Businesses are increasingly turning towards artificial intelligence (AI) to create new consumer connections. The use of AI to discover new behavior patterns and utilizing them to come up with customized recommendations around books to travel destinations and food to the latest in fashion has become regular practice. In fact, from recommendation engines to smart assistants like Alexa and Siri, AI has found use in enhancing user experience as well as streamlining a wide variety of routine tasks in daily life.
Most of the companies that are conducting AI-led experimentation around marketing have also started using the same set of tools to program communication on their websites and mobile apps through chatbots. And in the post-pandemic era, the education sector appears to be ready and waiting to harness the potential of these messaging bots across a variety of activities – from customer support, teaching, to skill development and beyond.
A recent report suggests that chatbots have come a long way in recent years with universities now using these tools to engage with more students and build relationships that have since proved critical in driving retention, reducing summer melt and enhancing graduation rates.
Chatbots responding to frequently asked questions
Ever since the forced adoption of digital technology at schools during the pandemic-led lockdowns, both teachers and students have been eager to continue using new classroom technologies. Of course, it is not as though technology arrived only post 2020. Even earlier, schools had deployed automated chat support on their websites to respond to parents’ queries in real-time and round-the-clock. These chatbots are designed to understand commonly used keywords – such as admissions, fee, examination schedule, grades sheet, holiday list, and school events. They respond to basic queries without the necessity of direct human intervention, once the responses have been chalked out.
The bots recognize and analyze the keywords and phrases to provide succinct answers. In case they cannot identify the keywords and the associated responses, the bots direct the users to website sections where they can find relevant details. What’s more, chatbots can be programmed to answer questions in multiple languages once the initial responses are listed and translated through human involvement.
Chatbots are adding to an educators’ efficiency
By taking over some portions of their instructional and interventional work, chatbots are also helping teachers become more productive, especially in the case of senior grades in school.
Students in K-12 schools are increasingly getting acclimatized to computers and tablets for learning. And when they seek direct answers on basic queries, they need not always wait for a teacher to respond. Instead, they can get the required support from a chatbot customized to address their concerns. This also gives time to the teachers to focus their attention on more complex problems that require human intervention and exhaustive explanations.
However, the one factor that needs reiteration is that use of chatbots and their deployment cannot result in a reduction in the teaching staff or even the administrative resources. All that a chatbot does is take away the mundane responsibilities of these staff members and allow them to use their skills more productively and effectively. For example, any repetitive task that is driven by data or standard responses can be delegated to AI-powered chatbots. The bots can seamlessly handle attendance tracking, test scores, and assignment distribution to reduce some workload for busy teachers.
As virtual tutors, K-12 school chatbots can also cater to the requirements of neurodivergent students whose learning disabilities make it challenging for them to keep up with other classmates. Schools can tailor chat applications in line with learning plans for such students. They can transform a lecture into a series of short messages that are easier to understand, and encourage the students to ask relevant questions. The approach enhances students’ concentration and also helps to complete their assigned curriculum in time.
An easy way to improve student engagement
Even though schools try to maintain a healthy balance between screen-based and real-life activities for their students, they can no longer avoid the use of digital tools in teaching and learning. Moreover, the pandemic-led lockdowns made it mandatory for students to use digital tools in their education, both while learning as well as during examinations.
The learners today will go on to build their careers and step into a world that is getting digitally transformed at an unprecedented pace. They need to be acquainted with platforms that help them to communicate eloquently, conduct research, and share their own viewpoints with others. Chatbot technologies support such needs while enhancing the complete learning process. As chatbots are always available on a portal – during and after school hours – they make it simple to share information on lectures, assignments, class projects, and even the extra-curricular activities planned for a session.
Schools can also drive more engagement by leveraging chatbots to manage their student interest / activity clubs and alumni groups.
According to a recent study by Mckinsey, more than 60% of students in the US said all the classroom learning technologies they’ve used since COVID-19 began had improved their learning and grades. However, the same survey also indicated that schools weren’t forthcoming when it came to expanding on technology usage. Take the case of chatbots itself. Besides supporting learning and teaching initiatives, chatbots help organizations in the education sector collect feedback from students and their parents to evaluate their services and make improvements.
By deploying surveys and questionnaires on their website’s messaging assistant, schools can solicit opinions on campus facilities, course material, teachers’ abilities, learning experiences, and events organized by the institution. The responses offered by the target audience become useful business insights for the administrative team to keep fuelling the work being appreciated and make improvements where required.
However, there is much more that can be achieved using AI and chatbots. There is scope to scale several of the existing use cases. A school may choose keyword-driven messaging apps, menu-based chatbots, machine learning chatbots, or voice bots, it is evident that these digital tools are efficient at offering proactive help or routing queries to relevant sources. As long as they are backed by a strategic deployment plan, bots are the future-ready virtual assistants that will transform skills and help schools to market their brand more competitively