Introducing Microsoft Copilot (web version)


Copilot is a suite of AI-powered productivity solutions developed by Microsoft. 

This article provides a brief overview about the web-based chatbot version of Copilot (formerly known as Bing Chat) that can help with a series of tasks, such as coding, writing, generating images, answering general questions, and more.  

Copilot is our preferred Generative AI tool for staff and students at the university – it's part of your Microsoft 365 account and, once you’re logged in, offers better security for our data and your privacy than other alternatives, like using the free public version of ChatGPT. Please refer to the ‘What is it?’ section below for more details. 

Overview 

Who can access it? 

Staff and students with a full Microsoft licence can access the web version of Microsoft Copilot using their University login details. It’s important to log into Copilot to help protect your data (see ‘What is it?’, below). 

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What is it? 

Microsoft Copilot uses the ChatGPT 4 Generative AI model to give you search results. In short, this means that it uses data from the public web to provide answers. It can provide citations, outlining where it found certain pieces of information, and can give you visual answers that include graphs and charts.  

As well as providing text-based ChatGPT functions – so you don’t need a separate ChatGPT account – it can do additional things like create images based on a prompt.

It’s also worth noting that that if you are logged into Copilot with your University account, your data is protected and the chat results are not saved or made available for Microsoft, so the data does not pass outside of the organisation. If you are not logged in, or you make use of ChatGPT through other routes (like using the free public version on their website), our data is not protected.

When you're logged in you'll see a message confirming your data is protected above the text entry box, along with a tick at the top of the page, like this:

The Copilot green 'protected' tick 

As with many cloud-based Microsoft products, Copilot is subject to further updates and changes as the product develops. 

It’s also worth noting that Microsoft currently doesn't provide tools for IT admins to access chat history, nor does it retain chat history in Copilot when you’re logged in. So when you’re using Copilot with your University credentials, we’re not able to see what you’re searching – it’s private to you.

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What do I use it for? 

Copilot can be used for a variety of tasks, with the number of uses for it increasing all the time. For example, Copilot can help summarise content from lengthy web pages – if you give it a link to the site in question – as well as generate images and written content, and help explain complicated topics in basic terms. 

It can also help, for example, create initial drafts of emails or other documents based on some bullet points, though it’s worth noting that there’s a 2000-character limit to any prompts or text you can give it.  
 
It is also able to generate images based on a prompt. It can take a little while to respond, depending on how complicated your request is. 

It’s worth noting that Microsoft is also in the process of adding Copilot functionality to Microsoft 365 apps (such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint) with the aim of helping you carry out all sorts of work-related tasks too. The versions of Copilot embedded within Microsoft 365 apps are separate to the web version, outlined here, and requires a license that isn’t available to educational institutions yet (as of December 2023).  

When using any version of Copilot, please remember that, as with any generative AI, it can be inaccurate. You should also always check the facts it states, review the text if you’re planning on using it anywhere and edit it if needed. 

Please refer to the University’s Generative AI website for more information and guidance.

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How do I access it? 

Visit the Copilot website to get started. 

Once you’re signed in, you’ll see a “Protected” flag beside your name indicating that you are using the secure version of the chat. 

On the front page you’ll find options to select a particular style of conversation (Creative, Balanced or Precise). This helps steer the tone of what Copilot tells you, which is particularly helpful if you’re asking it to help you create an initial draft of something based on some key points, for example.  

Once you’ve got an initial response to your query, you can ask follow-up questions or provide additional prompts to help hone the content it’s made for you too. 
Co-pilot is currently only supported in Microsoft Edge or Chrome browsers, on Windows and Mac OS. 

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Can IT provide support?

At this time, IT are unable to provide any formal support for the web version of Copilot. If you run into difficulties, or have questions, please consult Microsoft's support materials.

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