A Business-Rules Approach for Departmental Advising

Lisa Burnell, Ryan Figg, Minh Phan, Justin Smith, Akihiro Sugihara, John Priest, and John R. Durrett

The advising process plays an essential role in the success of a student’s academic life, and should include mentoring and counseling offered by faculty advisors. Unfortunately, the limited advising time available is often spent on routine tasks such as course advising and approvals. In addition, faculty advisors spend a large proportion of advising time answering the same questions for multiple students. Non-traditional students and distance education make it more difficult for student and faculty advisor to find an agreeable time to meet. While universities have implemented web-based advisor systems for routine tasks, most of these systems make static, non-personalized materials such as catalogs available and offer email communication between student and advisor. Moving beyond this approach, we seek to provide a means by which a student may engage in interactive dialogues with a "Virtual Advisor" that possesses current, reliable knowledge and offers personalized advice. VAT (Virtual Advisor Technology), is an intelligent knowledge-based system being developed as a multi-university, multi-departmental team design project. The intent of this online advising system is to assist students in planning semester schedules and degree plans. VAT uses rule-based reasoning to generate degree plans, check scheduling conflicts, and recommend personalized advice based on student preferences.

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