Meet Soma: Your AI TA, Tutor and Campus Help Desk All in One

Kavitta Ghai
May 24, 2023
This blog post will cover the basics of how to use Soma as an AI assistant and detail various use cases for the classroom and campus.

In today's high-paced academic world, the need for personalized and accessible learning support is more crucial than ever. As educators, we've seen the power and effectiveness of personalized support in our most engaged and active classrooms, particularly those with a teaching assistant. Yet, the reality of staffing shortages and overwhelming student-to-teacher ratios continues to hinder many schools from providing the desired level of individualized support. It's clear we need a modern solution to this age-old problem. This is where Soma, our AI Teaching Assistant tool, comes into play.

Introducing Soma, the personalized AI Teaching Assistant, designed to alleviate the strain of repetitive inquiries and provide students with the individualized support they need, anytime, anywhere. Soma is the result of Nectir's commitment to revolutionize education, creating a more accessible, inclusive, and efficient learning environment for all.

We’ve built Soma to be customized to the specific Nectir channel she sits within, so you can train each individual instance of Soma to be a classroom TA, tutor, or even a campus-wide/departmental help desk. The world (aka your campus) is Soma’s oyster!

Meet Soma!

Soma, our AI Teaching Assistant, empowers any instructor to easily create a personalized AI chatbot within their Nectir class channel. By simply uploading course materials such as the syllabus or weekly readings, Soma is equipped with the information needed to assist students 24/7 and can answer their questions from right within the Nectir class channel.

Can Soma work outside of her role as a Teaching Assistant?

Soma can be given any type or length of information, from a class syllabus to an entire chapter of a textbook, meaning that she can be customized to answer questions of any kind. In just a few short weeks since her release, we’ve seen campuses get incredibly creative and use Soma to answer help desk queries, provide one-on-one tutoring, and of course, serve as a personalized Teaching Assistant in every class.

How Soma Works

Soma sits within any Nectir channel and can be set up in just 3 easy steps:

  1. Create a Nectir Channel: Login to your campus' Nectir workspace and create your channel. Nectir is seamlessly integrated within your LMS class page, automatically adding all registered students to your class channel for you. From within your Nectir channel, you’ll open the “Soma” tab and select “Add Soma to this channel”. Next, you will upload your materials of choice to this tab.
  2. Upload Content to Train Soma: Equip Soma with contextual knowledge by uploading your choice of course materials into your Nectir class channel, such as the syllabus or lecture content. This sets Soma's parameters for answering students' questions.
  3. Mention “@Soma” Within Your Nectir Channel to Start a Conversation: Save time and energy by letting Soma handle routine queries from students. Now you can focus on fostering a vibrant classroom community, confident in the knowledge that your students have the 24/7 support they need to thrive. To start a chat with Soma, students just need to type “@Soma” before their question. She will respond in seconds from right within your Nectir class channel. Nectir and Soma can be accessed on our mobile app, desktop app, or from right within the LMS itself inside the Nectir window.

Use Cases for Soma Across the Campus

With Soma, your personalized TA, tutor, help desk assistant, and interactive learning partner are just a chat message away, revolutionizing the classroom experience and promoting a more inclusive, engaging, and efficient learning environment for everyone on campus.

Here are a few of the creative ways that our users have already begun using Soma:

1. Soma as a TA: As a teaching assistant (TA), Soma lightens the load for educators by handling a multitude of routine administrative and academic inquiries. She transforms a basic syllabus or course outline into an interactive tool, answering questions like "When is the midterm?" or "What's due next week?". But Soma's capabilities can also extend far beyond general administrative support.

  • As the course progresses and more material is uploaded, Soma continually updates her knowledge base. Whether you add lecture summaries, reading supplements, or revision guides, Soma absorbs it all, making it an ever-expanding and adaptable academic resource.

2. Soma as a Tutor: Acting as a tutor, Soma provides a personalized 24/7 academic resource for students. Her knowledge base expands as you upload more content, covering everything from detailed explanations of course material to clarification on assignments. This is all based on the type of course content you upload to that specific Nectir channel.

  • For example, you can create a “Physics Major” Nectir channel and upload all the Physics content you desire to allow students of that major to access 24/7 general tutoring support for physics concepts. You can add human tutors or support staff to this channel, too, so they can add clarification or interact with students as needed.

3. Soma as a Help Desk Assistant: Soma also serves as a versatile help desk assistant, capable of addressing campus-related questions, whether it's about dining hall hours, library resources, or campus events. This anytime-accessible help desk ensures that students always have access to pertinent campus information. All you need to do is give Soma a link to your campus help desk page and she will memorize all the information provided there.

  • Create a Nectir channel for campus-wide general help called “Campus Help Desk” and provide Soma with a link to your campus website. Any member of the campus can access this public Nectir channel and ask Soma questions 24/7 about things like “Where is the financial aid office and how late is it open today?” Once again, support staff can be added to this channel, too, to provide ongoing help alongside Soma.

4. Soma as an Interactive Learning Partner for Everyone: Soma's capabilities extend well beyond individual classrooms, making her a versatile interactive learning partner for the entire campus community. This includes tutors, advising offices, instructional support staff, and even instructors themselves. Anyone on campus can create their own Nectir channels and upload their choice of content to Soma, enabling the AI assistant to provide tailored support for a variety of needs.

  • Tutors, advising offices, instructional support staff, etc. can create their own Nectir channels and upload their choice of content to Soma to provide their students with an interactive learning partner of any kind. For example, your Instructional Designers can create a Nectir channel called “Keep Teaching” and upload teaching tips to Soma so that instructors can ask Soma questions like “What edtech tool should I use to promote peer-to-peer learning in my class this semester?”
  • For safety purposes, we can also set granular permissions to only allow users tagged as Staff, Admin, or Faculty to create a Nectir channel and set up their own Soma within it. We work with each campus to customize your Nectir workspace with the specific permissions you choose for each role.

Ready to revolutionize your campus with Soma? Chat with us today to get started.

Soma is not just your average AI TA, she's a revolution in teaching and learning and we are incredibly excited to see the innovative ways in which campuses will employ her. We're looking forward to seeing how Soma will pave the way for the most modern education experience possible, helping students, faculty, and staff access resources like never before. With Soma, we're not just imagining the future of education, we're creating it. Welcome aboard the rocket ship to the future of education!

Kavitta Ghai
May 24, 2023

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