Swoop to Debut as a Chatbot in February

February 8, 2023

Swoop, EWU’s popular mascot, is starring in a new role as an AI chatbot, assisting new and returning undergraduate students in their journey to earn a degree.

EWU’s latest communication tool is a texting bot designed to connect students with the latest information on the deadlines and resources relevant to their success. It is similar to Google Assistant.

“Students have asked Swoop for jokes. One student even proposed to Swoop, which I understand. We all love Swoop,” said Jens Larson, EWU’s associate vice president for Enrollment Management. “Mostly students are asking about campus events, the academic calendar and student resources.”

Students received their introduction to Swoop in early February. The university is piloting this new program with a goal of supporting students and improving their overall student experience.

Swoop doesn’t replace the university’s popular Navigate tool, but instead offers a way to put useful information into the hands of newly admitted and continuing students in a convenient, timely way. (Students are encouraged to participate, but can also opt out.)  Only 1 percent of students have chosen to opt out, and within the first 24 hours Swoop received more than 1,600 texts from students.

Swoop features include reminders of deadlines for quarter and semester students, help with check-ins for registration and financial aid and other assistance along with inspirational messages wishing good luck and offering congratulations upon completion of the term.

EWU is the first college in Washington to launch an AI chatbot focused on student success.

“We were the first public university to go all-digital for admissions. We were the first university to text students, and also the first to have a chat function on the university website,” said Larson. “Students keep pushing us to make their EWU experiences more convenient, and we hope this takes another step in that direction.”

EWU worked with experts from EdSights — a company that creates AI tools supporting enrollment, retention and persistence toward degree completion — to launch SwoopChat. Edsights’ designers incorporated feedback from students and EWU staff to make the chatbot especially Eagle-friendly.

Here’s what students can expect:

Swoop sent an initial introductory “hello” text message to every EWU undergraduate student on Feb. 2. Students will receive additional texts and questions every 7-10 days. Students can also reach out with questions about EWU at any time. Students can text “Pause” if they prefer not to communicate.

Over time, Swoop will learn more about students’ experiences and will start customizing questions based on what students have responded to or asked about in the past.

EWU staff members monitor Swoop, and students may receive an email or call if it seems like they need additional support from a campus expert.

“It’s only a robot, and we know students’ lives are complicated,” said Larson. “But at least it’s a friendly robot entirely not focused on an AI uprising and robot apocalypse. Like staff at EWU, it just wants students to succeed in college.”

Only students who have up-to-date cell phone numbers with the university will receive SwoopChat messages. Need to update your number? You can make changes through EagleNet.