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Newly ZonMw-funded project 'What's BOThering you?'

Developing personalized chatbots to improve student well-being

Students in higher education are struggling: more than half have burnout symptoms and 70% feel continuous pressure to perform. The "What's BOThering you?" project aims to use artificial intelligence to understand the factors that play a role in student well-being. With that knowledge, chatbots will be developed that offer personalised help to students.

ZonMw is supporting the project, in which Radboud University is collaborating with the Open University and universities of Tilburg and Antwerp.

Well-being is multidimensional and complex

Poor student mental well-being (StMWB) is increasingly recognized as a major public health burden. While interventions exist to prevent or treat mental problems in students, such interventions have limited success. The reason is that well-being is a multidimensional and complex phenomenon. Well-being is determined by several factors that overlap and influence each other, and that evolve dynamically over time within individuals. We just don't know enough about this process yet.

Dynamic network modeling

The project "What's BOThering you?" aims to change that. The researchers see the factors that determine mental well-being as a dynamic network. They are going to map the structure of that dynamic network and model it computationally. The model will lead to new insights into how the components of mental well-being are interrelated and influence each other over time. By employing artificial intelligence, the researchers can go a step further and develop intelligent, personalized chatbots.

Chatbot as conversation partner for students

The research is conducted among students in higher education. A multidimensional, dynamic and personalized network model for each student will be developed, and that model serves as input for the development and evaluation of a personalized and engaging conversation partner (chatbot) that can support the student's well-being.

Such chatbots can also lower the barrier to seek help for mental health problems, using technology students already have experience with.


The project is being carried out by a consortium consisting of researchers from Radboud University, the Open University (coordination), University of Tilburg, and University of Antwerp. A post-doc will be appointed in Nijmegen to support the project, while two PhD students will join the teams at the University of Tilburg and the Open University. The Radboud University team consists of Tibor Bosse, Barbara Müller en Mariska Kleemans from the Communication & Media group. ZonMW is supporting the project under the Open Competition program.


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