Keeping students’ attention with digital characters

Wooing potential students on Facebook might get them to a college’s online application page, but many campuses haven’t been able to decrease the number of applicants who “X” out of the page before they’re done filling out vital information.

Even for those applications that are completed, admissions officers find a bevy of mistakes that require follow-up eMails and phone calls to prospective students.

Pikes Peak Community College in Colorado Springs uses a friendly digital character named “Addy” to guide applicants through the school’s in-state residency application process. Pikes Peak officials said the campus has seen a 7 percent increase in completed applications, and an 80 percent decline in application mistakes, since using the interactive technology from CodeBaby, a Colorado-based company specializing in eLearning software.

“So many students now have had their own experience in gaming, so they’re totally comfortable with dealing with digital characters,” said Mike Whitt, head of CodeBaby’s educational online engagement division, adding that company analysis shows web users are four times more likely to engage with a web page containing a virtual character like “Addy” than a page full of text. “The conversational approach has really caught on,” he said.

Using software to cut down on the number of application errors can save a campus thousands of dollars over the course of a school year, said Audrey Dalton, a CodeBaby spokeswoman. The drop in application mistakes at Pikes Peak, she said, saved 20 hours of staff work every week—meaning the college saves $40,000 over a full year.

“That’s significant for any college right now,” Dalton said.


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