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Chatbots Without EdSights Are Like Chips Without Guac




The promises of a chatbot are plentiful. Boost efficiency! Drive engagement! Automate, automate, automate!


The challenge, however, is that most higher education chatbots fall short where it really counts. The ability to truly learn from and connect students to the resources and people they need when they need them.


At EdSights we take a different approach to Chatbots.


Chatbots are like tortilla chips. While there are a variety of brands and flavors, they really are all the same at their base. Sure, some come with a dash of lime, some are round, and some are built into dipping cups. But at the end of the day, what is the tortilla chip without the guac? (Or salsa, or queso, or … you get the point.)


When we founded EdSights, it was with the goal of understanding the challenges students faced that were traditionally hard to detect and help address them in real-time. These issues included intangibles, like the student’s sense of belonging and food insecurity alongside measurable elements like course engagement.


We wanted to learn how students were doing in four key areas:

  1. Academic Engagement

  2. Financial Struggles

  3. Engagement

  4. Wellness

We referenced research by Dr. Vincent Tinto to build this framework and the best interventions for each driver.


Our approach is to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) and SMS text messaging to engage and support students. Chatbots serve as the vehicle that listens to students. Unlike other chatbots that/which act as more of a "help desk" or "nudging tool", our framework engages students in research based conversations that help uncover barriers in the four categories measured and connect students to targeted resources. The chatbot is the chip. EdSights is the guac.


What does “learning” mean to a bot?


Most chatbot providers claim the bot “learns.” This typically means that the bot improves over time to understand FAQs based on different semantics. At EdSights, we start with understanding FAQs. Then we build upon each interaction to truly understand a student’s needs by memorizing their barriers and utilizing this information to prioritize different interventions over time. Our bot is not just training in natural language processing, it's learning the actual meaning of what a student says and identifying where they are struggling.


Delivering the right flavor.


EdSights is the only chatbot provider in the industry using a research-backed framework to identify students who are at-risk of dropping out based on the key drivers of Academic Engagement, Financial Struggles, Engagement, and Wellness.


As the bot engages with students, the AI is able to calculate risk scores for each of the four categories. These risk scores are updated based on each conversation we have with the student. Risk is weighted based on extensive research and constantly improves as our algorithms learn which student barriers are most predictive of persistence. Each interaction builds a comprehensive profile for each student, which the AI utilizes to prioritize different conversations for each individual.


Example: When a bot learns that a student is at-risk for academic engagement, it prioritizes more resources and interventions around this area. Typically these interactions occur well before a faculty member flags this student for not attending classes or missing coursework, providing earlier opportunities for intervention.


In addition to being responsive to student inquiries, institutionally-branded chatbots proactively check in with students based on prior interactions at scheduled intervals. Texting frequency varies from student to student depending on their risk profile and preference — the average is about once per week. This mode of adaptive student support leads to earlier and more efficient use of staff time, and better prediction of student outcomes.


How can higher ed chatbots connect students to resources and people?


While any basic knowledge base for a chatbot can provide links to resources based on a prior response or message, the most important ingredient is the ability to process meaning from thousands of conversations to produce insights into barriers students are facing. This gives institutions the ability to hear what their students are saying and understand student sentiment in real-time.


 

Solving the college completion crisis


Institutions who partner with EdSights between now and August 1, 2022 have the opportunity to join the largest scale persistence study in history. The goal is to uncover new trends and insights around the factors driving completion across the nation, and provide participants with real-time insights on their specific students.


On top of providing participants with key insights for their campus and national benchmarks, students enrolled at participating institutions will benefit from our AI persistence framework that connects them to personalized resources over SMS.

With the study’s findings, we will release a new annual report to serve as the nation’s first benchmark for student persistence and retention. The report will be released next fall at our inaugural client summit.

For institutions who are in the early stages of their persistence strategic planning, or for those looking to enhance their current efforts, we hope the study will provide a data driven foundation fueled by the voices and experiences of their students.



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