Microsoft Bot Framework helps transform service model
SYDNEY – November 16, 2017 – The University of Canberra is preparing to unleash two chatbots on campus to support students and staff, with a view to streamlining support services across the institution.
Lucy – the chatbot for students – and Bruce – to support staff – have been developed using Microsoft Azure’s Bot Framework and LUIS (Language Understanding Intelligent Service – part of Microsoft’s suite of Cognitive Services).
Lucy, once released, will link through an API to the University’s Dynamics 365 platform, allowing students to raise tickets where Lucy can’t find the answer for them. The university is also exploring how it might be possible to use Bruce to allow IT service tickets to be logged by staff.
According to UC Deputy Director, Planning & Architecture, Tom Townsend; “People want to ask questions in a real way and get a response that’s meaningful for them.” And, if the system can’t answer the question itself it will intelligently direct the enquiry to someone who can.
“UC currently offers support via email, phone calls and FAQ’s. By soon adding chatbots we are giving our students and staff another avenue to find assistance quickly and easily,” says Townsend. The chatbots create a new streamlined service interface and the opportunity to extend the window for meaningful support.
Rebecca Armstrong, Deputy Director of UC’s Projects and Innovation team, said that using the Microsoft Bot Framework and LUIS it took around a fortnight to get a working prototype up and running, trained using the University’s existing FAQ information, and connected to Dynamics 365.
Recognising that any chatbot will improve with use over time, Bruce and Lucy will soon be launched as what Townsend describes as “work experience” chatbots in order to better manage user expectations.
As a staff-focused chatbot, Bruce will also be launched from within UC’s Microsoft Teams environment to encourage collaboration and communication about the new chatbot.
Townsend believes that Microsoft Teams itself has the capacity to be transformative and disrupt the way that the university operates.
“We have tried multiple collaborative suites over the years and they have all fallen short in some way but the way in which Teams is interwoven into everything else is really elegant. Only if you’re an Office 365 customer of course – luckily we are.”
While Bruce and Lucy are still learning, longer term the university hopes to enhance the chatbot experience and streamline interactions with students.
As Townsend notes; “It would be cool if I could ask Lucy ‘what time is my next class?’ and she responded ‘It’s at 4pm and in room 23 and if you jump on the bus now you’ll be there in time’.
About the University of Canberra
UC is ranked among the top 100 young universities in the world and consistently delivers 90 per cent graduate employment and above-average graduate starting salaries.
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