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Got a UMD Question? There Might Be a Chatbot for That

By Maryland Today Staff

The Division of Information Technology (DIT) is working with units across the University of Maryland to launch artificial intelligence chatbots that are able to provide helpful answers to questions on topics ranging from legal matters to course content.

Offerings are limited for now, but growing, said Jeffrey Hollingsworth, UMD vice president and chief information officer.

“As we build our initial generative AI tools for UMD offices, we are working to ensure the process to build chatbots is easy so other offices can quickly and easily add their information,” he said. “In the future, we plan to connect our chatbots together to create a one-stop place for students, faculty and staff to get answers to questions about UMD without having to know which department or office has the information they are looking for.”

Generative AI analyzes huge datasets to create new content in response to prompts or questions. The systems are flexible enough that a shy student in a chatbot-supported course could later ask the chatbot similar questions they might have asked in class, while faculty or staff who need obscure information need only ask for it in everyday language, said Axel Persaud, assistant vice president of enterprise engineering and operations for DIT.

“I think the technology has the potential to elevate both educational experiences and administrative efficiency,” Persaud said. “It can empower users to bypass the overwhelming process of navigating through extensive documentation to find answers, enhancing overall information access and productivity.”

Below are current DIT chatbot projects:

Office of General Counsel Faculty and Staff Resource Guide Virtual Assistant
This virtual assistant will enable university community members to get answers and find relevant content more quickly, 24/7. It provides direct links to specific sections related to prompted answers.

Audience: Current UMD faculty/staff members
Status: Under departmental review, slated to launch in May
Access: Will be available on the OGC website; UMD Directory ID and passphrase required

Graduate School Policy Assistant
Built on a knowledge base derived from all the policy documents available on the Graduate School’s website, the virtual assistant answers questions and provides specific resources. Using it helps Graduate School staff to more quickly respond to student inquiries.

Audience: Internal staff fielding questions from current and potential students
Status: Live and in use by Graduate School staff
Access: Restricted to Graduate School staff

Digital Study Assistant
This tool, integrated with UMD’s Panopto media management system, uses indexed recorded course lectures to answer students’ questions. It pinpoints exact moments in lecture videos where particular topics are discussed, so students can revisit them for additional context. It can also assist in creating supplementary learning materials, such as sample quiz questions.

Audience: UMD students in supported courses
Status: Slated to be piloted in several Summer Session I classes
Access: Instructors will be able to opt in

College of Education Programs Virtual Assistant
This virtual assistant is designed to make the journey to and through the College of Education as informative and smooth as possible. Using the college’s vast repository of resources, it is capable of understanding and accurately answering a wide spectrum of inquiries.

Audience: Potential future UMD community members
Status: Under departmental review.
Access When Launched: Public at

This AI chatbot was designed in collaboration with the Office of Digital Learning in the Robert H. Smith School of Business for the course Foundations of Marketing for Non-Business Majors.” It facilitates a deeper understanding of the material by answering student inquiries using slides, presentation material from each module or chapter, lecture notes and other information about the course.

Audience: Students taking BMGT355
Status: Live and available to one section of BMGT355
Access: Students taking the course

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