Page 38 - Campus Technology, January/February 2020
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was Microsoft Dynamics, because it’s really configurable and customization is simple,” she said. “We are experienced in the Microsoft way, so this was a good architectural decision for us.”
Lucy too was built using pieces of the technology stack for Azure: specifically, QnA Maker and Language Understanding (LUIS), the former an API service for creating a question- and-answer layer over existing content (such as
a knowledgebase) that continually “learns” as users ask questions, and the latter a machine learning-based service for adding natural language understanding into apps. LUIS, said Armstrong, “breaks the question down to work out the intent,” and QnA helps “find the answer for it.” Other technologies in the mix include Click Dimensions, Comm100, KingswaySoft and Twilio.
Between UC Student 360, AskUC and Lucy, the system has handled some 412,000 cases and sent 1.6 million messages to students. “Hot topics” vary by time of year. But primarily they center on enrollment, orientation week and graduation.
Now, the project team is “filling out a few more bits and pieces,” creating training videos to new starters and performing the “digital handover” to the university’s operations team, said Armstrong. That involves the project people teaching the ops people how to use and maintain the system.
Eventually, she noted, the project will also incorporate some more benefits realization work,
to establish just what the investment has reaped for University of Canberra. One advantage that has been pointed out by the staff at the Student Center: Because AskUC is handling so many of the routine inquiries, the students working the front desk “can spend more time helping with complex questions, and the students who would otherwise be waiting to ask their question can get back to studying.”
Work has already begun on phase two of the “University of Canberra digital transformation,” which will use the CRM for new purposes — specifically customizing student experiences based on their precise cohorts, using software such as the Adobe Experience Platform. A first go-around has tackled the campus calendar. Previously, students would have to go to “seven different places” to get a view of what they might need to do that day; now those have been consolidated into a “personal calendar” so “they can see in one place what they need to do each day to be successful,” Armstrong said. Next up: greater engagement with campus clubs and societies to bring their data into the stream.
Though Armstrong can’t provide return on investment because some of the data used for those calculations is proprietary, the ROI is substantial, she said. Just as important, however, is the impact on the student experience. Throughout these projects, the administration has encouraged her team to look outside of higher ed for inspiration, especially to understand how companies get customers to engage.
“Students are demanding that sort of engagement,” said Armstrong. “They’re spending their entire school years on laptops. They’re doing everything online at school and outside of school. Then they get here and we ask them to fill out a paper form. Our experience must be better than that.”
Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for Campus Technology.

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