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Computer Technology Professor’s Bot Boosts Accessibility

Graphic by Midori Davis/The Indy

Computer Technology instructor Bruce Elgort has created a software application geared towards improving the accessibility and navigation of course content. The application is a question and answer bot incorporated into Slack, a communication platform that Elgort uses with his courses. 

Using the programming language Python, Elgort has compiled over 300 questions his students have frequently asked over the past nine years into a corpus of knowledge that the bot uses to respond when asked a question. He began piloting the bot in his Winter 2022 CTEC 121 Intro to Programming and Problem-Solving class to get student feedback and identify areas that could be improved.

“I’ve always wanted to create a way to automate myself,” said Elgort. “This is somewhat similar, although it’s definitely something you need to curate continuously.”

Elgort was motivated to create the bot to help improve the ease of use and accessibility of his course content. In particular, he has been working on incorporating language translations into the bot for students who are not native speakers of English. Ultimately, he wants to have the bot be able to directly search content on Canvas, such as phrases in captions he writes for the video lectures he posts, and present its findings to students through Slack.

“Accessibility is really what’s driving this,” Elgort said. “It’s important for the right information to be managed, gathered and shared quickly so students can find exactly what they’re looking for, even when I’m not available.”

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