Personalized Student support in Higher-Ed: A Case for AI-powered Chat-bots?


As the much loved summer comes to a gradual end, experienced college students prepare their return to school: last minute purchases, appropriate clothing for the weather (depending on which part of the world their schools are located come winter), luggage packed, school online registrations done, necessary documents and official materials secured and safely packed. On arrival at campus and into the first week, students know where to go, and what to do. They know how to find their way around the school facilities and know what technical, academic or domestic requirements required to get them going for a successful semester in school.

Or do they?

Non-first year higher-ed students with at least 1 year of college experience may find it easy to navigate the new school year. Yet every new school year is an altogether different experience that requires expert guidance and support. On the other hand, first year students, mostly fresh out of high school are in an entirely new educational landscape. They have tons of questions to ask;

How do I…? What do I do next? Am I supposed to…? When will…? I don’t have my…, what do I do? Where can I…?
Where do I start from? What am I supposed to do now?

Thankfully, Higher ed schools have put in place First Year Experience teams and staff to provide the student support that they need in their first few week in schools. However, for schools with a couple hundreds or a thousand students resuming at once quickly find that they don’t have enough staff to respond to all the questions coming from different quarters. Hence they conduct induction sessions in their halls and exercises in groups, extending the First Year Experience program over a period of one to two weeks which goes a long way to help the resuming students figure their way around school.

Some colleges have come to learn that the first few weeks of college isn’t enough to take care of their students concerns and problems. They set-up various touch-points that enable staff & school administrators connect with their students to ensure no one is left behind. These touch-points are excellent in plugging holes that may have been missed and students who still need some sort of support.

At the end of the academic year, educators are bewildered to find students who have failed to carry out one simple but important task during the semesters. A course registration, or change in subject. These simple things end up haunting the student throughout the school semester in many different ways, or trip them up at some important turns. Students still have questions to sort out issues that are unique to them e.g. Students from a foreign country, student from a foreign country in a specific program, students on a special tuition program . Despite the many measures taken at the start of the school year and even in-between, students still struggle through school, fail their courses, or even drop-out of school, and none of these may be attributed to their lack of intelligence or credible professors, but rather to the little things that do matter through the daily school activities.

The student support measures, in their different innovative forms still lack some key features that can be identified with some questions

  1. Can student support staff answer ‘ALL’ students’ questions? It’s clear that the Staff to Student ratio in schools is not designed to do this, more especially in the first weeks of school.
    A case for superhuman speed.
  2. It’s 10PM on Saturday night and I have a burning issue to sort out before Monday. Can a someone please help me? Administrative staff are there to help but they are not robots, they also need to get lunch break, have office ours, and don’t work on the weekends.
    A case for real ‘round-the-clock’ support.
  3. I know someone asked this question before but I still need to ask? or mostly the student shuts up because they don’t want to sound stupid.
    A case for repeated questions, & other times unique inquiries.
  4. I wish someone told me I still needed to provide some more information about my tuition sponsorship.
    Staff are not computers and can miss out some tiny details student failed to provide, neither are they personal assistants to the students
    A case for a personal assistant.
  5. It’s my 3rd year in school but I still need help with some things.
    A case for scale-able student support.

The unique feature-requirements make a perfect case for a Virtual Assistant with the personality and knowledge-base of the institution in questions. This campus assistant must communicate like a human being (NLU — Natural Language Understanding), be available 24/7, be timely and have the ability to provide personalised support to students with different profiles and needs.

This is a case for AI-Powered chat-bot. VeriCampus provides this scale-able student support, with round-the-clock availability and ability to respond to students based on their institution — a student’s personal assistant that is applicable at all stages of the students’ life — powered by Artificial Intelligence and leveraging human expertise.

VeriCampus is delivered over ubiquitous messaging platforms like Facebook messenger, and communicates with Natural Language to provide a high-level personalized support to students, helping them navigate successfully through higher-education.

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