Article
Thursday, October 18, 2018
AI Chatbots Radically Improve How Students Get Answers
 
Artificially Intelligent Chatbots have the potential to deliver three significant upgrades over current technologies that answer student service questions. Indeed, the impact could be massive. The result will be happier, more informed students with better experiences.  

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Over the past two decades, many schools have created information repositories, often referred to as knowledgebases, to organize school policies and procedures in an article format for students to access. 
 
The primary benefit of these knowledgebases was that they enabled student service departments to store specific questions and answers in a single location and make changes over time as policies and programs changed. In many ways, this was an early attempt to create an online one-stop-shop for student questions. Students could click on a pre-programmed topic, or run basic searches of the pre-defined questions, answers or other bucketed data.
 
However, the knowledgebase article approach is colliding with the evolution of communications. We are all guilty of TLDR (Too Long; Didn’t Read) syndrome. Students, like all of us, prefer pertinent information in short, digestible nuggets. But transforming articles and policies into short messages takes a lot of time and effort.
 
AI Chatbots can upgrade the knowledgebase model and help schools improve how students get answers by:
 
Enabling students to ask questions how they want to 
Questions can be phrased in a multitude of ways. “How do I apply for financial aid?” can also be asked as “How do I submit a FAFSA?” or “I would like to know the procedure of financial aid.” These are real user questions all looking for the same answer. An AI Chatbot can interpret the ways to phrase a question and match it to the correct answer. A standard knowledgebase is far less likely to successfully inform students when approached with multiple phrasings.  
 
Having two-way conversations
Chatbots create a two-way conversation. Students rarely have one question. One question leads to follow-up questions. Chatbots allow students to ask the next question, and engage students with meaningful clarifying questions. Students are more likely to continue the conversation in this format. This encourages students to engage in the full depth of information a knowledgebase has to offer (but is so seldom retrieved with traditional tools). 
 
Pulling in other relevant information
AI Chatbots can pull in relevant information from other sources. Knowledgebases require manual entry of new data. AI Chatbots have core content.  Additionally, they can reach beyond their core to search college websites, forms, videos, policies and more. The power of content in an existing knowledgebase can be magnified by AI pulling in approved published content in all forms and mediums.  
 
Well-designed AI Chatbots have the potential to make school knowledgebases much smarter, more engaging, and easier to maintain. Students can have questions answered more effectively and with greater ease.  Tools can see students all the way through full conversations - without recreating the wheel. Staff time maintaining the knowledgebase can be reduced. And the resource can be accessed by students 24/7/365.