As recently as last year, nearly one in five students who committed to attending Georgia State University (GSU) never showed up for classes in the fall. This problem isn’t unique to GSU, and it’s commonly referred to as the “summer melt.” But GSU has taken an innovative approach to solving this challenge, using an artificially intelligent (AI) chatbot that has led to a significant increase in student enrollment.
Reversing summer melt
Summer melt most commonly affects low-income students, many of whom are the first in their family to be accepted into college. Navigating the complex student enrollment process can be intimidating for anyone, but especially these students—and many just give up before they complete the process.
To reverse this trend, GSU identified the common barriers that students face between graduating high school and beginning college, including filling out financial aid forms, completing immunization records, taking placement exams, and registering for classes.
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The university then developed a two-pronged approach to help at-risk students through these obstacles: (1) It implemented a new portal to guide students through the steps they must take to be ready for the first day of classes, with technology to track their progress toward completion so officials could ensure their success; and (2) it launched “Pounce,” an AI-enhanced chatbot, to answer questions about the process from incoming students 24-7 via text messages on their smart devices.
Putting AI to use
The chatbot is powered by a mobile messaging platform from AdmitHub, an edtech company that develops custom chatbots designed to support student enrollment and retention. It uses conversational AI technology to personalize admissions support for incoming students, drawing upon a knowledge base with answers to more than 2,000 anticipated questions.
AdmitHub built this knowledge base in partnership with GSU administrators, who gave the final approval on what the chatbot’s responses would be. While this knowledge base continues to grow, there are times when the bot hasn’t yet learned the answer to a specific question, says AdmitHub Co-Founder and CEO Drew Magliozzi. There are also situations when it’s best for a human to intervene to provide additional guidance.