All around us, AI and automated workflows are disrupting traditional processes in so many industries — while also creating incredible efficiencies. The pace of innovation is unprecedented. At the same time, it is humbling to think that we are just scratching the surface of what these technologies can do.
Within higher education, AI is poised to have tremendous impact. And it’s not as simple as “turning on this technology.” To be truly effective, this new technology needs talented, enthusiastic, and creative staff to “work hand in glove” alongside it in order to maximize its potential.
Two particular areas that can benefit from this pairing of humans and AI technology stand out: enrollment management and student support.
New tools such as AI chatbots, AI-powered text campaigns, AI-enabled live chat, and predictive analytics are enabling schools to improve student engagement while simultaneously reducing the load on existing staff.
These smart communication technologies are enabling college administrators to focus their time and resources on students and prospects with more complex questions and issues, leading to increased student engagement, higher enrollment and retention.
For students, there is a big win here as well. Students get the information they need, when they need it, to navigate through a host of enrollment, persistence, and access challenges.
These new technologies boast some features that make them particularly well-suited to blend into existing processes to address some long-standing challenges within higher education.
A Consistent Experience
By combining these technologies into a single communication platform, administrative staff can ensure a consistent multi-channel experience for their students. Answers to questions are accurate. Revisions made in one place are dynamically made everywhere else the technology operates. Giving students a consistent experience is critical to driving enrollment, retention, and engagement.
Historically, colleges have faced numerous challenges in providing students with a consistent experience. Chief among them has been that staff and online resources are not always on the same page. A communication platform with a single administrative interface enables consistency across staff and online student interactions.
A Mobile Experience
Through mobile channels, college administrators can connect with students in an immediate way. Messages literally hit students right in their hand, with a 98% open rate.
Research from Pew indicates that over 95% of all Americans have a cell phone. And over 77% (as of 2018) have a “smart phone”.
By prioritizing a mobile experience, colleges will have a higher rate of engagement with students. Text messages that are part of a structured campaign and conversation, and paired with AI chatbots, can be a two-for-one punch: 1) A single text message that starts a conversation, and 2) A chatbot that can then respond back-and-forth to aid the student as needed. This sort of automated support has been coveted for years and needs a starting place. Texts are a great way to “cut through the noise” and grab a student’s attention.
A Short, Often Visual Experience
When it comes to creating content for use in smart, AI-powered communication technologies, schools are finding that by keeping messages brief they are achieving greater success engaging with students. Too long, and you lose the audience. Emails are often ignored. Don’t forget the expression “TLDR”: Too long, didn’t read. It’s true.
And for so many students, especially Generation Z, the opportunity to learn and experience information in a visual format is preferred. Including videos and graphics can be a super helpful way to make your communications with students more engaging and impactful.
An Integrated Experience
By integrating an AI-powered communication platform with a Student Information System, CRM or other dataset, colleges can drive highly personalized conversations with students. These conversations have contextual awareness of who the student is, where they are in their educational journey, and what roadblocks may be in their way (e.g. documents that need to be completed, fees that need to be paid, etc.).
Over the past few years, we have seen colleges across the country of all shapes, sizes, and budgets experiment with AI technology. We’ve seen innovations such as AI chatbots assisting student service offices, answering student questions, helping students complete applications, and driving engagement 24/7/365.
Through this combination of technology and professional staff, there is potential to create a truly exceptional experience for students — while staying within a financial budget that is reasonable and affordable for all.
In the decade ahead, colleges that successfully blend artificial intelligence with the expertise of their staff, along with sound communication tactics, will be able to drive stronger student engagement, extend the reach of the staff, and create a superior student experience.