Higher Education / Machine Learning & AI

Flexible, Intelligent Azure-Based Bot to Engage and Support Students, Staff

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Overview

A top-ranked East Coast tech university prides itself on not just keeping up with change, but leading it. Driven to innovate, this university is working to engage incoming students on their own terms. With the tech-savvy Generation Z (born after the mid-1990s) entering college, the university is incorporating ways to further engage this digitally innate group. By automating and personalizing its online communication capabilities, the university can more deeply engage with this student demographic, from application to graduation, and beyond.

The Challenge

These digitally native students grew up with almost instant access to important information, and many prefer text communication to voice. As part of an aggressive AI strategy to extend and improve student outreach and boost enrollment, this university worked with BlueGranite on a proof-of-concept chatbot for its website. The anticipated goals of this implementation included:

  • Integrated approach to address multiple audiences
  • Provide a more conversational and contextual user experience
  • Improve/automate quality of service including:
    • Availability
    • Response times
    • Response consistency
  • Provide a more inclusive solution (e.g. multi-language)
  • Improve operational efficiency (maybe even reduce costs)
  • Opportunity to build community and reinforce the university brand

 

The Solution

The Microsoft Azure Bot Service-based solution is designed to aid students on their terms, at their convenience. Created to initially communicate in four major languages, the chatbot is enabled for a rapid live launch. The main features of this bot included:

  • Guided conversation flow through AI
  • Feedback dialog to moderate user experience
  • Negative sentiment detection/analysis
  • Ability to elevate chat to a live agent
  • Automated process for unanswered questions to inform responsible department of the need for a review
  • Language support for 60+ languages: currently promoting Spanish, Chinese, Hindi and English
  • Weekly report on the effectiveness and utilization of the chatbot for each department
  • Assisted the community of prospects, students, their parents and families along with our internal staff find information faster, 24 x7 while staff can assist this same community when they have higher level questions
  • Easily scalable to entire university because content management is distributed – the department that is the subject matter expert maintain the knowledgebase

BlueGranite built the proof-of-concept chatbot to further student communications and increase success. The university employs more than 3,000 skilled faculty and staff members across seven tech-focused schools and colleges; it educates close to 10,000 students seeking undergraduate and master’s degrees, as well as doctoral candidates.

From making it easier for potential students to register for classes to allowing current and former students quick access to transcripts, the chatbot uses Microsoft Cognitive Services to ease interaction. The agile solution communicates in English, Hindi, Spanish, and Chinese, the top languages of this university’s students. Besides putting important information at students’ fingertips, the chatbot holds potential for automated outreach or intervention at important moments of student interaction. Bots can be programmed to nudge – or provide “interventions that steer someone toward a better decision without taking away their choice.” These nudges might gently remind applicants they have just one more step to complete their application, then provide a link to a form. Or, when a student asks how to drop a class, the bot can reply with facts about how dropping classes can often lead to delayed graduation, but still offer the choice to drop the class.

The Results

The solution aids students 24/7 without tying up phone lines and tying down employees, offering answers to the most frequently asked questions. It has the ability to provide accurate, consistent, and friendly answers to the community’s questions while providing more ‘human’ interactions for higher level services. This can lead to improved enrollment, retention and engagement.

The chatbot helps students register for classes, or change schedules, enrollment status, or majors, and provides access to academic records and grades, giving staff more time to tackle students’ challenges.

Learn more about chatbots here, or contact BlueGranite to learn how AI and Microsoft technologies can help strengthen your engagement with your clients.

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