In 2017 Strayer University rolled out an innovative virtual machine-learning assistant called Irving, to help answer student questions online. Since then, Irving has handled over 740,000 conversations with students. Using Dialogflow, Google’s natural language processing tool, Irving can categorize student questions into “intents,” or topics, and then search campus databases through Google Compute Engine for customized answers. “We’re incredibly proud of it,” says Daniel McCarthy, SEI’s VP for Emerging Technology and Irving’s original lead developer. Surveys show that students have responded favorably as well: as of January 2020, 89% of Strayer students agree that Irving helped them solve their issue easily and 93% of them would recommend Irving to other students.
Joe Schaefer, Chief Transformation Officer at SEI, was pleased with how smoothly the implementation went: “we originally thought we’d need on-site consulting, but we found that with our team’s creativity and desire to learn, plus Google’s tools and people to point us in the right direction, we could build a great product for our students on our own.”