March 17, 2021

'Adorr-able' Rex helps provide 24/7 student support online

Office of the Registrar implements new chat feature to provide instantaneous answers to students’ questions from around the world
Rex chat bot
Rex chat bot Photo illustration by Amy Kornelson

UCalgary’s most beloved dinosaur has fit yet another job into an already busy schedule — answering student questions online.

The Office of the Registrar (RO) launched the Rex chat bot on Dec. 15 to provide instantaneous answers to students’ questions on a variety of topics such as registering for classes, accessing transcripts and applying to graduate. In just under three months, Rex answered more than 10,000 questions and received 37,000 clicks.

"Rex not only supports our new remote reality by being easily accessible 24/7, but also by shifting our advising as we know it,” says Erin Hamilton, manager of enrolment services operations. “Rex is bolstering our advising model, helping us to shift capacity for more relational advising with our students when they connect with our office for support.”

Rex isn’t just a regular chat bot. RO staff worked with UCalgary co-op students to ensure Rex’s winning personality shines through.

Hi, my name is Rex, and I hope to be your adorr-able helper for today. While I may not be quite as knowledgeable as a thesaurus, I know mammoth amounts of information!

“As a student, I know the impacts a positive student service experience can have,” says Pedro Monteiro Garcia D’avila, one of the co-op students who worked on the project and the primary culprit behind Rex’s shameless use of puns. “Having this in mind, when I was first given the opportunity to work on Rex, I knew how much potential we had in our hands. Unlike any other customer service tool, Rex is friendly, inviting, and understands the student’s perspective — because Rex is a Dino like all of us.”

Rex doesn’t just provide support for the current undergraduate and graduate student population. Prospective students can also benefit from learning about programs and the application process.

Multilingual Rex connects with people around the world

"With admissions numbers on the rise, Rex helps students navigate the application and admissions process,” says Hannah Ashton, applicant services manager (admissions). “We have applicants around the world who aren’t normally able to interact with the university because of our service hours. Now they can connect in their own time and in their own language. Rex can speak over 100 different languages."

Since the RO has transitioned to offering its services online, it has created a suite of virtual services to support students: a virtual front desk for students to call from across the globe, AI through Rex and, most recently, a way for students to chat directly with a staff member. When Rex’s AI technology doesn’t know the response to a question, a live agent is triggered to support the student. This range in service supports the depth of questions the RO receives from students in a way that meets them where they are at.

“The implementation of the chat bot has been a great success with current and future students,” says Angelique Saweczko, university registrar. “Our goal is to support students in a dynamic and timely manner. We want to reduce the time students spend accessing services and support so they can focus on their studies, research and extra-curricular activities. The introduction of AI technology into our compliment of services supports this goal.”