AI technologies are impacting higher education in a number of ways: enabling institutions to automate routine tasks, providing 24/7/365 student support, driving enrollment, and improving engagement and student outcomes, all the while creating operational efficiencies that save staff time and money.
Blog #2 in our three-part series on building a solid foundation for your AI-powered tools is all about expanding your office’s ability to engage meaningfully with students. Your staff is busy. AI tools can enable your office to “punch above your weight” and “scale your efforts” for a minimal investment of time.
Here are a handful of trusted themes and perspectives to keep front-of-mind as you pursue a sustainable AI initiative:
Convert More Inquiries into Tier 1s
Identify your students’ unique pain points and focus your efforts on addressing them fully. Use an AI tool such as a chatbot to boost your institution’s ability to provide comprehensive support and service concurrently to a large number of students. This increases student engagement and satisfaction, and converts more of your inquiries into Tier 1 issues that can be resolved quickly and easily any time from anywhere.
Address Questions Before They Are Asked
Keeping your student engagement objectives at the forefront of your content creation strategy gives those staff members working directly with your institution’s AI tools another common goal: addressing the questions your students are asking before they ask them. Proactively creating and implementing a text messaging campaign ahead of a busy time of year can more manageably spread out the influx of questions and documentation, reducing staff burnout and student frustration. Writing effective responses for custom chatbot questions informed by historical knowledge of where students struggle can preemptively eliminate confusion by making multiple follow-up questions unnecessary.
Monitor User Interactions and Other Analytics
A high-quality AI partner should provide easy access to real-time data on your user interactions that can help your team identify and address additional areas for improvement. When are your tools seeing the highest volume of interactions? Are users asking a series of questions in a certain order? What kinds of inquiries could return more substantial responses? What seems to be missing altogether from your existing knowledge base? Combining the knowledge of your subject matter experts with real-time data on engagement is the best approach to ensure potential gaps in content coverage are discovered and resolved promptly, without wasting valuable time.
The Importance of “Speaking Student”
Being able to predict the vast majority of questions your students may have isn’t helpful if you can’t answer them in language your students will understand. Clear, concise, jargon-free language is a matter of access and equity for higher education.
Prospective, first-generation, and marginalized student populations may not be familiar with the general language of higher education, or with your institution-specific acronyms or labels. Over-reliance on this type of jargon adds an additional layer of complexity and creates barriers for many students to complete the necessary steps to enroll in or persist at your institution. This includes tasks like applying for admission and financial aid, getting advising or other academic assistance, or navigating the registration process. If your AI-powered tools do the heavy lifting of identifying the nuances of user intent, synonyms, misspellings, etc. – your team is free to focus on creating robust content that is easy for your audience to understand.
AI is always on. It doesn’t experience burnout from answering the same questions over and over. It doesn’t get overwhelmed by long lines of students needing help, a full phone queue, or an overflowing inbox. AI-powered tools enhance – not replace – human-powered student services. By creating the customized content your students need (whether provided through chatbot responses to answer their most frequent questions or text messaging campaigns nudging them to take a critical action) you will drastically increase your institution’s ability to engage more students, simultaneously, 24/7/365. This ultimately frees up human resources for those students most in need of deeper and more comprehensive guidance.