Are Chatbots the Future for Higher Education?


Higher Education, chatbots

Today’s tech-hungry students take technology into consideration when deciding which university is right for them, and expect a more universal, connected experience inside and outside of the classroom. Just like any other mobile application or service they have grown up with, students demand a personalised experience that will help them adjust to their new surroundings, optimize their life on campus and connect more deeply with their university experience. So how are universities preparing to move with the times?

Some are starting to looking to leverage the power of artificial intelligence, and more specifically, chatbots.

Chatbots have the power to improve communication, increase productivity, and minimize ambiguity from interactions. They can effortlessly lend themselves to focused, result-oriented online conversations — which is precisely what modern educational institutes need in this day and age. 

To understand this better, let’s explore what higher education chatbots bring to the table.

Communication which improves over time

For any university, effective communication is the key to converting prospective applicants into enrolled students. At the moment, these prospective applicants consist of young millennials with a perpetual online presence across multiple devices, and a strong preference for on-demand, instant responses to queries.

During the run-up to the admissions season every year, prospective students flock to universities with applications or enquiries about specific courses, fees and scholarships. The university staff proceed to address these queries, using both online and offline channels. The process takes time, requires a great deal of manpower, and leaves at least some margin for error or ambiguity in communication. Higher education chatbots eliminate all these issues. They can be programmed with automated answers to repetitive questions, and any number of prospective students can chat with them, free of cost, at any hour of the day or night.

Colleges and universities that use online chatbots on their websites therefore have a greater chance of drawing and retaining the attention of their target audience. Through these higher education chatbots, educational institutes can create an effective funnel for dispensing relevant information about their courses.

Studies have shown that potential applicants find the one-on-one, IM-style interaction familiar and convenient. Immediate responses and end-to-end message histories make these live chats much more efficient than emails, which take longer and can lead to ambiguity.

Depending on the quality of higher education chatbot development, AI bots embedded into university websites can learn from their interactions with prospective students, and fine-tune their responses in a way that gets applicants to enrol in courses or register for updates.

Access to a detailed and up-to-date repository of information

The role of online chatbots in higher education goes beyond catering to student requests. These AI bots also serve as an asset for the universities that use them on their websites. Over the course of their interactions with prospective and existing students, university chatbots gather large amounts of data. This data contains helpful pointers about student behaviour, with respect to information that they can — or cannot — find on the university website.

University management can track and monitor student queries received via live chat, and carry out analyses to identify areas where their website content or interface needs improvement. The entire process can be repeated at regular intervals, allowing the university to understand and keep up with the changing demands and preferences of its students.

Campus guidance and troubleshooting after admission.

Studies have shown that poor student support and a general impression of neglect are among the key reasons why students drop out of colleges or universities. Effective and frequent communication with students, along with proper identification of information gaps, can help reverse this trend. The best chatbots for higher education websites are able to deliver on both these fronts.

When implemented correctly, higher education chatbots can ensure a seamless experience for students who are offered admission at a particular university. The same chatbot that helped them with course information and during the application process, can now play the role of a campus guide.

Even before arriving on campus, new students can find out about available scholarships, halls allotment status, and the facilities and services that the university offers, and once the semester is underway, the chatbot can continue to assist students with online issues such as their university email accounts, online library access, and so on.

Universities are therefore able to forge better relationships with their students when they use AI bots for automated tasks. In the process, they are also able to reduce some of the workload that their staff handles. The resulting microclimate revolves around efficient, mutually beneficial interactions, which puts them on a solid footing for further growth.

Leveraging technology to create an emotional connection

Often students feel vulnerable when they first step foot on campus and begin their university journey. Many students have moved to a different city or even different country and may not have any friends or family around them for support. But when universities work to connect with students on an emotional level it can help them get started on the right path and can foster long-term loyalty.

A study conducted by Ellucian revealed that 68% of students whose university offers a centralised campus app were “overwhelmed” by the volume of information their university provided when they first started their higher education journey. In contrast, when no app was offered, 85% of students believe it would have made the transition to university easier as well as increased their participation in student organisations. But the stats don’t end there.

Students said they would feel more emotionally connected to their university if they were offered technology that would enable them to:

  • Create ways to connect with other students or make friends – 56%
  • Suggest coursework based on academic performance and interests – 47%
  • Propose potential event attendance based on student major or interests – 45%
  • Deliver alerts for school deadlines – 44%
  • Craft opportunities to connect with faculty – 42%
  • Suggest ideas for supplemental resources or tutoring – 26%

 

It’s clear to see that students are expecting more digitally personalised experience from their university. But taking the steps to implement this transformation does take time.

To discover how ANS are helping the higher education sector to enhance its digital learning experiences and improve student engagement, click here.

 

 

Posted by Helen Thomas