conversational AI

Conversational AI Paves the Way for a New Dawn in Higher Education

Conversational AI is transforming the education sector. It makes it more efficient and better suited for preparing future generations for success in life.

A "Black Swan" event, according to Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the writer who popularized the term, has three characteristics: 1) it is an outlier, and nothing in the past suggests it becoming true; 2) it leads to extreme consequences; and 3) despite it being an outlier, after-the-fact explanations make the event appear explainable and predictable.

Many people believe that the global Covid-19 pandemic is a Black Swan event. While pandemics have been a part of human history for as long as records have been kept, the extent to which this one pandemic transformed the world and affected countless aspects of daily life, effectively upending the "normal" course of things, more than justifies the title.

The world's shift towards digitalization was undoubtedly one of the most visible changes brought about by the year 2020. In many ways, this one year alone created more digitalization than the previous decades put together. Companies of all sizes have embraced digital transformation in a wide range of industries, including business, manufacturing, healthcare, finance, and retail.

What About the Educational Sector?

It, too, was unable to claim immunity from the spread of the digitalization wave. Since 2020, academic learning has become more mobile and flexible. While parts of the system, such as primary and secondary grades, have mostly returned to traditional ways of teaching once the health situation stabilized, higher education institutions are adopting new ways of doing things. This is mainly because the higher education system was already at a tipping point, teetering on the brink of change.

When the Future of Work Changes, Education Must Follow

Higher education has, over the years, become increasingly popularized and accessible to more significant segments of society. Simultaneously, the future of work is changing; many argue that over the next few decades, the reality of the workplace will change to the point where those being educated today will end up in jobs that do not even exist - yet. Because technology advances so quickly, the skills we learn in school are constantly changing and becoming obsolete in a matter of years. We must recognize how quickly technology advances and how much the traditional model limits access to education. University professors, employers, and students must prepare to accept the uncertainties that come with technological change. However, no one can predict the future, and upcoming events are difficult to predict. Recent technological advances are forcing a dramatic rethinking and discussion about the skills and abilities required to succeed in the globalized world of the twenty-first century.

Student Generations Are Changing Their Learning Habits

Another major trend affecting higher education is that the generations being taught are changing, and today's students have different expectations, interests, and learning styles. Students today are exceptionally digitally savvy; they are a mobile-first generation, having grown up in the digital age and using their phones for almost everything. 98% of Generation Z members own a smartphone, with 55% using it for five or more hours per day and more than a quarter (26%) using it for more than ten hours per day.

As Generation Z students enter higher education, educational institutions must meet their expectations head-on with a digital, mobile-first approach. Students have grown accustomed to high-speed services, communications, and personalized experiences as a result of social media, online shopping, and the general use of apps. This reliance on technology and the instant gratification it provides has exponentially raised the expectations of future generations of students.

Using Technology to Address Educational Challenges

Because of these realities, higher education organizations are more interested than ever in utilizing technology to alleviate their woes, and conversational AI is particularly well-suited for the task. Conversational AI aids communication efforts by establishing a natural dialogue between users and computers, which is required for successful education. Conversational solutions can easily recognize the intention behind students' questions and provide instant, human-like support to their needs. Implemented in different forms with a multitude of benefits, conversational AI has the potential to create personalized, scalable, and intuitive educational experiences that can make a significant difference in the learning environments of today and tomorrow.


How Can Higher Education Institutions Best Use Conversational AI?

To Share Information in Real-Time

Going away to university is a crucial moment in most people's lives, and choosing the right one is not easy. Students and their families have plenty of questions, and there's no better source than the institution itself. However, the volume of these questions can skyrocket, especially during enrollment or pre-admission seasons, and university staff can be hard-pressed to handle all the incoming inquiries. Conversational chatbots can help deal with the influx, offering real-time support and timely information over a multitude of channels. The bots can be trained initially to answer the most frequently asked questions but can continue to evolve as they learn from their interactions. For existing students, similar AI-powered solutions can provide orientation support, information on university resources and facilities, or even financial or health support – the same type of instrument can respond to a variety of user needs, always with impeccable speed, and at the users' complete convenience, without limitations of language or time.

To Simplify the Enrollment Process

The enrollment process can often become quite complex, requiring that a variety of steps be followed in clear succession, as well as providing documentation – and this is even before financial assistance comes into the picture. As a result, it can be a stressful process for students, and it can even steer some away from applying if they find it too daunting. AI-powered virtual assistants can step in to provide clear guidance for students as they begin the process, helping them find the correct information, submit documents, and offer answers to questions regarding the different campus facilities or benefits options available. In much the same way that intelligent virtual assistants have been very successfully used to provide support in the hiring of new employees and to simplify the administrative processes involved, they can provide equal value for both university and students, cutting costs while still improving the overall experience.

To Automate Administrative Tasks

Even apart from enrolment, education includes a variety of administrative tasks that are time-consuming and can become mind-numbing for human staff. Some of these tasks, such as introducing grades into databases or tracking scheduling, can be automated with the help of a conversational assistant, thereby freeing up staff's time and simultaneously improving their satisfaction with the job.

To Digitally Transform Their Contact Center

Most universities have dedicated staff to assist students across the year, but this facility is usually quite limited and can cause delays in access to information. Using conversational AI to transform this resource digitally means that students can have at their disposal a valuable channel to communicate directly 24/7. This is massively important because young people dislike waiting too long. They expect immediate responses to their questions and problems. In order to meet the expectations of these young students, education organizations must incorporate automated student support services. Such an implementation frees university staff to focus on more complex tasks and situations.

To Personalize Communication with Students

Conversational virtual assistants can also be used to provide students with personalized information. Students can be kept up to date with upcoming events, activities, or announcements that are relevant to them or can receive from the chatbot notifications about fees, deadlines, examinations, and many other details. Providing this personalized information helps students feel much more engaged and increases their satisfaction with the university, leading to a better reputation.

To Personalize the Educational Process

Taking the previous solution one step further, using conversational AI, educational institutions can even deliver personalized content to each of the students based on their interests. Such intelligent virtual assistants can additionally adjust the learning pace based on each student's needs by responding to their questions and providing personalized feedback.

To Collect Student Feedback

Strong student engagement is critical to the performance of any university. This is why universities have annual surveys, evaluation forms, and other channels for students to share their thoughts on their classes, programs, and overall university experience. However, filling out forms and surveys can be time-consuming and tedious, discouraging students from using them. Conversely, conversational chatbots can make it easier and faster to collect feedback from students. They can use natural conversation to ask students their thoughts and feedback, skipping straight to the questions relevant to their specific situation rather than requiring them to fill out forms and surveys manually. Implementing such a solution also allows educational institutions to explore the data collected and make documented inferences about the challenges that students and staff face.


Conversational AI Is the Educational Sector's Future

The use cases shown above demonstrate that conversational AI can provide a significant positive change for higher education. In fact, this technology can be implemented right now to augment students' experience, support the education process, and optimize costs across the organization's workforce. Conversational AI has already been changing how businesses communicate with their customers, with tremendous results. Companies are increasingly embracing artificial intelligence and investing in it to automate various business processes such as customer support, marketing, sales, customer engagement, and overall customer experience. Higher education organizations would do well to follow suit and take a decided step towards being digitally transformed.

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