Colleges and universities want to engage students with modern, unified and personalized communications. An institution’s Student Information System (SIS) can be a key part of this effort.
Yet, it can be hard to leverage an SIS – which is the largest, most used, business system that an institution has – to meet this goal. The SIS was never intended to be the “hub” for personalized student communications and it can be costly in terms of both time and money to upgrade it to effectively do so.
So what is an institution to do?
The answer lies in pairing affordable artificially intelligent communication tools, like chatbots, with an SIS to access personalized data and deliver the modern communication and engagement that is needed to drive enrollment and retention goals.
The upside: low cost and low lift. If your goal is to make progress toward personalized student communications in the short and medium term, it’s much more efficient to go this route than to try and move away from a legacy system.
Accelerated Urgency from the Pandemic
Prior to 2020, higher education institutions began to digitally transform and modernize their enterprise legacy systems, in particular their SIS.
Through the pandemic, many higher education institutions became more open to change and gained an understanding of why digital transformation is so important.
As we emerge from the pandemic, many institutions are embracing change and modernizing where time and resources allow. Most institutions would like to update their SIS but many don’t have the resources to do so.
The Importance of Virtual Student Engagement
College students of all ages expect and need 24/7 service and support from their institutions and an increasing number of these students are “digital natives.” This means they are more used to connecting via digital technology interfaces.
However (and unfortunately), this group also tends to have a low sophistication of understanding on how to navigate college (i.e. how to enroll, how to get financial aid, fill out a FAFSA, etc). Their digital journey and user experience need to be considered with every existing (and new) system that an institution uses.
Communication tools that are always available (in multiple languages) aid in building rapport, trust and familiarity and are key to building engagement throughout the student journey.
Integrating Artificially Intelligent Chatbots Drives Personalization
Integrating AI chatbots helps drive elevated, personalized student engagement by leveraging and extending the information from both legacy and modernized SIS platforms in a beneficial way across platforms.
The AI chatbots provide a consistent interface and user experience in the student’s natural language. There is no duplication of sensitive information. The technology taps into the information and data already collected within the SIS and other aggregated knowledge sources (like an institution’s knowledge bases, website, institutional FAQs) giving the student a seamless experience.
Ease of Implementation and Maintenance
AI chatbot technology is “light weight”, which is a way of saying it is pliable, nimble and easy to integrate with larger enterprise systems. The implementation is simple, since the integrations are available in both pre-built configurations and APIs. The platform is easy to maintain, and at Ocelot, federal and state compliance on content is included.
Going this route enables an institution to use what it has now, improve student experience and engagement, while also empowering your staff to be more efficient with their time.
Example Integrations with Two Common Student Information Systems
PeopleSoft. This integration is pre-built and ready to configure and tailor to an institution’s instance. It provides prospects and current students answers to common questions such as: When do I register?, How much is my bill?, and What is my financial aid award?
Banner. This integration extends the usefulness of your Banner instance allowing students to securely access their information in a context that they understand, without having to make a phone call or stop by an office.
The Wrap: Why AI and why this user experience?
There are many ways to drive student engagement. Some institutions rely on a portal or a mobile app, or AI chatbots, or text messaging, or a combination of these. The set of tools that works best for each college or university is likely a little different for what best suits their needs.
We see virtues in AI chatbots, and believe they will be an increasingly important part of an institution’s communication strategy in the years ahead. If you are exploring new ways to engage with your students, we encourage you to reflect on four questions:
- Do you ask your prospects and students to “switch systems” to track and store their critical information?
- Does the interface consistently understand their questions?
- Does the interface suggest and nudge users, leading them to action, and more importantly the information they were looking for?
- Does the interface learn every user interaction from your students and students at hundreds of other higher education institutions in order to better understand the myriad ways students converse and ask questions?
If the questions spark an interest in addressing the gap in communications at your institution, please reach out to us. We can share with you how AI chatbots and other AI tools are accessing data from Student Information Systems to drive the sorts of personalized conversations that are so critical to driving enrollment and retention.