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About University of Galway
About University of Galway
Since 1845, University of Galway has been sharing the highest quality teaching and research with Ireland and the world. Find out what makes our University so special – from our distinguished history to the latest news and campus developments.
Colleges & Schools
Colleges & Schools
University of Galway has earned international recognition as a research-led university with a commitment to top quality teaching across a range of key areas of expertise.
- Research & Innovation
Business & Industry
Guiding Breakthrough Research at University of Galway
We explore and facilitate commercial opportunities for the research community at University of Galway, as well as facilitating industry partnership.
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At University of Galway, we believe that the best learning takes place when you apply what you learn in a real world context. That's why many of our courses include work placements or community projects.
What is Cara?
Meet Cara, the virtual assistant for current University of Galway students. Available 24/7/365 to support you with questions
about day-to-day university life. Cara is a virtual extension of the Student Enquiry Centre focused on supporting you.
How to chat with Cara?
Keep your question simple and straight to the point - here are a few examples:
Where to find Cara?
You can chat with Cara in two ways:
Why ask Cara?
Cara Knows Stuff!
Get an answer on hundreds of topics; let Cara navigate the University of Galway website for you.
Cara also has answers to questions not on the website.
Here to help all day, every day.
Get an answer instantly without having to wait to speak to a staff member or wait for an answer to an email.
Learn more about Cara
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Digital transformation (DT) and Artificial Intelligence(AI) have become key priorities for managers and organisations across the globe. Advancements, affordability and availability of innovative new technologies have encouraged organisations to rediscover innovative paths to value creation. However, with such an influx of new technologies in this digital era, organisations must be selective and cautious in determining where investments should be made and ensure such investments yield the envisaged value and returns-on-investment. AI is one such tool of DT. In recent years, we have witnessed significant growth in this area whereby organisations are adopting AI tools and exploiting the volume, velocity, variety, veracity and value of data. From this data, the creation of new digital tools and algorithms can be explored and exploited in the form of for example, chatbot applications may be used to conduct online conversations (text or textto-speech) in lieu of providing direct contact with humans. Such innovation has significant potential for organisations to create innovative methods of operating and value creation.
Here follows how the University of Galway adopted AI in the form of a chatbot “Cara” as part of our strategy to create a Universal Student Support Centre.
AI in Educational Institutions
AI, despite its exponential growth across industries globally, has until recent times experienced significantly less traction across the higher education sector. COVID-19 has shaken the education sector to its core. For example, higher education institutions have been tasked with the revision of strategies and transition to a digital mode of delivery. This has entailed both challenges and opportunities with AI tools such as chatbots beginning to feature on organisational websites. A chatbot can be described as a virtual agent with conversational capabilities with the ability to automate and provide information on a designed interface and platform. Furthermore, chatbots through methods such as machine learning and natural language processing, have the ability to mirror and mimic human intelligence. This may be in the form of speech or text and deployed to communicate with humans on platforms that include computers and smart devices. The COVID-19 global pandemic significantly changed third-level education and similar to other sectors, ensured the education sector sought new digitised strategies. Recent years have witnessed examples of third level institutions turning to DT tools such as AI in an attempt to create the advantages highlighted such as possible operational efficiencies, cost reduction, increased engagement, and increasing revenue streams.
Examples of AI technology currently being implemented in Universities internationally
- Georgia Tech have deployed a chatbot (“Jill”) in excess of 5 years. One of the key reasons for the deployment of Jill could potentially identify students in need of academic assistance by identifying trends in queries raised by students, and then offer advice and strategies to assist the student in improving grades. This in turn could assist in the student retention rates and thus increase revenues for the university. The university receives in excess of 10,000 questions from students each semester and “Jill” now provides answers to these questions at a 97% accuracy level. It is estimated Jill have saved the university and teachers over 500 hours responding to the queries.
- Arizona State University’s “Sunny” is an AI-enhanced conversational messaging text-based platform. Sunny provides 24/7 service and connection to students through their preferred communication channel, text messages. The tool was first introduced to prospective students in February 2018. Sunny assists students through the admission process to course enrolment and continued to engage and support new first-year students, starting in Autumn of 2018 and furthermore expanded to all campus immersion students in March 2020. Sunny provides regular check-ins to inquire how a student is feeling, provides students with encouragement, and reminds students of relevant resources in the university.
- The University of Murcia, Spain has recently deployed an AI chatbot "Carrina" to assist with student queries which witnessed the chatbot answering 38,708 questions in excess of 91% accuracy. The chatbot operates 24/7 giving students access to immediate information thus improving operational efficiencies. The university also reported an increase in student motivation owing to the chatbot.
- Deakin Genie is an AI-enabled, personalised digital assistant being used by students at Deakin University. Genie proactively engages and guides students through study and life at Deakin and beyond. It prepares graduates for a ‘post-digital’ future where chatbots and virtual smart assistants will augment most professions. Deakin Genie is a unique, transformational digital agent for student service, learning support, and success. Genie is Deakin’s new digital foundation for building a model of education that embraces the behaviours, needs, and expectations of a digital generation of staff and students. Not only is Genie personalised to each and every student, but it is also fully integrated into the University’s enterprise systems – giving an edge over all other competitors.
Rationale for Adopting AI Chatbot
The AI chatbot project deployment presented a unique opportunity to witness and observe an AI DT project from early stage adoption to deployment. This provided an opening to gain substantial insights into the project: specifically, the rationale for adopting AI, challenges, pain points, and lessons learned between stakeholders from each organisation (University of Galway and Galvia). To attain a better insight as to what success may entail, it was important to understand the rationale for adopting AI (chatbot) as a tool of DT.
All stakeholders delivered a consistent message around the rationale for adopting AI at University of Galway. The adoption of an AI chatbot (on the University of Galway website) would assist or deal with repetitive student queries in a quicker and more efficient time-frame. In doing so, it would improve efficiency to deliver support and ultimately improve the student experience.
The Cara chatbot functions twenty-four hours a day, three hundred and sixty-five days per annum, which will accommodate student queries at any time. The initial goal and objective would see the Cara chatbot become a “first-stop-shop” for student information as currently there are a multitude of drop in information centres for students. The digital platform would bring these together and act as a universal support centre for students. Secondly, Cara has the potential to increase student engagement and improve operational efficiency by automating level one queries that were typically considered to be repetitive support tasks by stakeholders.
AI Chatbot Value
The concept of ‘value’ for stakeholders was consistent with both the Galvia and University of Galway participants. The move towards a digital platform to facilitate communication with students across University of Galway was highlighted by many as a necessity. It is understood the students require instant information at the touch of a button and a chatbot can provide this level of instant engagement. The chatbot will be active every hour of every day (24x7x365), can respond to in excess of 10,000 queries simultaneously, provide instantaneous level one information and free up administrative resources to tackle more complex issues. The wellbeing of the student was echoed across many university stakeholders and the chatbot’s ability to provide analytics can detect key trends and issues commonly raised by students is considered to be of significant value to the university. This will be provided in the form of analytical reports based on queries/questions raised by the student, for example, “the ten most frequently asked questions” by students. Analytics will have the ability to identify and create value opportunities by identifying trends and patterns, i.e. a student’s well-being and service inefficiencies or opportunities across University of Galway. The chatbot could also identify whether a student was struggling with a particular module, with fees, mental health, the ability to identify these issues for the student may be invaluable. This was highlighted across all stakeholders advising the value created by the chatbot: “Reduction of phone call and emails into all depts. May be able to assist in future development of the website and key information. Chatbot has potential to identify students in difficulties.”