Higher Education exists to shape the minds of learners, but in many ways, the learners shape the industry. We see this all the time when institutions add new programs to accommodate aspiring professionals, or when colleges begin offering online degrees to appeal to students who value remote learning. As schools prepare for the looming enrollment cliff, it’s especially important that they examine ways to improve the student experience at scale. Educators must ask what it is that students desire, which processes can be improved, and how they can combine those elements to build something better.
Of course, we believe that an AI Chatbot from Ivy.ai, along with our suite of AI-powered tools, is an excellent vehicle for connecting those dots. However, we thought it would be better to know what students think, and what better place to start than to ask our student employees? They have a unique perspective, both understanding the challenges faced by students today, and how our AI solutions can help. We spoke to Ian Dir and Madeline Craig, students at the University of Colorado in Boulder, CO. They both joined our team as AI Implementation Specialists in January, 2020.
Ian applied to the School of Economics, but said he might have applied differently if he had better access to information. “I was told it would be more difficult to be admitted directly to the Business school” he said, citing anxiety over acceptance. “I couldn’t find the admissions requirements on their website, and I know our chatbots make that information available at request. It would have been helpful to just ask the bot.” He added that admissions-to-onboarding in particular could have been a much simpler process with an AI Chatbot. “I am the oldest child in my family, so I had to go through the college process first with little help from my parents.”
According to Ian, Ivy.ai would have improved several pain points throughout his admissions process. Ian noted that his parents weren’t very familiar with FAFSA or financial aid, and that he ultimately had to figure it out on his own. “We build AI Chatbots for Financial Aid departments all the time, and the school-specific information we teach them would have made it a much smoother process for me.”
Ian also struggled to find information on scholarships, especially Merit-based scholarships. He recalled missing a GPA requirement by .02 points, but beating the ACT requirement by 4 points, and wanting to know if his ACT score could offset his GPA. He pointed out that a Chatbot might not have known the answer, but that he could have used the bot to request the information from the school, and that by answering that question, it would have made that information available to students in the future. In particular, when he appealed a scholarship decision, he says he would have valued the opportunity to speak with a Live Chat Agent to get a more detailed explanation of their decision. “I know our bots connect students to Live Agents on our platform all the time, and that would have been much more efficient than holding on the phone and leaving messages.”
One theme present among Ian’s challenges was the ability to navigate so much information on a website. “A lot of schools have websites that are difficult to navigate. Sometimes important pieces of information are on two separate pages, and you have to view multiple sources to get a complete picture.” He went on to say that CU Boulder makes use of many different websites for different student services such as academic information, meal plans, and financial aid. “Ivy.ai enables students to ask a question in one place and find the right answer quickly.”
Madeline is an international student from New Zealand at CU Boulder. She says one unfortunate reality of applying for college is that it is inherently challenging, but that it would have been easier with help from a Chatbot. “If I had a question, my first instinct was to phone a student support representative for help” she said. “Whether I was applying for admission, enrolling in classes, or changing my schedule, information overload and complicated websites made it difficult to find the answers I needed online.” Madeline pointed out that calling someone was usually the simplest option, and acknowledged that a Chatbot would have been helpful for both her and her school.
When asked about how a Chatbot would have improved her experience, her immediate response was that it would have been much easier to identify admissions requirements and deadlines. “Some of the most common questions students ask a chatbot are related to admissions requirements and deadlines, and it was no different for me.” She went on to say that the most pressing information she needed was usually something small like how to send a transcript to the university. “The answer was usually simple and could have been found on an Admissions website, but with a Chatbot as a first point of contact, the whole process would be much more efficient.”
Another challenging aspect of her experience was degree planning. “I applied to CU three years into my degree and had very specific requirements for the courses I could take and how credit could be applied to my overall program.” When browsing prospective schools and available courses, she routinely faced a complicated pathway through the website, making it very difficult to find specific information about a course description. “Finding the courses and available credits for each department and program was incredibly challenging, and a chatbot would have easily improved that for me.”
She also noted that adding and dropping classes would have been easier with Ivy.ai. “My first instinct was to call the administration office to make the changes over the phone, since instructions for this process are not as accessible as they should be. I didn’t know how to begin searching through the website for these instructions, but a Chatbot would have directed me to the right page in seconds.”
While a majority of Madeline’s comments were related to onboarding, she said that just about any interaction between herself and the school could have been improved with an AI Chatbot. When asked to provide an example, she highlighted IT support. “Most universities rely on some sort of an IT Help website, but they’re often limited to Frequently Asked Questions and lack a clear path to specific answers.” She explained that most IT questions answered by our chatbots are highly specific, and that a sufficient FAQs page would be virtually impossible to navigate. “A Chatbot is great for that, because it directs students straight to the relevant part of such websites.”
Chatbots benefit the institutions that leverage them, too. In some ways, the benefit is more direct such as fewer calls, emails, and messages received after-hours. Other advantages of a Chatbot are scaled communications (accomplishing more with the same resources) and an enhanced service experience for students. By making things easier for their students, Universities can spend less time on tier-1 questions and guiding students through processes, and more time on services that add significant value for stakeholders. Additionally, Chatbots from Ivy.ai include a rich feature set of AI-powered tools such as Live Chat, SMS Texting, and Email Center. To learn more about how Ivy.ai could help your school, you can schedule a demo at a time that’s convenient for you.