Can Education Providers Use Chatbots to Improve Student Engagement?

Joshua Stoneham
September 19, 2023

Chatbots are becoming an increasingly viable marketing tool that can offer a human-like interaction for a fraction of the cost. 

But can this technology be applied by providers in the education space? Are chatbots a useful tool to drive up lead volume, or are they just a gimmick? In this article, we’ll go through the ins-and-outs of chatbots, and demonstrate how providers could benefit from using this piece of tech.

What are chatbots?

The term ‘chatbot’ refers to a program that’s designed to act like a human, and issue human-like responses to inputs. 

Chatbots can appear as a pop up chat box on a site, or can be a more complex conversational tool that’s located elsewhere on a site. Some chatbots use a path system of questions and answers, and have pre-assigned responses, whereas other chatbots can utilise AI technology to create on-the-fly responses to more complex questions. 

ChatGPT is the most advanced version of this technology, and uses what’s known as ‘natural language processing’, where a program can be interacted with using normal, conversational language. This is more advanced than typical chatbots, as the program can answer almost any question, and isn’t limited by predetermined answers.

Are chatbots the future of audience engagement?

Chatbots are becoming a valuable tool for companies to rely on in order to drive up audience engagement.

Meta plans to launch an in-depth AI-powered chatbot that aims to create new opportunities for audience engagement on Facebook. The bot will offer users new ways to search through Facebook, find information that’s based on Facebook, and get personalised recommendations. Chatbots will have different ‘personalities’, giving users as close to a human-like interaction as possible. 

More widely, technological research firm Gartner predicts that interactions with customer service agents could become a thing of the past, saying that one in ten interactions will be automated by 2026. Representatives from Gartner pointed out that,  “Conversational AI can automate all or part of a contact centre customer interaction through both voice and digital channels.”

“While automating a full interaction, also known as call containment or deflection, corresponds to significant cost savings, there is also value in partial containment, such as automating the identification of a customer’s name, policy number and reason for calling. Capturing this information using AI could reduce up to a third of the interaction time that would typically be supported by a human agent,” says Gartner.

Looking beyond a simple chat function, chatbots could be utilised by companies from all industries as an in-depth engagement tool that could take on multiple roles that would otherwise be filled by human employees. 

How can education providers use chatbots?

Education providers often use audience engagement strategies to drive leads and improve conversion rates. With this in mind, chatbots can be a useful tool for providers, and can help them stand out in the education space if utilised correctly. 

Help Users Navigate Your Site

UX is a vital element of audience engagement, but even the best-laid out sites can be tricky to navigate for certain users. Having a chatbot option on site can quickly direct users to the exact pages or content that they want to access. 

For example, a chatbot primed with a prompt such as ‘need help finding your way around?’ can be programmed to direct the user to course pages, help them explore content on the site, or be directed to contact pages if they need more information about a course or provider.

Increase Interactivity and Engagement

Chatbots can also be deployed on course pages, and can be used to answer simple questions a potential learner might have about a course.  For example, users could ask questions like ‘is this course fully online’, ‘can I study this course whilst working part-time?’, or ‘what areas does this course cover?’. 

Typically on a site, course content is displayed on a page, but having the user be able to access information through a friendly, human-like interface allows them to get quick answers to particular questions. If a learner is looking at many different providers and wants to get the ideal course for them quickly, being able to dispense important information like this in seconds could be the key to unlocking a valuable conversion.

Enable Seamless Course Enquiries

Chatbots can also double as enrolment services personnel, as prompts can be set up to directly collect and pass on details, arrange face-to-face calls and book open days, all within a chat feature on a site. 

For enrolment services employees, setting up a process like this could be as simple as including a prompt that encourages users to send an email to an ES employees address in order to get more information, or book into an open day. More complex bots can do this automatically, allowing you to engage with students at any time of day, and even during periods of office-wide leave periods, such as Christmas and New Years.

Chatbots can be a useful tool for all companies, with especially useful applications for education providers. 

For those wanting to embrace Martech trends like this and increase audience engagement, chatbots can form a key part of a wider marketing strategy. With large companies such as Meta opening the lid of the opportunities this technology can bring, education providers and large companies alike may reap the benefits of this exciting form of marketing and UX. 

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Joshua Stoneham
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