Artificial Intelligence is Changing the College Experience

6/4/2020 10:30 AM

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) is emerging as an important part of student engagement on college campuses. During a recent FOCUS podcast TouchNet's Heather Richmond talked with Kristy Pritchett, director of student account services at the University of Alabama, about the success and benefits of robotic automated processes in the student services department. We were so impressed with the results we're sharing the summary again. Prefer to listen? Here's the podcast link to "Bots Vs. Bodies."

Kristy Pritchett, director of student account services at the University of Alabama, provides an overview of the artificial intelligence bots used in robotic automated processes at her university. She explains the process of obtaining and implementing a new chatbot that helps students by answering frequently asked questions, leaving staff more time to focus on more complicated and specific student needs. Pritchett explains the great success and benefits of having an automated system in the student services department.

Artificial intelligence can take a lot of different forms and do a lot of different things. Pritchett focuses on explaining the impact of robotic automated processes. These robots help streamline everyday routine tasks and systems. These routines can include uploading and downloading data, answering simple student service questions and assisting current employees in their day to day tasks. This leaves staff more time, energy and resources to focus on more specific and complicated student needs.

This robot was needed at the University of Alabama due to the extremely high volume of student service calls that Pritchett and her department would receive on a regular basis. There were so many calls that systems became overloaded and eventually failed. And that doesn’t even include the emails their department was receiving. Their solution was a chatbot named Bama Bot. Bama Bot not only improved the efficiency of the student account services department, but also the student experience. Bama Bot is programed to answer frequently asked tier one common questions. Students and their parents were able to be helped quicker, easier and more efficiently.

Pritchett and her team worked with the university’s strategic communications team to brand the chatbot and make the bot readily available on the website, added it to the email signature and added a comment to their voice messaging system. This helped spread the word about Bama Bot and let students know that it is a trusted source for information. Although Bama Bot is fairly new to the university, Pritchett has already seen progress. The bot has answered over 3,000 questions and is generating interest in other departments across campus. Pritchett encourages colleges and universities with similar challenges to research robotic automated processes as a potential solution.