Why Universities are Using Chatbots: The Future of Higher Education
Chatbots are a versatile tool and can be useful in many different ways.
Assistance can be provided to, among others, customer service, sales, and human resources teams by taking pressure away from them and affording those teams more efficiency where it matters.
In the cases of customer service and HR, this is because a chatbot can help save time for human workers by helping more than one person at a time. With sales, all of the pre-sale information digging which is typically required can instead be automated by a series of questions or an interactive search function, taking passive search tools to the next level.
All of these traits can be utilised in a higher education context, allowing universities to interact with students and potential future students on a scale that makes the dreaded ‘clearing day’ much easier.
Elements of customer service and HR can be used to keep current students up to date with the latest information needed to succeed in university life. More customer service, with a sprinkling of sales, fits perfectly for helping next year’s students find their academic path.
We’ve taken a look at some of the best university chatbots out there to highlight just how much they benefit the institutions using them.
Help students find a course with a chatbot
One of the most popular uses for chatbots by universities so far is to help students find courses. Institutions on both sides of the Atlantic have realised this benefit and begun to take advantage of the easy-to-use system to promote signups amongst current and prospective students.
Georgia State University have successfully utilised chatbots to reduce an issue known as ‘summer melt’ the students who acknowledge that their application to study was accepted but never attend any classes. Their chatbot was developed to aid students through the various required processes including financial aid applications, placement exams, and class registration. The result was a 22% reduction in summer melt and an additional 324 students in attendance on the first day of the new semester when compared to the previous year (source).
In the UK, two different universities have also seen the successful implementation of chatbots into the course finding process and the dreaded clearing period, where thousands of students hope to secure their place on a university course after receiving their A Level results.
In 2018, the University of East Anglia came to us looking for a solution to their annual Clearing problem, when a critical surge of admissions enquiries was guaranteed to put their admissions department under a great deal of pressure. In order to reduce the initial pressure, we developed a chatbot which would allow applicants to pre-qualify themselves before Clearing actually began. Almost 1,000 people chose to talk to the chatbot, pre-qualifying 114 of them. Read our case study on the UEA clearing chatbot.
A similar method was implemented by Leeds Beckett University with their Becky chatbot, indicating that the chatbot solution is one which every university should consider (source).
Improving lifestyle and wellbeing
Chatbots aren’t just a great tool for helping students find the right course. They can also be beneficial for current students who need a little guidance during their education.
Arizona State University developed a texting chatbot called Sunny, giving students the ability to ask questions about the university and life on campus. Sunny is supported by human input, meaning that any questions it can’t answer will be looked at. That is one of our three golden rules of chatbot, so good work ASU!
By providing human support alongside their chatbot, ASU is able to ensure quality service and continually improve Sunny’s machine-learning knowledge. Machine-learning is a key factor in the development of a chatbot, which is similarly emphasised by George Washington University’s chatbot, Martha. Both chatbots function with the premise that, the more students use either bot, the better it becomes at helping them.
A more advanced approach can also include digital coaching, as Staffordshire University implemented with their Beacon chatbot, a downloadable app made for students at the university. Beacon provides personalised support to students, as well as access to tutors and 400 FAQs covering every aspect of life at the institution.
Lancaster University have also taken the leap into chatbot technology for to help their students navigate academic life. Ask L.U. helps students in much the same way as Staffordshire University’s Beacon, also incorporating student wellbeing support and space booking management for group work.
Incorporating more technology into the process for a generation of students who grew up as digital natives is a great method for spreading information in an organically consumable format.
Chatbots as a supporting learning tool
Stanford University have also joined in with QuizBot, a chatbot created to directly aid the learning process for students. Students are able to interact with QuizBot to learn factual knowledge. It was compared against a flashcard app, a slightly more modern version of a longstanding learning method, resulting in 20% more correct answers (source). Certainly a great way to bring the latest digital technology directly into an education setting.
Chatbots can provide a number of different solutions for higher education institutions. From automating the course-finding process or delivering information about the university to educational support and even assisting students in their day-to-day life, chatbots are an incredibly effective way of communicating with a digitally fluent generation.