Say hello to Julie

This past week, students who logged into Sharklink noticed a new program had been implemented. It’s an A.I. chatbot named Julie, and her job is to help NSU students navigate Sharklink and quickly find answers to their questions.

According to the info page about Julie on Sharklink, “A chatbot is a computer program that enables people to get information from machines in a natural, conversational, way using text and voice.”

Julie was created by a team of technicians who are a part of the Office of Innovation and Information Technology (OIIT). One of these technicians is James Drew, the director of innovation and information architecture at NSU. He and the rest of the OIIT wanted to bring Julie to NSU because of feedback from the support desk.

“We [OIIT] want to provide a higher level of support to students; ultimately faculty, staff, alumni, in the clinics in a variety of different ways,” said Drew.

This way, students can access the help they need by just typing a question into this program instead of calling the support line.

“[The current strategy is] creating a small bot family that kind of handles the overall student life cycle, and then also include support for the researchers at the university and then in the clinic,” James explained.

Essentially, there will be a seperate bot for prospective students who have applied and been accepted, and a different bot for every different step in a student’s life here at NSU. James also states that this team has been working on Julie for the past six months.

“Through a series of iterations and some design sprints…, we probably did around three rounds of iterations with her and ended up with something we felt comfortable with as a basis to kind of move into a production mode.”

This program is relatively young, and as most people have found out, not that advanced yet. Julie, like all other AI systems, learns through constant feedback and challenges.

According to Melody Dunbar, data scientist and business analyst, “This is a bot that is for students, so we want the student’s input about the process.”

James also is hoping that he can provide internships later in the school year for students who are interested in helping with expanding this program.  

To provide feedback and help Julie grow, students can go to their Sharklink and on the front page is a section to learn more about Julie. On that page, is a link to a question input form, where students can type up questions they want to see Julie be able to answer and provide an example of what an appropriate response to their question will be.

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