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SIS GLOBAL Press Release

UFS Revolutionises Student Support with AI-Powered KovsieChat

Date Published: 4 July 2024

The University of the Free State (UFS), a prestigious multi-campus public university in Bloemfontein, South Africa, has once again demonstrated its commitment to innovation and student support with the launch of its AI-powered Student Support Bot, KovsieChat. Powered by the EduBot solution which is developed by SIS Global and their AI division, Verge AI, UFS is at the forefront of transforming the educational landscape by integrating advanced AI into student support services.

A Brief History of KovsieChat

The journey of UFS’s Student Support Bot, KovsieChat, began during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recognizing the challenges posed by social distancing and remote learning, UFS seized the opportunity to bridge these gaps through technology. Thus, Kovsie2Bot was born—a simple yet innovative solution to ensure that students continued to receive the guidance and information they needed.

Initially, the chatbot operated on basic scripts and keyword recognition, handling a modest volume of inquiries. However, its potential quickly became evident. Over time, Kovsie2Bot evolved into a sophisticated machine-learning model capable of interpreting natural language with impressive accuracy. This evolution was made possible through a strategic collaboration with SIS Global and their AI division, Verge AI, leveraging EduBot—an AI chatbot solution designed specifically for higher education institutions.

Since its inception, the bot has been rebranded as KovsieChat and has processed over 5 million messages from more than 77,300 users, demonstrating significant yearly growth and handling over 700,000 messages during peak periods. Its reliability and efficiency have earned it strong endorsements from UFS, marking it as a cornerstone of digital innovation at the university.

Cutting-Edge Capabilities

The latest version of KovsieChat, affectionately nicknamed ‘Lennie’, is set to revolutionize student support at UFS. Powered by Microsoft Azure OpenAI’s GPT-4, these state-of-the-art enhancements bring a level of understanding and responsiveness that sets a new standard for AI in education. Here are the key features that make Lennie a trailblazer in the education sector:

  • Powered by GPT-4: Lennie utilizes GPT-4, OpenAI’s most advanced Natural Language Processing model, enabling it to understand and respond to queries with human-like accuracy. For example, if a student asks, “What modules can I take in my second year of a BSc in Computer Science?” Lennie can provide a detailed and accurate list of options.
  • Natural Language Interaction: Students can converse with Lennie in natural language, asking open-ended questions in a way that feels intuitive and natural. This reduces the need for specific keywords or phrases, making the interaction smoother and more efficient. For example, a student might ask, “What are the admission requirements for a degree in Law?” and receive a comprehensive, easy-to-understand response.
  • Multi-Lingual Support: Lennie supports all 11 official South African languages, ensuring inclusivity and accessibility for all students. This feature is particularly significant in a diverse linguistic landscape like South Africa. A student whose first language is isiZulu can comfortably ask questions and receive responses in isiZulu, making the experience more personalized and engaging.
  • Voice Note Integration: Recognizing the need for diverse communication methods, Lennie now supports voice notes. Students can send voice messages to Lennie, enhancing accessibility for those who prefer or need to communicate verbally. This feature is especially beneficial for students who may have difficulty typing or prefer speaking over writing.

A Vision for the Future

 The integration of Azure OpenAI’s GPT-4 technology in KovsieChat marks a significant leap towards more intuitive and dynamic student interactions. Lennie’s advanced Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities allow it to understand and respond to queries with human-like accuracy, significantly reducing instances of misinterpretation. This ensures that students receive precise and relevant responses, thereby enhancing the overall user experience.

By offering anticipatory and dynamic interactions, Lennie sets a new standard for AI-driven support in education. Students can engage with Lennie naturally and intuitively, making their academic journey smoother and more efficient.

Curriculum Advising

One of the most exciting developments is Lennie’s new curriculum advising capabilities. By being trained on UFS’s extensive faculty rulebooks, Lennie can provide detailed academic advice, helping students navigate their degree requirements, plan their courses, and make informed decisions about their educational paths. This personalised guidance is available instantly, reducing the need for lengthy consultations and making academic planning more accessible than ever.

“With KovsieChat’s advanced curriculum advising capabilities, we are transforming how students receive academic guidance. The AI’s ability to provide instant, personalised advice on course planning and degree requirements ensures that our students can make well-informed decisions about their educational and career paths” said Gugu Khanye, Director: Student Success, Centre for Teaching and Learning at UFS.

UFS: A Pioneer in Higher Education

With the launch of KovsieChat, powered by EduBot, UFS is not just keeping up with technological advancements—it’s leading the charge. By becoming one of the first universities to deploy a student-facing AI chatbot, UFS underscores its dedication to enhancing student support through cutting-edge technology. KovsieChat exemplifies UFS’s commitment to providing exceptional educational experiences and ensuring students are well-supported throughout their academic journey.

“The launch of KovsieChat, powered by our EduBot, is a groundbreaking moment in AI-driven student support. We are thrilled to be at the forefront of this technological revolution with UFS, transforming how students access the guidance and resources they need. Our collaboration with UFS underscores our commitment to leveraging advanced AI to create seamless, efficient, and personalized support systems for students,” said Mitchell Hawley, Managing Director of Verge AI.

“KovsieChat is a testament to UFS’s commitment to innovation and student success. By providing instant, personalised support, we are ensuring that our students have the best possible resources to navigate their academic journeys,” added Nomonde Mbadi, Directorate for Student Recruitment Services.

UFS’s high standard for educational innovation ensures that both current and prospective students have access to the necessary tools and support for success. KovsieChat utilizes AI to enhance educational outcomes and make education more personalized, accessible, and inclusive.

The Future of Student Support at UFS

The introduction of KovsieChat by the University of the Free State signifies a monumental step in leveraging AI to enhance student support services. Integrating advanced technology like Azure OpenAI’s GPT-4, UFS sets a new benchmark for educational institutions globally. KovsieChat not only provides students with accurate and timely information but also makes their educational journey more personalized, inclusive, and efficient. As UFS continues to lead in educational innovation, KovsieChat stands as a testament to the university’s unwavering commitment to student success and technological advancement.

About SIS Global Services

SIS Global is a leading Global Education System Integrator (GESI), renowned for its expertise in devising, designing, and executing transformative IT strategies and solutions tailored for educational institutions worldwide.

About the University of the Free State

The University of the Free State (UFS) is a multi-campus public university located in Bloemfontein, South Africa. With a student body of over 41,000, UFS is committed to academic excellence and innovation, fostering an inclusive and supportive environment for all its students.

About Verge AI

Verge AI is a software company focused on creating advanced AI powered solutions. As the AI division of SIS Global, Verge AI aims to help businesses streamline communication and enhance efficiency using AI technology.

For more information on Verge AI:

About EduBot

EduBot is an advanced AI chatbot solution specifically designed for the Higher Education industry, offering tailored automation of administrative processes and enhanced student support services. By seamlessly integrating into existing systems, EduBot provides 24/7 multilingual assistance for admissions, course registration, finance, academic support, career guidance, and more, significantly improving operational efficiency and student satisfaction.

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