Navi tool being used on a phone


Navi is U of T’s student mental health wayfinding virtual assistant (chatbot).  The development of the tool coincided with findings from U of T’s Presidential & Provostial Task Force on Student Mental Health, which found that while there are supports available to students across the institution, it was sometimes difficult to find the appropriate service, especially for students experiencing challenges or in a crisis situation. 

The tool helps students in finding the appropriate support at all points along the mental health continuum – from those curious about improving their overall mental health, to those in who are experiencing a more urgent crisis. 

Navi is not a ‘set and forget it’ AI tool that pulls its information from the Internet (and then is as culturally insensitive as the Internet itself). Navi uses IBM’s Watson Assistant; a virtual assistant using natural-language processing to understand questions and provide relevant answers. The tool was able to respond 89.4% of the time (up from 77% in 2020-2021).  A human being reviews Navi’s daily conversations and continues to teach the computer how to be more helpful and caring while providing appropriate resources. 

The St. George Campus still sees the majority of users, but Work Study student ambassadors were added to the Navi team this year to focus on UTM and UTSC.  The increased visibility and continual addition of resources from all three campuses allow the tool to improve each year. 

In 2021-22 Navi was honoured with the Canadian Association College and University Student Services (CACUSS), Innovation Award and was nominated for a Canadian University Council of Chief Information Officers (CUCCIO) Innovation Award.