By: Eryn Pinksen

The Student Services Centre is training artificial technology (AI) to give students another option to get their questions answered.

Given the name Lumi, short for IllumiNAIT, the AI chatbot finished collecting student questions at the beginning of February. It is now “learning” before its hopeful launch date in August or September.

Angela Briggs is the manager of both the student information services and advising as well as the career development departments at the Student Services Centre. Briggs explained that the the idea for AI was based on their high-demand of student questions.

“We are a very high-traffic service area,” said Briggs. Our front lines experience about 220,000 interactions a year and that’s continuing to increase.”

Students going to the centre for help have a wide variety of questions, some that are as simple as yes or no and others that are complex and take time. Because of this they are unable to predict wait times and they hope the AI can help answer questions to decrease the waiting.

“There’s a huge need to leverage technology to support our service area,” said Briggs. “Because we service such a broad range of inquiries we are really challenged with trying to deal with the frequent, repetitive basic things as well as the complex.”

The plan is to have the employees at the centre free to answer the more complex questions and the technology will be able to answer the simpler student questions.

“Not everybody wants to wait in a line and technology is critical to our services to make room for further growth for NAIT,” said Briggs. “We are an institute of technology, we want to work towards sophisticated technology solutions.”

The Student Services Centre is a portal to the rest of NAIT. Briggs explains that unlike some other institutions, everything is centralized at the centre in the CAT building.

Lumi was first announced in January and students were asked to submit questions to help the technology collect information.

The centre received over 750 questions to Lumi from students, which is more than they had estimated.

“What we decided was, why not take the data collection activity to the students,” said Briggs. “To the people who are going to be using it.”

The centre wanted the terminology that Lumi learned to be what students use and say. Despite receiving some, as Briggs described, “cheeky” questions, it was able to speed the process of data collection.

When launched, Lumi will be a chat-bot at the Student Services Centre that will be able to answer student questions and minimize wait times. Briggs hopes that in the future it can also be available online and in classrooms for students and instructors.

“It goes back to wanting to maximize options for students, because having just a lineup, it’s impossible to anticipate and to predict [how long] you’re going to wait… We want to provide the services, but we don’t want to provide a “one-size-fits-all” [service] for everybody,” said Briggs.