3 Reasons Higher Ed. Institutions Choose Digital Assistant Technology

It used to be that education and technology were not always synonymous. However, it’s nearly the year 2022 and today’s eLearning professionals now recognize the positive impact of conversational AI. In this article, I’ll share 3 key reasons why schools are turning to digital assistants.

Why Digital Assistants And Intelligent Chatbots Matter In EdTech

1. Technology Enables 24/7 Multilingual, Equal Access To Information

The number one way a digital assistant is most valuable to a student is the simple fact that it’s always there. Staff members at higher education institutions are only available during business hours. In the real world, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. is also when everyone else is at work too, so where does that leave working students and parents? How can they get answers to higher education questions about campus programs, financial aid, and important deadlines? The answer is through technology that is available 24/7, 365, accessible on multiple platforms, and speaks more than one hundred languages. With digital assistants on staff, humans and artificial intelligence (AI) work in tandem to revolutionize student support, ensuring that there is equal access to information for all.

2. AI-Powered Digital Assistants Provide Better Staff To Student Ratios

In education, everything inside of the classroom should be challenging and everything outside of the classroom should be easy. Unfortunately, that’s just not the way K-12 education and higher education systems are set up. These complex and outdated systems are terribly difficult to navigate, especially for first-generation students.

Academic research has demonstrated time and time again that the more contact there is with a student, the more support they receive, the more likely they are to graduate. Data suggests [1] that student-to-counselor ratios are just not where they need to be. In fact, the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) recommends that there be at least one counselor per every 250 students, but during the 2019-2020 academic school year, the national average equated to more than 400 students for every counselor.

Higher education institutions are faced with the reality that they need to either hire an army of counselors to keep up or find another solution. At Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management, an AI-powered digital assistant was brought in to help with the program’s high volume of questions from prospective students and manage round-the-clock global coverage. The school’s conversational chatbot was the equivalent of hiring three full-time staff members and handling all of the repetitive tasks, while their human colleagues were able to focus solely on the high-impact functions of their jobs. This modern and innovative approach of combining education and technology in one provides students with the support they need and is vital in today’s digital age.

3. Technology And Data Science Improves Student Learning Outcomes

Technology and human staff can genuinely co-exist to provide the best possible experience for students and materially improve achievement outcomes. Autonomous, intelligent, digital assistants are constantly learning and can reach students in unique ways because they know how to engage different students in different manners. Today’s most intelligent bots have even been trained to understand intent so they can speak back to students in a way that resonates. For example, students who vary in age or are from different geographic locations may look for identical information on the same school’s website but will use different vocabulary or slang to search for it. A smart, digital assistant will understand the nuance to help answer the student’s question or connect them with the right human who can.

Technology is also a vital resource in higher education because it can remind students via social media messenger or SMS text, which are their preferred platforms, of important deadlines that may be approaching. At Rockhurst University, an AI-powered digital assistant that chats in over 100 automatically detected languages has been helping prospective students with the admissions process, scholarship applications, and Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms. Undergraduate applications have increased by 22% since deploying a digital assistant on their website.

Digital assistants are an asset to any higher education institution and it’s no surprise that many modern colleges and universities are looking ahead to future technologies, like the use of automation, to help students apply, enroll, get admitted, and graduate from school. This forward-thinking approach provides a true advantage for today’s students to improve their learning outcomes and ultimately help them succeed. College students today are more diverse than ever. This student body is going to require more support resources to graduate than can possibly be provided by human staff members. A combination of AI, human faculty, and staff is the only way to provide the real-time experiences that today’s students expect and need.


[1] National Student To School Counselor Ratio 1986-2019

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