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Engineering introduces new academic chat tool to assist studentsApril 15, 2021

New Virtual Helpdesk makes it quicker and easier for students to access info and appointments

Online chat technology is transforming how engineering students connect with the faculty and the university.

With a simple click on a live chat button, students can now quickly get answers to their questions, access forms and resources, and make appointments with academic advisors.

It’s an innovative improvement that has been driven by the challenges of connecting remotely during the pandemic, says Assistant Dean (Studies) Maria White.

“We still want to be very available and accessible to our students, even when we are all off campus,” she says. “With the virtual helpdesk, we can chat back and forth, and even switch to video if that’s helpful.”

The development of online options promises to significantly improve student service forever.

While the live chat is currently available during weekday office hours, an AI-driven chatbot will soon be launched, to expand the service to a 24/7 offering.

A speedy self-serve option, the chatbot will let students access information when they want it. It will also connect to other university chat services, including that offered by the Office of the Registrar.

Associate Dean (Academic) Steve Hranilovic says the student experience is at the core of McMaster Engineering’s mission.

“The driving vision behind this initiative was to provide students with broader access to personalized support services on their own terms and in a wider variety of formats.”

Even when students and staff return to campus, the upgraded technology will improve the student experience by eliminating the need to show up in person, stand in lineups or shuttle from one office to another to get assistance.

“This will make it easier for students to get what they need in an easy and seamless way,” says White. “But in-person consultation will always be available to students as an option. The chatbots will just make things more efficient and increase our capacity to assist.”