Voice control

Enable the use of voice to control playback of learning content and to interact with the OU via smart devices.

Smart home


Allowing students to interact by voice with their learning content and to ask questions of a 'Smart Study Assistant' in 'supported study sessions' will enrich their learning experience and provide greater flexibility and control of their learning.

The Opportunity

This is somewhat of a simple strand of research in comparison to other parts of the Smart Tech project, yet there are potential huge benefits that the use of voice to control playback and delivery of learning content, in addition to the ability to use voice to navigate through University learning systems and for getting tuition support and feedback, could provide.

Voice control has become a standard form of interaction in many households. It is common to control the volume of a TV, to ask Alexa to play a song or podcast on a speaker when cooking in the kitchen, or even to play a trivia game with the family using vocal commands to Google Assistant. The general reluctance of people to talk to a device has somewhat decreased given the proliferation of devices that rely upon such controls. This change in attitude to interacting with devices and content is something that could also provide benefits for students as part of their studies.

The Benefits

The possibilities range from the obvious, such as ensuring voice control works in our own VLE and apps so that students can control playback of audio visual materials, to the slightly more ambitious, such as using Google Assistant to facilitate a 'smart study session' where the student puts the smart speaker into a 'study mode' that then prepares it to seek materials and information from academic sources, responding to vocal prompts from the student to find information on a certain theme or subject matter, so that they can continue studying or writing up their TMA, for example.

Potential benefits include:

  • Students being able to get answers and make notes while on the move or while undertaking another physical activity, e.g. cooking
  • Improved accessibility, allowing students with specific physical requirements to navigate OU systems more easily
  • Dictation of notes, messages, and essays, reducing stress and allowing students to take screen breaks
  • Reduction in eye / screen fatigue
  • Asking questions of an OU smart assistant, or sending enquiries and questions through to the OU and tutors over voice, may reduce the barriers to asking simple questions that may not otherwise be asked
  • Speed of response and ability to get information and content quickly, reducing cognitive overload and physical demands


Updates will be made available here as the work progresses.


Smart assistant


Senior Product Development Manager

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What is the Smart Tech project for?

The Smart Tech project was born out of the need to understand more fully the potential benefits of smart device usage on student success and to assess whether there are changes that we can make to the production and delivery of learning materials to assist in this aim.

Discover more about the project