Using Google Engagement Technologies to Support Student Success

Creating a Concierge Experience for Digitally Native Students

For much of the second half of the last century, the Student-University relationship was defined by a document called The University Bulletin.

Everything about the student experience from the course and credit requirements for matriculation & graduation, important dates, the code of ethics, meal plan pricing, EVERYTHING, was printed in an encyclopedic set of bound volumes. Each one was stamped with the University Logo and the start year of the incoming freshman class for which it had been prepared.

In advance of every semester, the university would publish a Course Catalog, listing every section of every course being offered (there were thousands of classes) annotated with the professor, the start and end time, and the class location.

Printed in 8 point type on cheap newsprint, it went on for pages. Diligent students would go back to their Bulletin (hopefully stashed somewhere safe under a pile of old fast-food wrappers and dirty socks,) look up the degree requirements for their selected major, check-off the classes they had already completed and then with a pencil and a ruler start going line by line through the course catalog, manually building their schedule for the next semester.

It’s probably safe to say that the above describes a solid 50 years of academic life. Generation after generation of students having an almost identical experience, year over year. Universities had big print shops set up on campus for the sole function of churning out these bulletins and catalogs.

By the turn of the century, once the “World Wide Web” had fully infiltrated university life, (and the Print Shops, replaced with computer labs, had closed), the bulletins and catalogs all moved online. Students could now navigate web pages, meticulously architected by UX designers to ensure that folks from a multitude of backgrounds could intuitively surf to the pages they were looking for. Then online forms came into vogue followed by online registration. This is old news.

We are now on the brink of a major paradigm shift in the way we interface with technology.

Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence combined with Natural Language Processing and translation APIs have reached a pinnacle. Now, instead of having to surf The Web, looking for elusive content, we can simply talk to it. And expect it to deliver what we need when we need it.

The current (and future) generation of students expect this as a baseline. They expect technology to meet them where and how they are, guide them effortlessly through all tasks; all seamless, all in real-time.

A big expectation? No question. Achievable? Absolutely!

At SpringML we have been building Virtual Agents — digital concierges — designed to engage digitally native users in the way to which they have become (or are quickly becoming) accustomed.

Web pages and websites as we have understood them for the past 25 years are going away. They are being replaced with huge backend databases harnessed by SmartAI that build visual displays to spec, on the fly. Figuring out an intuitive browsing experience is no longer required. We now simply need to ensure that the data has been indexed and that the system has an interface via which the user can make a request. The data can then be served up according to existing user preferences or, more accurately, algorithms that “know” how this particular user likes to ingest information. From native language to color preferences, for visual vs verbal consumers, all of it can be organized and presented.

The Student Journey

As we continue to build out Virtual Agents with ever greater complexity and nuance, we are finding more ways to engage with our student customers.

Our Virtual Agents are not just a technical solution. They also embody an emotional component. A prospective student, feeling overwhelmed by application requirements, can now simply talk to a ChatBot who will ask her/him questions, capture the answers and fill out the form on their behalf. A student struggling to select a major can ask the Agent to access their 360 profile and make suggestions as to which subject or career paths might be best suitable, and most fulfilling. A student struggling with a subject can trigger an Early Warning System, have immediate advisor escalation, and engage with an AI Tutor to overcome pedagogic obstacles or make up for knowledge & skill shortfalls.

At every phase along the way, Virtual Agents, Smart Databases, Interactive Forms, Predictive (and Prescriptive) Analytics can shepherd students from start to finish, reducing stress and giving the student more time to focus on work, play, study, and develop.

Here is a shortlist of some of the ways we are using technology to engage students…

  • Prospective Students (High school Students) – exploring options
    • Introduction to University
    • General Q&A
    • Important Dates
    • Quick Find & redirect
    • Proactive reminders
    • Concierge guides on life after high school graduation
  • Applicants
    • Application support including auto-fill
    • Q&A
    • Important Dates
    • Proactive reminders
    • Account Registration
  • Admitted
    • Step-by-step support to prep for Day 1
    • New Student Set-up
    • Housing & Meal Plan selection with recommendations (both from other students but also from the algorithm’s ingestion of personal preferences, likes & dislikes)
    • Aggregating all relevant resources
    • Search
    • Q&A
    • Self-resolution
    • Escalation
  • Enrolled / Matriculating
    • Early Warning Systems & Alerts
    • AI Tutors
    • Smart Curriculum Design
    • Support
    • Scheduling – classes, meetings, Lab / Studio reservations
    • Student Life – Navigation
  • Graduating
    • Portfolio & resume build
    • Job search and application
  • Alumn
    • Portfolio & resume updates
    • Transcripts
    • Job search and application
    • Lifelong Learning
  • Donor
    • Smart Solicitation

Thought Leadership