly created Alexa Education Skill API. While the API is still only in preview, Coursera and other companies in the digital education industry are starting to test many of its features. While Coursera’s is focused on students checking on assignments, education tech companies Blackboard and Canvas have launched skills for both students and parents to get updates on school assignments. Meanwhile, Kickboard and ParentSquare are using the new API as a way for schools to communicate with parents about the latest news and even behavioral reports on their children.

Alexa for Kids and Families

Amazon’s efforts to ingratiate Alexa into every part of people’s lives, something it made very clear at its recent hardware event. That means more than just putting Alexa everywhere from eyewear to cars, it also means encouraging people to use Alexa at different stages of life. Features aimed at kids and families are a growing part of Alexa’s offerings, which makes opening up connections to the digital tools students are using entirely logical.

While the Coursera and related platform skills are free, there are plenty of monetizing opportunities for Alexa in pitching to families. The latest Echo Dot Kids Edition arrived this past summer and the Alexa store then added skills for children with premium content. On the parental side, it is noteworthy that parents can talk to Alexa about their child’s assignments and behavior through some of these skills, much as they could check on the website of the platform. That feature eases parents as well as students into thinking of the voice assistant as an interface for gathering information about school assignments and news.

Alexa’s test is more long-term than any final exam at the end of a semester. Concerns about the safety and privacy of children confront every major voice assistant at the moment, such as the lawsuits Amazon is dealing with over whether Alexa violates the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The company has made adjustments to its privacy policy and added new ways to delete information from Alexa, but shifting skeptics into viewing the voice assistant as an educational and parenting aide would be ideal for Amazon as it strives to win over parents and defuse negative attitudes toward Alexa.


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