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How Higher Education is Using AI Chatbots to Improve Student Engagement

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in October 27th, 2021 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

As higher education institutions look for new ways to engage their students, many are turning away from traditional phone support to invest in accessible and mobile-friendly technologies like live chat. Live chat allows students to reach out on their own terms and receive the digital, fast, and personalized support that they expect.

However, while live chat offers many benefits for both students and schools, it’s even better when paired with automation, and particularly AI chatbots. AI chatbots allow institutions to provide instant, 24/7 support that today’s students are widely embracing. Business Insider reports that nearly 40% of Internet users around the world now prefer interacting with chatbots over live agents.

With the benefits of chatbots becoming clearer every day, higher education institutions are also jumping on board with the growing trend to embrace bots for student engagement. In this blog, we’ll be looking at just a handful of use cases that higher education chatbots can handle. Then, we’ll check out the best chatbots for higher education and highlight a few of the ways that each stands out from the crowd.

Benefits of AI chatbots in higher education

1. 24/7 service

Today’s students expect support all day, every day. 58% of Millennials expect to be able to connect with a company whenever they want to, and 57% of consumers expect the same response time from companies at night as they do during normal business hours.

However, traditional support channels are too costly and difficult to staff outside of standard business hours, but this is an area where chatbots excel. Chatbots can be used to supplement support teams during regular hours, and then take over fully in off-peak times and after hours, typically answering the most common questions.

Higher education chatbots allow students to get support on their schedule, not yours.

2. Devote more time to complex or sensitive queries

Customer service chatbots are most commonly used to answer repetitive questions that need to be answered, but take up considerable amounts of agent time. By automating these questions, chatbots don’t just give agents more time to work on other tasks. They also give support agents more time to respond to complex or sensitive queries.

While a chatbot answers the frequent and simple queries, agents can devote their time to students who have more complex, or more sensitive, questions that need their full attention. These agents can then better show they care about the student and ensure they get the help they need.

3. Streamline conversations

One of the best ways that chatbots compliment agents is through information collection. While agents are busy helping students, higher education chatbots can be used to initiate chats and gather background information. Once an agent is free, they can join the conversation with the information in hand that was collected by the chatbot.

Through survey questions, chatbots can collect the who, what, where, when, and why from your students in an unobtrusive and fast way. Offloading this process to chatbots allows agents to spend less time in conversations verifying who they’re speaking with, and more time solving problems. Unlike traditional phone support transfers, the transfer from chatbot to live agent is seamless, and students will appreciate that they don’t need to repeat themselves.

4. Immediate responses

Live chat already allows support agents to handle more conversations at a time than phone conversations, but chatbots take this a step further. Chatbots can handle an unlimited number of chats simultaneously. This means that students are never left waiting for an agent to become available.

 With today’s students growing up surrounded by technology, they expect instant gratification in all aspects of support in a way that only chatbots can provide. A report found that 71% of those aged 16-24 believe that customer experience can be drastically improved by quick responses.

5. Automating common tasks

AI chatbots are incredibly intelligent. Powered by artificial intelligence and NLP (natural language processing), they can do more than just answer common FAQs. AI chatbots can also automate tasks. For example, AI chatbots can book appointments, help with payments, schedule meetings, and so much more. If the bot isn’t up to the challenge of the request provided by a student, it can automatically route the chat to the best agent for the job.

The Best Chatbots for Higher Education

Today’s students and schools have unique needs and not every chatbot fits these requirements. In this section, we’ll look at some of the best chatbots for higher education in alphabetical order to help you find the best chatbot for your school.

1. Comm100

Comm100 provides smart, capable, and personalized automation to handle up to 80% of student inquiries. Comm100 AI Chatbots are ideal for support teams that want to automate repetitive and time-consuming queries so agents can spend their time on more important tasks or queries. By working with institutions like San Jose State University, McMaster University and Montgomery College, Comm100 has built a reputation for class-leading higher education chatbots.

Benefits & USPs

Comm100 AI chatbots can be built with bulk importing of data to accelerate the building process. Once built, a Comm100 bot can be deployed across all your digital channels, including third party integrations. Comm100 chatbots also meet all major security standards (HIPAA, SOC 2, PCI, etc.) and can be deployed via the cloud and on-premise.

2. EdSights

EdSights focuses on using chatbots to hear the voices of students at scale and uncover insights on areas that are hard to measure.. Their solution proactively checks in on students to ensure that needs are being met and understand what their opinions are on various topics.

Benefits & USPs

The major focus of EdSights’ chatbots is connecting students with resources proactively. EdSights refers to the data collected as non-cognitive data, as it indicates student struggle. These chatbot messages can be sent via text message to provide greater outreach.

3. Intercom

Intercom’s chatbot platform is built around scalable customer support, handling common education questions automatically. Intercom has experience working with education platforms like Knewton and Magoosh. The focus of Intercom’s education chatbot solution is the student lifecycle, providing tools for recruitment and engagement.

Benefits & USPs

Intercom’s messenger platform is easy for students to learn and can provide self-serve apps inside the messenger window. Since Intercom focuses heavily on behavioral insights, their platform supports unified customer data for past context on interactions.

4. LivePerson

LivePerson develops AI chatbot solutions with a focus on conversational capabilities handling higher education conversations. LivePerson has seen success with ecommerce organizations and their AI is built around recognition of customer intents. LivePerson’s student engagement solution is much the same, providing data-driven student interactions.

Benefits & USPs

LivePerson focuses on big data, providing student intent and engagement metrics through their chatbot platform. LivePerson reporting tools include sentiment analysis and dashboards for analysis of historic and real-time data.

5. Ocelot

Ocelot provides an AI communications and student engagement platform focused on enrollment and retention. Their guided chatbot experience works to provide students with supplemental materials when available. Ocelot’s Multi-Tenant Chatbot solution promises a lightweight setup, but comes with some disadvantages inherent in a multi-tenant app like reduced flexibility and security implications to consider.

Benefits & USPs

Ocelot provides a feature-rich chatbot platform that can integrate with third party application. This also includes multi-lingual support and live chat handoffs. SMS support is a large focus of Ocelot’s platform for engagement and outreach campaigns.

Wrap Up

To engage with current and future students, higher education institutions today need to be available wherever and whenever their students need support. However, it’s important to distinguish between the role of bots and agents in the support hierarchy. While 59% of all chats now involve a chatbot, 86% of customers agree that there should always be an option to escalate chats to an agent when talking to a chatbot.

With Comm100 AI Chatbot and omnichannel support, schools and colleges can introduce fast, reliable support that’s available 24/7 across a variety of platforms and services. If you’re ready to take the next step in your digital transformation journey by introducing a chatbot to your digital support channels, book a demo with Comm100 today.

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About Kate Rogerson

Kate is the Content Marketing Manager at Comm100. She has extensive experience in content creation for technology companies across the world, including the UK, Australia and Canada. She specializes in B2B messaging, branding and soccer trivia.