Survey Results: Higher Ed Leaders Say AI Can Improve the Student Experience

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Can AI improve how institutions serve students? A recent survey conducted by Blackboard and University Business revealed some interesting insights about higher education’s sentiment toward artificial intelligence. The survey polled higher education members in the University Business audience with 130 respondents from a variety of roles, including CIO, CTO, enrollment and admissions leaders, Presidents, Deans, and Provosts. 

Aiming to gain insights on campus outlook toward AI and tools like chatbots, the survey asked about repetitive tasks, support resources and capacity, data-driven decision making, and perspectives on AI at higher education institutions. Trends emerged from the survey, showing that institutions struggle to keep up with support request volume while a majority of these inquiries are repetitive, essentially asking about the same topics requiring similar answers. 

Results 

When asked if their institutions struggle to keep up with the volume of student inquiries (online learning, financial aid, admissions, IT, etc.), a combined 85% of respondents said “yes, definitely” or “yes, at certain times.” Additionally, 87% of respondents also agreed that the majority of student inquiries are repetitive. It’s important to note here that this survey was conducted before the widespread move to remote learning due to COVID-19. Since then, schools have reported significant increases in their support inquiry volume, especially as it pertains to IT issues.   

In the survey, 68% of respondents said they “agree” or “agree strongly” that IT departments at their institution struggle to provide adequate around-the-clock support to their campus communities. Additionally, 76% of respondents said they believed artificial intelligence (AI) could handle some or even a significant number of repetitive tasks enabling them to do higher-level or more complex work.  

And yet, 75% of respondents said their institutions are not currently using AI systems like chatbots to help manage support inquiries.  

From this survey, and similar to what you’re likely seeing at your institution, we see that institutions: 

  • Struggle to keep up with support volume.  
  • Struggle to provide around-the-clock support for their students.  
  • Recognize that the majority of these support inquiries are repetitive.  
  • Believe that AI could handle some or a significant number of these repetitive inquiries.  

Could the solution lie in AI technology like chatbots? Let’s dig in.  

How do chatbots help institutions improve their ability to serve students? 

To enhance student success, institutions need to evaluate the gaps they face in supporting, engaging, and communicating with students. But institutions don’t always have the resources to scale and meet student needs in a proactive way.  

According to the survey, over 80% of chatbot users found the technology to be helpful for students and staff members. As the volume of inquiries for student and staff support expands, having the tools to scale are imperative. 

AI-powered chatbots can help bridge the gap of institutional silos and communication challenges in order to increase enrollment, retention, and student success. Here are some key ways chatbots help institutions better serve their students: 

Improve experience: by increasing the number of ways a student can reach out for support and offering fast and friendly service with robust integrations, you’re offering students an improved experience that can drive engagement and retention. 

Reduce costs: chatbot technology enables institutions to shift resources to focus on strategic priorities with fewer hours spent on  basic troubleshooting or commonly asked questions. 

Lessen burdens: chatbots deliver scalable resources to support your institution during your peak and most challenging times, like the start of a new semester or urgent shifts to remote instruction like we saw during the COVID-19 crisis, reducing the burden on your support teams. 

Expand hours: provide 24×7 support so students, faculty, and staff can receive help at the moment of need. 

Survey Analysis 

The juxtaposition of the data points around the need to provide support at scale, the known benefits of AI tools, and the low adoption of these technologies indicates to us that we’re on the verge of a shift. We anticipate more and more institutions adopting AI-powered tools over the upcoming 18-24 months, especially as campuses adopt emergency remote instruction contingency plans.  

We’ve already seen the impact AI-powered tools can have through our partners that leverage Blackboard Chatbot,  a tool that leverages conversational AI to interact with students, faculty, and staff in getting them the information they need, when they need it, in the way that they prefer to communicate. 

To learn more, access the survey and executive analysis. See how institutions perceive chatbot technology today and the ways it can lift a burden from your support staff while offering a better experience for your students.