Page 37 - Campus Technology, January/February 2020
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Canberra in Australia. The basic goal is to simplify the higher ed journey for students by taking a holistic view of them as individuals and providing a single source of student information through a central online hub.
Take one example offered by Rebecca Armstrong, deputy director for AI, projects and innovation. The Student Center staff, populated by students themselves, includes one woman who wanted to get credit for previous study. To achieve that, she had to print out a particular form and get some help filling it out by somebody in the Student Center, where she happened to work. From there, she had to take it to a whole bunch of faculty members — the “unit conveners” — to have that form approved. Next, she had to bring the “fairly dog-eared form” back to the Student Center, which took responsibility for sending it to another department with other such forms for final processing.
The total effect: a huge hassle, involving “lots of walking around.” “It can take about two weeks for students to find all the unit conveners and have those forms signed off,” explained Armstrong. After all, she noted, the conveners “could be teaching, doing research, off campus in engagement activities, or traveling on overseas work.”
With UC Student 360 and AskUC, it’s a 15-minute process. The student goes to a form online and fills it out. Then behind the scenes, the CRM “workflows it to all the academic staff members,” Armstrong explained. “If they’re not entirely sure if a unit qualifies for another unit or they’d like a credit applied to an unspecified credit, they can add notes about that.” From there the work flows into a “processing pane,”
so anybody dealing with that specific event can review the notes and form and make the required changes to the student’s record.
If the student were international, that would entail different steps, and those workflows would go to staff members who specialize in working with those situations.
The entire system, formally known as “UC Student 360,” consists of 184 automated workflows (with more in development) and 19 different forms. The project was kicked off in late 2016; by February 2017 the student portal, with AskUC in place, was relaunched. A year later, a new aspect was added: Lucy the student chatbot.
According to Armstrong, Lucy started off as a “bit of proof-of-concept.” As she recalled, “People were starting to do chatbots, so we thought, let’s have a go.” The result is a system that allows students to ask their questions and, like with Siri or Alexa, get guidance on what to try next — especially handy when live operators aren’t standing by to answer student questions.
One online student at the university who serves as a CIO during the day told Armstrong the addition of Lucy has sped up assistance for her. Previously, she told Armstrong, she would get onto her courses at night. When an issue surfaced, she’d send an e-mail to the Student Center, which is open most weekdays from 9 to 5, and see the response the next night. Since most of the problems would take three or four e-mails to be fully resolved, that cycle could last for a week. Now, this student “jumps on and asks Lucy a question. If she needs more tailored information than Lucy can provide, the chatbot raises a support ticket for her.
“She’s really pretty good at answering questions,” said Armstrong.
Microsoft technology is at the heart of both AskUC and Lucy — not surprising given that the campus
is “Microsoft-enabled,” according to Armstrong. While the CRM project went out to market with no particular platform in mind, the final selection

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