5 Ways AI Powered Chatbots Can Make a Big Difference for Colleges and Universities

chatbots for higher education

March 19, 2019

Colleges across the country are using artificial intelligence to transform how they engage students. With the ability to support thousands of personalized conversations simultaneously and at any time of the day, student success teams can put the student at the center of their support model.

AI-powered chatbots add a supercharged communication layer, providing immediate, on-demand support to daily questions. Chatbots streamline how students connect to resources, which occurs through texting, or a student’s preferred communication platform.

When students experience a support model built for them, we fill in the potholes on the road to success. Colleges who onboard AI have the potential to see a 3% increase in enrollment yield throughout a two-semester timespan.

Here are five strategies to consider when adopting AI:

1. Student First & On-demand.

A pain point across higher ed is the inability to connect with students instantly. Colleges lose students when they have to navigate through multiple departments or sift through websites to find the resources they need. Gen Z students grew up with services personalized to their needs and available around the clock. It’s natural for them to ask “why is that so slow?” instead of thinking “wow, that was fast!” Many colleges adapt to this need by offering ‘one-stop’ call centers or locations to improve this experience for students. This streamlines how information is delivered, but this can spread staff too thin and groups of students can be missed.

Automating day-to-day interaction with AI allows educators to provide immediate support 24/7. An AI-powered chatbot serves as an added communication layer by responding to regular inquiries and escalating high impact situations to staff. A university chatbot learns more over time, freeing up staff so they can tackle larger projects.

college chatbot conversation

2. Make it conversational.

Embedded within each of these strategies is the concept of building a conversational strategy. Conversations are how humans are wired to learn, so the more we can communicate through a conversational flow, the more we’ll be able to keep both sides engaged.A common engagement barrier lies in the transactional tendency of student outreach. From payments to paperwork, colleges naturally approach students with a lot of asks, but if these are the only moments you’re choosing to reach out, you’re ignoring opportunities to form an ongoing connection.

It’s just as important to reach out to students when things are going well as it is when something is needed from them. Ongoing conversations can fill in this space and help students form stronger connections with their institution.

3. Deliver nudges that help students make better choices.

Behavioral nudges have a major impact on student outcomes by priming students to proactively tackle small challenges before they become big problems. Institutions can increase completion rates of tasks like filling out admissions applications and applying for financial aid by altering the way they’re presented.Small reminders add up to keep students on track. Texting reflects the most influential nudge technology because it allows colleges to deliver these interventions through a channel that students welcome.

At Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina, accepted students receive texts throughout the summer to help them complete their enrollment processes before they arrive on campus. Their chatbot, Winston, helps students pay bills, submit immunization forms, and send in final high school transcripts. As a result, freshman yield grew from 21.6% to 23.3%, and overall university enrollment grew by 2%. New freshman at WSSU can now focus on enjoying their first weeks of college instead of rushing to finish prerequisites due months ago.

4. Build a listening platform to collect better data.

Listening is the best way to ensure your communication is relevant. Colleges often blast information deemed necessary by different departments, causing them to miss the mark on what a student needs. Students end up tuning out and miss relevant messages.With higher ed texting tools, colleges can provide students with a consistent level of service and personality. This technology provides visibility to questions students have in addition to the ability to ask and collect information in an accessible conversational manner. This provides an opportunity to fully engage students and learn from them in the process.

Many colleges who implement a chatbot transform communication coordination by putting the student at the center. Departments work together to ensure they have a consistent voice with students.

5. Establish a path of least resistance for both sides.

Colleges can make their communication clearer with students by removing common points of friction. Instead of relying on many platforms, focus on streamlining efforts across one channel. Communicate in a way that makes it simple and fun for students to engage. Meet them where they are to make it easier for them to move forward.Texting students is a great place to start. While students ignore most emails and calls because they aren’t convenient ways to receive information, they open a text 90% of the time. Chatbots in colleges and universities allow students to access essential information at their fingertips.

By automating 60-80% of routine communication, chatbots pave a path of least resistance for staff as well, freeing them up to prioritize their most impactful work. AdmitHub’s email-to-chat feature reduces friction further by allowing staff to join in on texting conversations without stepping away from their preferred communication platform.

Connecting through communication

By structuring your communication strategy around the needs of your students, you remove the unintended barriers that bar them from succeeding. When you deliver transparent and timely information through a conversational platform that listens, you’ll be able to nudge students on a smoother path, help them form stronger connections to their institution, and improve outcomes across the board.

To learn more about how to engage with today’s students, watch our webinar titled “Signal Through the Noise: Reaching Students of Generation Z.

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