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Is automation in higher education going to take my job?

3 min read

Bots don’t replace humans, they help humans be more human.

The subject of chatbots in higher ed could conjure mental images of rows of assembly line machines replacing humans in factories around the world. The truth is, conversational engagement chatbots could make higher ed jobs more secure, helping colleges and universities increase enrollment and retention.

Conversational engagement is a blend of bot and human

There are things a bot can do that most humans could never do, such as remember the names of 20,000 students. However, it’s also true that a bot could never display empathy or genuinely connect with a student. And, both abilities are important.

Bots are good at solving complex algorithms and remembering terabytes of data. Humans are good at genuine conversations. When you combine these powers, you get an ambassador for your school who remembers everyone’s name, knows exactly where problems might exist and how to solve them, and has a personality to boot. Playing to strengths is a recipe for success.

How a chatbot improves communication

Think of a chatbot as a swiss army knife - a bunch of tools, literally at your fingertips, that can be used alone or in conjunction with others, and the transition between them is quick and easy. 

A chatbot like Harmony, built with conversational engagement in mind, can be applied to help in any area of your institution. This is possible through four basic functions:

Circle with Harmony in the middle and 'automate', 'capture', 'guide', and 'connect' on the outside.
  • Automate
  • Capture
  • Guide
  • Connect


A chatbot performs repetitive tasks, captures information, guides website visitors, and hands off conversations to humans when applicable. 

Automation gives humans freedom

Through automation, chatbots are good at giving the correct answers to common questions and performing repetitive tasks, helping website visitors achieve their goals. Upon engaging with a visitor, a bot needs to use some sort of natural language processing to interpret what they need. By answering repetitive questions, chatbots save staff time and frustration.

A bot can also be proactive, suggesting the topics or questions that a visitor may be interested in, making it that much easier for visitors to find the information they need. 

You can allow a bot to answer as many questions as needed, and you and your team can determine the best times to jump in and help visitors via live chat. Also, when a website visitor has reached that critical point in a conversation where they need help, a chatbot can automatically hand off the conversation to a human by scheduling a meeting with the right staff member.

Chatbots are helpful in performing repetitive tasks as well. For example, a bot can be programmed to help students register for events or set up meetings. With a chatbot, these activities are centralized and easy for students to find. 

Conversations help you capture information

If you’ve ever wanted information from a business and were forced to fill out a form and then wait days for a response, you know how frustrating the process is. Forms are a roadblock for students.

With a chatbot, valuable information is exchanged more freely and immediately in a conversation. When a website visitor has their questions answered, they’ve had a better experience through the give and take of information. Now, they’re more likely to provide their contact info. Plus, you have the option of telling students why you need their information and exactly what you’ll use it for. 

Once a student has given you his or her information, the bot will remember it. A chatbot like Harmony integrates with your CRM to easily transfer data.

Chatbots guide website visitors

Higher ed websites contain A LOT of information, with a lot of different contributors. Each department has their own sets of information.  It can be daunting for visitors to find what they need. A chatbot can be a traffic director, guiding visitors to the correct intersection. This not only improves the user experience, but chatbots also take advantage of the hard work your staff has put in to keep your website up to date.

Reaching goals helps staff, it doesn’t replace them

Friction points for your constituents often tie to pain points for your school. Guiding website visitors to the answers they need and solving their problems is mutually beneficial to constituents and staff. The bot is helping your team reach their goals in ways that are measurable and in ways that can be used to show a return on your technology investment. 

There will always be a need for the human element in communication. Striking a bot-to-human balance will give your team the best results.

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