Frequently Asked Questions for Students About SAVY

What exactly is a virtual assistant?

The virtual assistant is a software-based conversational agent that is populated with content designed on the IBM Watson platform to help you perform tasks related to your academic journey at York. It can either respond directly to your questions or point you toward accurate information relating to the questions you ask, recommend relevant resources, provide directions and wayfinding, show you upcoming deadlines and connect you to other resources, people and places on campus.

What is the difference between a virtual assistant and a chatbot?

While chatbots essentially feed you information by passing you content from other sources (like websites), a virtual assistant knows enough about you to provide you with more personalized content including services and events related to your campus and Faculty.

How is the virtual assistant different from just doing a Google search?

The virtual assistant is intended to give a single authoritative response to questions that it is trained to answer. Google offers many (sometimes thousands of) results for any search. In fact, Google will almost never generate a single result for a search because it will always try to use synonyms and other techniques to increase the number of results.

Will the virtual assistant replace face-to-face student services?

No. The virtual assistant is meant to provide general information, even when it’s specific to your campus or Faculty. Human student service experts, like staff in Registrarial Services and advising centres, will continue to provide you with support.

What kinds of questions can I ask SAVY?

You can ask anything related to academic, student life and career development services. That’s how you will help SAVY learn and provide better, more targeted answers. Initially, during the BETA stage, it will be able to provide answers on topics including:

  • Registrarial and financial services
  • Academic advising referrals
  • Important dates and deadlines
  • Mental health, safety and well-being
  • Career support
  • Campus events and student life
  • Campus services, such as the Bookstore and Library Services
Will the virtual assistant work on my smart device?

Yes. Since the virtual assistant is embedded in Moodle/eClass, it will also work on your mobile device.

Who can use SAVY?

Since SAVY is embedded in Moodle (eClass for Glendon students) and on the Current Students website, all undergraduate students will have access to it. In the first release (January 2020), undergraduate students from the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design, Glendon campus and the Lassonde School of Engineering were given access.

In May 2020, undergraduate students in Education, Environmental Studies, Health, Liberal Arts & Professional Studies and Science were given access.

In September 2020, students in the Schulich School of Business received access, and SAVY launched in early October 2020 to Osgoode Hall Law School students.

Can graduate students use the virtual assistant?

No, the virtual assistant is only for undergraduate students.

Why does the virtual assistant have such a boring name?

It doesn’t anymore! The virtual assistant naming contest ran from February 12 to May 29, 2020 and it now has an exciting new name – SAVY! The winning submission was chosen by a York student, and was announced in September 2020!

How does the virtual assistant get its answers?

Subject matter experts across the University have contributed content to the virtual assistant to get started. During a test phase in 2019 students worked with the virtual assistant to help refine and expand content, and it continues to be constantly refreshed. As time goes on, the more it is used, the better and more targeted the answers will get.

How did you come up with the virtual assistant avatar?

We surveyed students on a few options and this one was chosen as the most eye-catching and memorable avatar. It represents the letters “V” and “A” for Virtual Assistant in the form of an audio wave, representing the conversational nature of the virtual assistant (even though it’s not yet audio enabled.) The dot in the centre of it all is you, the student!

What do I do if I’m having technical trouble with the virtual assistant?

Ask for help using the Virtual Assistant Technical Help Form on your Moodle or eClass site. Or ask the virtual assistant itself!

How does the virtual assistant know who I am and what program I’m in?

When you log in to eClass (formerly Moodle for Keele students) with Passport York, the virtual assistant captures your first name only, what program you are in, and the courses you are enrolled in to provide information that is uniquely tailored to you.

How is my privacy protected while using the virtual assistant?

To protect your privacy, the virtual assistant will only use general information about you to answer your questions: your first name, whether or not you are an international student, your faculty, your program of study, your college affiliation, the course(s) you are taking and your year of study. The virtual assistant will not know your last name, your student number or your contact information.

Can I voice activate the virtual assistant?

The virtual assistant is not voice-enabled at this time, but it may be in future versions.

Where can I learn about York U’s other artificial intelligence projects?

York is engaged with a number of research, teaching and learning activities in the area of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and you can learn more about them on the AI @YorkU website.

How will the virtual assistant progress over time?

The more you use the virtual assistant, the better we can make it provide the best possible answers for your questions. In addition to simply using it, you can also help train the virtual assistant in the following ways:

  • Use the Technical Issue Reporting Form button from within Moodle/eClass or the website to report any issues with the virtual assistant interface.
  • Whenever you say goodbye to the virtual assistant, type negative comments into the interface (like “that wasn’t helpful!”), or tell the virtual assistant you want to give feedback, you will be provided with a feedback button. Use the button to give your honest feedback to help train the virtual assistant to get better at responding to questions.

Staff will review student comments continually to see what should be improved or changed within the existing content. Content additions will begin to be implemented after the virtual assistant has been launched to all Faculties.

Remember that the virtual assistant isn’t human. We need to help train it to respond to queries.

I don’t have access yet. When will I get access to the student virtual assistant?

All undergraduate students at York have access to the student virtual assistant as of early October 2020.