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April 29

Using AI to Enhance Student Engagement


by | Apr 29, 2024 | Featured, Strategies, Tools

There are so many ways colleges and universities are using AI to enhance student engagement—and you can too!

While there are a lot of changes happening every single day, some things are never going to change.

One thing that won’t change: enrollment marketing comes down to building strong relationships.

And strong relationships are built on good communication.

The best higher ed marketers are, at their core, good communicators.

They have learned how to scale the power of one-to-one interaction to mass communication so that hundreds or even thousands of prospective students feel as though they are the most important person to the university or college at any given time.

From direct mail to social media to email campaigns, we use all kinds of technologies and methods to scale the relationships we’re cultivating with prospective students.

And right now, this level of scale of relationship building is much easier to achieve using AI to enhance student engagement.

This really is an exciting time to be a higher education marketer!

Because enhancing student engagement ultimately leads to a greater number of deposits, current students, and eventually alumni.

So how are marketers using AI to enhance student engagement effectively?

Through a technology called natural language processing (NLP), a branch of artificial intelligence that teaches machines to understand human language.

This technology works in the background of your favorite AI platforms, like ChatGPT.

NLP is a branch of computer science that acts like an interpreter for computers to “understand” the complexities and patterns of human language so that they can produce products and conversations that seem to have been generated by humans.

Because of its ability to mimic human interaction, NLP allows us to engage with potential students in more meaningful and impactful ways, enabling personalized communication at scale and providing insights that were previously unattainable.

Using AI To Enhance Student Engagement via Chatbots

Chatbots are essentially virtual assistants that can chat with users, answering questions in real-time with a human-like tone.

For higher education marketers, chatbots are a powerful tool for scaling communications with prospective students while keeping communications smooth and efficient.

Thanks to NLP, these bots understand how humans talk, helping them manage everything from simple queries about admission deadlines to more complex discussions about course specifics.

And they can do this using casual, everyday language.

Where You Can Use Chatbots to Enhance Student Engagement

1. Answering Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Prospective students often have similar questions about program details, application deadlines, and admission criteria. 

When it comes to basic questions about programs, application dates, or entry requirements, chatbots can provide the instant answers that prospective students are looking for. 

This leaves your human team free to handle more complex questions and tasks. It’s all about getting quick info to students, keeping them happy and engaged.

2. Guidance through the Application Process

Navigating the application process can be daunting for many students. Chatbots can step in by guiding them through the necessary steps, providing checklists, and reminding them of important dates. 

For instance, a chatbot could notify a student when a document is missing from their application or when a deadline is approaching, ensuring they stay on track and don’t miss critical steps. 

It’s like having a personal admissions coach!

3. Virtual Campus Tours and Events

For students who can’t visit campus, chatbots can lead virtual tours or help navigate online events, answering questions on the fly and tailoring the experience to what the student finds interesting. 

It’s a great way to make virtual visits as engaging and helpful as real ones.

4. Demystifying Financial Aid

Chatbots can also break down the complex world of financial aid, explaining different funding options and walking students through the application processes. 

Chatbots can provide detailed, personalized responses about scholarships, grants, and loan options available to students. 

It’s about making sure students have the financial info they need without the headache.

Getting Started with Chatbots

  1. Figure Out What You Need: Kick things off by figuring out where a chatbot could help the most. A quick survey among your team about the common questions they handle can point you in the right direction.
  2. Pick the Right Tool: Select a chatbot platform that integrates seamlessly with your existing systems (like your CRM and database) and offers customization options to meet your specific needs. Ensure the platform supports NLP capabilities to handle varied and complex conversations with ease.
  3. Develop a Chatbot Persona: The chatbot should reflect your institution’s brand and voice. A relatable and friendly bot can make a big difference in how students perceive and interact with it.
  4. Train Your Bot: Feed your chatbot loads of info from past interactions, FAQs, and student emails to help it learn. The more information it processes, the better it becomes at handling real-life student questions. Keep updating its knowledge base as things change at your school.
  5. Keep an Eye on Things: Once your chatbot is up and running, keep track of how it’s doing. Use feedback to refine responses and expand the chatbot’s capabilities. Regular check-ins and tweaks based on student feedback will keep it performing at its best.
  6. Promote the Chatbot: Make sure everyone knows about your chatbot. Feature it on your website, in your newsletters, and across social media to get students using it.

By using AI to enhance student engagement through chatbots, your institution can improve the efficiency of your operations while deepening your relationships with prospective students.

Enhancing Student Engagement via Sentiment Analysis

Sentiment analysis is an impressive feature in chatbots that goes beyond just understanding words—it gets the emotions behind them.

Thanks to Natural Language Processing (NLP), these chatbots can pick up on whether a person is happy, frustrated, or confused during a chat.

For higher education marketers, this offers a unique advantage because it means the chatbot can really tune into how prospective students are feeling about the whole college process.

This emotional insight can make interactions way more engaging and give you a deeper peek into what students really think as they weigh their options.

Picture this: a prospective student is trying to wrap their head around financial aid and feels overwhelmed.

A chatbot with sentiment analysis capabilities can detect the underlying stress in their questions and switch up its responses to be more reassuring, maybe by breaking down the info into easier chunks or offering to walk them through the application process step-by-step.

This kind of supportive interaction can really boost a student’s view of the school, making your institution seem more helpful and caring.

In a similar way, if a student sounds excited about a specific program, the chatbot can stoke the excitement even more by sharing more interesting details about the course or sharing alumni success stories.

To effectively use sentiment analysis in chatbots, you should first ensure that your chatbot platform supports this feature and is finely tuned to recognize a range of emotions accurately.

The next step is to integrate your chatbots into your primary communication channels, such as the university’s official website, social media platforms, and emails.

This integration ensures that the chatbot is the first point of contact, capable of gauging the prospective student’s emotional outlook right from the outset of the interaction.

You’ll also have to train your chatbot.

It needs to learn from real chats what different emotions look like so it can spot them in future conversations.

Feed it lots of example texts tagged with various emotions so it can get better at understanding and reacting to feelings in context.

Also, setting up clear guidelines on how the chatbot should react to different moods can help craft responses that really connect with students.

Finally, it’s essential to continuously monitor and refine the chatbot’s performance.

Regularly checking in on the conversations your chatbots are having helps ensure they are reading the emotional temperature right and keeping chats helpful and positive.

Setting up a feedback loop can help tweak the chatbot’s algorithms and responses, making sure they stay on point and sensitive to student interactions.

By using AI to enhance student engagement, you can really harness the power of sentiment analysis in chatbots, turning every chat into a chance to positively influence a student’s decision-making journey.

Radical Implications for Higher Ed Marketing

As time marches on, technologies like Natural Language Processing are going to drastically change how you and I do marketing in higher education. 

Chatbots are going to get more and more intuitive and human-like in their interactions with students offering instantaneous guidance to student queries. 

Higher ed marketers are going to be able to personalize their communications through automated email marketing. This would be something like when a student visits your site, a NLP-driven bot can write them an email offering more information based on the webpages they visited.

On the market research side of things, NLP-technology will allow higher ed marketers to analyze social media trends in order to tailor marketing strategies accordingly. 

All of this means more streamlined workflows for marketers with even greater personalization for the prospective student. 

As we know, the more personal, relevant, and timely we can make our messaging, the better our enrollment marketing results are. 

For more information on generative AI, Natural Language Processing, and how it all fits into higher education marketing, please contact us today!

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