In May, AdmitHub opened our (virtual) door to welcome Partners to Office Hours, a recurring discussion that addresses institutional challenges, brainstorms innovative solutions, and tackles the timely questions facing higher education.

Bummed you couldn’t make May’s Office Hours? Don’t worry, we won’t make you sit through yet another Zoom recording— here are the key takeaways from the first batch of partner discussions:

Questions & Solutions

How can we leverage chatbots with virtual admissions events this summer?

  • Tricia Pineda, AVP for Program Development and Retention described how Merrimack College’s Office of Admission used their chatbot for Spring Virtual Admitted Student Days. Merrimack worked closely with AdmitHub to turn off Mack’s AI during the event and replace it with a “Mack Takeover” team made up of key community areas, including Residence Life, Student Involvement, the Honors Program, and the Office of Admission. Staff were trained in AdmitHub dashboard and live chat conversation basics in order to respond to student and parent questions coming into the web bot. Before Mack sent one campaign to invite questions via text, too. Chatting with Mack was promoted as the way to connect with college leadership throughout the day, and was very well utilized by students and parents alike. Merrimack has successfully used Mack Takeovers with a number of other events throughout the spring and summer.
  • By texting their students important reminders and details about online admissions events, Assistant Director of Transfer Admissions Vincent Tepedino of Rutgers University – Newark was able to effectively promote their admissions-focused social media channels and refer students to a resource available 24/7 for all their unanswered questions.
  • Valdosta State University had previously used ineffective methods to survey attendees at admitted student events. After Eric Callaway, assistant director of admissions, pivoted to using their chatbot’s interactive survey capabilities, they not only saw better response rates, but more in-depth and honest answers.

What does a model for successful web chat management look like, and why is it important to have on school websites now?

  • In March, University of Wyoming’s Assistant Director of Admissions Katie Carroll and her team grappled with how to address prospective and current students’ coronavirus questions when staff didn’t know the answers themselves. By implementing their chatbot on UWyo’s website and taking shifts to manage web student conversations, Katie was able to provide students and the greater community the information they needed and the peace of mind to persist in their studies.

What is the best way to gauge what your students are struggling with when they’re not on campus?

  • Using its interactive survey capabilities, the CSU Channel Islands team led by Interim Assistant Director of Student Success Tara Hughes turned to Ekhobot to receive honest feedback on students’ virtual learning experience. Staff urged learners to “spill the tea” in this creative campaign that provided a safe, judgment-free zone for students to air their concerns.
  • Project director at Georgia State University Lindsey Fifield’s team also knew to communicate critical enrollment and advancement information amongst rapidly changing circumstances through their chatbot, Pounce. GSU students welcomed this communication through text message, and university staff were able to identify the specific students that needed more resources for online learning and housing.

How can we leverage chatbots to cheer up students & maintain their relationship with their institution?

  • Allegheny College prides itself on maintaining personalized relationships with prospective and current students alike. Jason Andracki, associate director of marketing and communications, sought to preserve this practice through the pandemic by sending fun campaigns to students with the sole purpose of spreading joy. By sending uplifting text messages to students between campaigns that asked receivers to complete critical tasks, Jason’s team saw increased engagement across both types of campaigns and greater fulfillment of necessary steps.
  • In addition to their “spill the tea” campaign, Tara also sent CSU Channel Islands students an ask to add to Ekhobot’s “CSUCI Quarantunes” Spotify playlist with song suggestions that are helping them through this tough time. The playlist brought the community together to create a resource that students could rely on to maintain the relationship they have with the university.

Successes & Metrics

  • In one of their online learning resource campaigns sent to current students, Georgia State University saw 3,040 Bitly clicks on the first link they sent, and 722 clicks on the link in the second message. The average click rate for their campaigns is usually under 100!
  • CSU Channel Islands’s “spill the tea” campaign resulted in a 21.4% response rate from students.
  • Katie Carroll at the University of Wyoming estimates Cowboy Joe handles 90% of the incoming questions they receive through their website, which gave staff the ability to turn to more pressing coronavirus-related problems.
  • Merrimack College’s Mack handled 80+ conversations during a virtual admitted students event compared to just 10 conversations held through phone and email combined.
  • The Rutgers University – Newark team increased their admissions Instagram page followers by the hundreds after they sent students a text to check out the account.

Best Quote

The chatbot has been really great because, I think now more than ever, our content needs to be digital. With a lot of ‘@rutgers.edu’ emails being sent to spam, I think a lot of stuff is being missed for students and the ability for them to have it all right here [gestures to phone] has really been great.

Vincent Tepedino, Assistant Director of Transfer Admissions, Rutgers University – Newark

Pro Tips

  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes! It is not the end of the world if you send students a message on an error. Students will likely appreciate the effort you’re making, regardless of the mistake.
  • Mix “serious” campaigns with lighthearted ones. Communication plans that use this combo increase engagement across both types of messaging and students will complete action items at higher rates.
  • When sending out interactive surveys, do not turn off the chatbot’s AI. Turning off the AI means students will not be able to complete the survey, nor will they have the opportunity to get their questions answered immediately.
  • To be as inclusive as possible in your communication, get the perspective of staff that have different lived experiences than you. They might interpret a message a lot differently than you do!
  • Lastly, students want to be texted by their schools. Don’t be afraid to use this powerful, research-backed platform in a balanced way. E.g., send campaigns weekly, vary the content, and invite feedback from your students.

Next Time

All done with the “SparkNotes” of May’s Office Hours! Catch the next real deal, live-action installment of the recurring meeting on July 15 at 12:00 PM ET.

Not a current AdmitHub Partner and want to be part of our growing community? Request a demo on our website to set up a discussion about chatbot technology and how AdmitHub can partner effectively with your institution.