The University of Cape Town’s Central Advising and Referral Services (UCT_CARES) student support and information service was expanded on 9 August with the launch of three faculty CARE nodes and a new WhatsApp chatbot.
In the university’s complex environment, students often struggle to find the right support. They don’t know who to contact – or how – to get information on topics such as the application process, fees, funding, student housing, student support services, student life, etc. The switch to emergency remote teaching has aggravated this problem. As a result, the university launched the UCT_CARES service in 2020 as a central node of contact for assistance.
To augment this service, three live, faculty‑specific nodes have been launched for students in Commerce, Law, and Engineering & the Built Environment. Students in these faculties can direct their queries to peer advisors in each of these nodes: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; or firstname.lastname@example.org. A Science node will be coming soon.
In addition, UCT_CARES is also launching the UCT_CARES Chatbot, following the WhatsApp FAQ tool pilot launched earlier this year. This was targeted at prospective students and applicants and proved invaluable. In five months, it helped 17 900 unique users answer over 44 700 questions.
The new UCT_CARES Chatbot will be freely accessible on WhatsApp. It will answer questions via a drop‑down menu and respond to typed questions. As this is a learning bot, the service will be able to answer more questions over time. It will also give users the option of contacting a live agent.
To connect to the UCT_CARES Chatbot, follow these steps:
(UCT_CARES is an initiative of Academic Advising@UCT, the Academic Development Programme and the Centre for Higher Education Development and was developed in collaboration with Information and Communication Technology Services and external service provider, SIS Global. This work is funded by the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust. Follow UCT_CARES through their social media accounts: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram)
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