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Innovation on show at edtech hackathon

A 48-hour ‘hackathon’ of edtech innovations addressing challenges in international education, nexHack Edtech, has been won by a team creating an AI-enabled chatbot “from and for students”.

Some 130 participants from across 45 countries joined the event in November. Photo: pexels

The Swiss national agency for mobility and cooperation, Movetia, will provide teams with ongoing coaching and support

Organised by the India and Boston arms of the swissnex Network, part of Swiss State Secretariat for Education Research and Innovation, the nexHack Edtech online event took place between November 6-8.

“Our aim was to bring multicultural teams together digitally, to uncover innovative solutions for #learningtomorrow”

The competing teams – numbering 130 participants across 45 countries – utilised digital tools, such as Slack, Zoom, Google Workspace, WhatsApp and Remo, to address two key challenges.

The first NexHack challenge was to help international students to integrate with Swiss society, creating “an impactful intercultural exchange”. The second was to create a digital solution “that considers how virtual cooperation and mobility contribute to creating high-quality learning experiences based on international interaction and exchange.”

The winner, entitled ‘My SwissBot’, was designed by a team called GLocal EduHackers. MySwissBot’s aim is to ease the integration of international students into Switzerland “with honest answers to important questions”.

To achieve this, the chatbot uses surveys on authentic student experiences to inform decisions on subjects ranging from course options to social life.

The GLocal EduHackers team included Jessica Glauser Guiver, chair of the Study Texas consortium of colleges and director of International Undergraduate Admissions at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

“I loved the collaboration, I learned about myself and the kind of colleague I want to be; I made new connections in the edtech field, I even enjoyed the challenges,” Guiver said.

“We are all winners today. Would I do it again? Absolutely.”

Runners up were: ‘Shuffle’ by Hack4E+, an app designed to encourage intercultural exchanges between local and international students.

LernEd, in third place, is a platform promoting open learning. In fourth was The Global Llama, a platform for upskilling through virtual experiences, and, in fifth, was ‘Intern-X’, a mobility network for cross country interns.

Among the prizes awarded to each team was an invitation from Movetia, the Swiss national agency for mobility and cooperation, to continue the projects, with the potential of seed funding of up to 15,000 Swiss Francs (CHF).

Movetia will also provide the teams with coaching and support and has said it will “match them with institutions and resources to further develop their projects”.

The GLocal EduHackers team placed first with its ‘My SwissBot’ product.

“Through nexHack Edtech our aim was to bring multicultural teams together digitally, to uncover innovative solutions for #learningtomorrow,” Maitree Dasgupta, head of University Partnerships at swissnhex India said.

“And that’s precisely what we’ve accomplished with this 48-hour hackathon. We look forward to the next phase of the journey with Movetia, to develop these prototypes into scalable solutions.”

Throughout the weekend, attendees of the nexHack Edtech event were also involved in workshops on design thinking, video creation, pitching and networking. These sessions were assisted by mentors drawn from the fields of tech, education and entrepreneurship.

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