Technology makes it possible to do almost everything more efficiently, including communicating with students, parents, and prospective students. Gone are the days when students and family members had to wait until a staff member was in the office and available in order to get their questions answered.
Today, most colleges and universities have detailed information available online to answer many questions. And for those that remain, growing numbers of institutions use chatbots, automated chat boxes, or text messaging platforms, to provide immediate responses to visitors’ queries.
Colleges and universities are using chatbots in a variety of situations to help improve communication with current and prospective students – and to free staff members to handle other duties.
Before students ever apply for admission to a college or university, they are likely conducting web research about the institution. They expect to find information about academic programs, courses, admissions requirements, and campus life. But some institutions set themselves apart by implementing a web-based chatbot on their websites. These chatbots pop up as text boxes, offering visitors an opportunity to ask questions and receive instant responses.
Such chatbots are increasingly in demand by future college students, as a Gallup poll found that digital messaging is the preferred method of communication for younger generations. By providing information to prospective students in the format they prefer, colleges can better attract those students to their institutions.
At Georgia State University, “Pounce,” the University’s text message-based chatbot, automatically answers questions from newly admitted students to help them prepare for enrollment. For instance, the tool answers questions via text about topics such as applying for financial aid, housing, and registering for classes.
In its first month of operation, Pounce exchanged almost 50,000 texts with newly admitted students – and less than one percent of student messages had to be routed to university staff for questions that the tool couldn’t answer.
New students’ arrival on campus is both exciting and overwhelming. Some colleges and universities are implementing text messaging or other chatbot programs that answer commonly asked questions, such as “What time is freshman orientation?” or “Where is the campus post office?”
Faculty members can use chatbots in similar ways, sending reminders to students about upcoming tests or seminars, or links to check their grades. Also, the business office can use text messaging systems or other chatbots to alert students about tuition or fee payment dates or grant application deadlines.