5 technologies that will help colleges meet digital-age students’ expectations

A look at how universities are--and should--use predictive analytics, nudge technology, and more

3. Chatbots
Chatbots are virtual “people” that simulate human conversation through voice commands or text chats or both. Consumers use them almost daily to advise purchase decisions or help with service issues.

In education, chatbots are already proving to be an invaluable tool for establishing vital dialogs with enrolled students, as well as those interested in attending who might not otherwise engage with their schools—until it’s too late.

A few years ago, for example, Georgia State University (GSU) noticed a sizeable jump in the number of students accepted to the school during the summer months who were not showing up for enrollment in the fall, a phenomenon known as “summer melt.” In response, GSU piloted a chatbot project called “Pounce” to regularly connect with incoming students, keeping them updated on critical deadlines, happenings on campus, and other pertinent enrollment information. In the first four months, the chatbot reportedly exchanged nearly 200,000 messages with students, a volume of work that would have taken 10 staffers to accomplish.

4. “Nudge” technology
Chatbots could also soon play a role in helping students get to class on time.

One of Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Technologies Impacting Higher Education in 2018 is something it calls “nudge tech.” This is basically a collection of technologies working together to deliver timely personalized interactions and reminders to students, staff, and faculty.

Much like your Outlook flashes reminder notices for upcoming meetings, nudge tech would go even further by monitoring a variety of student records and noting potential opportunities or issues affecting the scholastic journey. For instance, nudge tech might let a student know they have just one day to pay tuition or warn that a class in their major is filling up quickly or even that they are likely to miss a big exam if they do not reach class in the next five minutes.

5. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR)
AR and VR use technology to immerse people in enhanced or completely artificial digital worlds.
From an admissions standpoint, AR and VR let institutions provide personalized virtual campus tours, complete with a video representation of administrators welcoming prospective or incoming students to the school and walking them through key facilities aligned to their fields of study.

For educators, AR and VR offer everything from virtual field trips of historical and architectural sites to training functions where students can get hands-on with simulated materials or important individuals (real or virtual) connected to their majors.

Today, serving student needs and assuring their loyalty doesn’t have to involve heavy investing. Rather, it is important to determine an institution’s goals, select a few strategic technologies to support them, and deploy the solutions smartly over time.

The critical question to ask along the way is: “How will this technology deliver clear and measurable personalized experiences for most of our students?” If the answer is anything short of “It will have a significant effect,” then keep looking. In the competitive world of education, you really want to get this one right.

eSchool Media Contributors