Student Life

Introducing Puckman, RPI’s new experimental chatbot

Rensselaer has begun testing a new chatbot named Puckman, an initiative being led by the Department of Undergraduate Education. The chatbot sent out text messages to most of the freshmen cohort on March 30. Keith Moo-Young, Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education, explained to The Polytechnic that the goal of the initiative is to boost student success.

Moo-Young stated “though email is the official communication mechanism for the university, we think that all students have cell phones and we just want to provide friendly reminders around student success.” RPI is also testing ways to "reach the freshman cohort to assure they are okay."

Students can use the chatbot through text; however, there are plans to test it on RPI websites. The current testing is focused primarily on first-years and sophomores, as the Department wants to increase first and second-year retention. Moo-Young added that COVID-19 has hurt retention rates with first-year retention dropping to 88 percent for 2022‒2023, down from 90 percent in prior years. The overall retention rate for colleges nation-wide is 82 percent.

The current plan is to continue testing the chatbot throughout the rest of the Spring semester and summer with a full rollout in Fall 2023.