Text messages from ‘Bow.At the beginning of every semester, students receive a text from ‘Bow.

The University of Hawaii at Mānoa is connecting its students to ‘Bow, an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot for undergraduate students. Short for Rainbow, ‘Bow was actually “born” in August to serve as a student enrollment resource, according to UH.

Originally created by the Office of Enrollment Management to help prospective students answer questions regarding admissions or financial aid via their websites, ‘Bow has transformed into a chatbot that all undergraduates at UH Mānoa can access via text message. At the beginning of every semester, students will receive a text from ‘Bow, and from there, be able to exchange messages and ask him questions related to UH Mānoa.

The top questions ‘Bow received in the fall 2023 semester were related to advising, dining and athletics. However, students can also ask questions about financial aid, their UH accounts, mental health support and more.

“As a new transfer student to UH Mānoa, navigating the campus was definitely intimidating and somewhat overwhelming for me during the first couple weeks of the semester,” shared Davis Martin, who came to UH Mānoa from Honolulu Community College. “‘Bow was able to answer my questions via text, such as where to get my student I.D. card, where I can get access to a printer, and provided me with a virtual campus map to help me find my way through the campus. I loved the convenience of asking questions via text and getting a quick response while I’m on the go.“

Based on statistics from the Division of Student Success (DSS), since ‘Bow’s release:

  • 95% of the student population are open to communications from ‘Bow
  • 57% of students are actively engaged and texting ‘Bow, and
  • DSS received nearly 65,000 text messages from students on a variety of topics.

“It’s been very interesting to witness the positive impact on students’ daily lives,” said Tanya Pimienta, an assistant graduate student that helps manage ‘Bow. “Looking ahead, my goal is to continually improve ‘Bow’s capabilities to better meet the evolving needs of our diverse student population. I hope that ‘Bow becomes a genuine friend for students, adapting to individual preferences and contributing positively to the university experience.”

Using adaptive AI for student success

‘Bow’s spirit is a raindrop formed by the Tuahine rainfall found throughout Mānoa Valley, which is why he is seen everywhere and knows so much, but his technical background stems from adaptive AI. This means that, rather than generating new content, ‘Bow’s knowledge base is curated by Division of Student Success personnel also known as ‘Bowʻs “human helpers.” One of these helpers is Student Success Operations Manager Wiliama Sanchez.

“Because ‘Bow utilizes adaptive AI, the information he relays to students comes directly from DSS and other campus departments and resources,” said Sanchez. “My team and I aim to ensure that the information ‘Bow shares is accurate, helpful and most importantly, increases student engagement and persistence to graduation. Our goal is to provide a tool that students can use efficiently to support them in their journey through Mānoa.”

‘Bow’s adaptive AI capabilities also allow Pimienta to generate more personalized and prompt responses to students in need. Pimienta’s role involves sorting through and responding to alerts from ‘Bow, including notifications related to dropping out and mental health.

“I assess student risk levels, prioritizing outreach to those at high risk,” said Pimienta. “This proactive approach allows for targeted support to be offered to students facing challenges or difficulties. Depending on the alert, I ensure that the students are connected to the appropriate campus faculty or staff to receive the resources, support and assistance they need.”

Committed to student privacy

In addition to student success, DSS is also committed to student privacy and ethical AI usage. DSS adheres strictly to data protection guidelines and prioritizes user consent, working alongside the UH Mānoa Data Governance Committee to ensure student data privacy. Due to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, DSS also does not use information received by ‘Bow to data mine students for outside agencies—any student information received by ‘Bow is only accessed by the Office of the Vice Provost for Student Success.

For more information about ‘Bow, contact the Office of the Vice Provost for Student Success at vpss@hawaii.edu, or call (808) 956-3290.

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