NTCC launches new virtual help desk system

By Faith Hampton

Staff Writer

The Northeast Texas Community College Information Technology department has been developing an artificial intelligence system to assist students for the past year and a half.

The chatbot, a new feature located in the bottom right hand corner of the NTCC webpage, allows students to virtually ask questions and receive instantaneous answers. It is a modern twist to the age-old problem of information access and serves as an online help desk for students’ burning questions. 

“We started working on this pre-COVID,” Sebastian Barron, director of computer services, said. “It’s been very meticulous but I think we’ve done a pretty good job with it.” 

The chatbot is available 24/7, allowing students to access the information they need at their convenience. The system utilizes a Q&A log with hundreds of pre-programmed questions and answers as well as alternate phrases. Every day, the chatbot is updated and refined to better serve the students here at NTCC and provide more extensive and accurate information. 

The IT department is already reporting varying rates of success with 55% of inquiries occurring after business hours. Barron said the only obstacles with the chatbot are unanticipated questions or inquiries that are too detailed or complex for the AI to compute. However, these problems can be easily solved, Barron said. The IT department is constantly expanding upon the database and as long as students ask focused and clear questions, results should be both instantaneous and helpful. 

Barron said the IT department is extremely excited about increasing advancement and development with the chatbot. The dream is for the chatbot to become more of a personalized database that provides information and answers to all questions. 

“That’s our goal, is for it to be a more personal assistant to you,”said Barron. “It is slowly becoming a great resource to both staff and students.” 

For more information on the chatbot, contact Barron at sbarron@ntcc.edu.