Just as rapidly evolving technologies are altering the way businesses serve their customers, they’re having a similar impact on how universities interact with students.
Processes and workflows that have been in use for decades are poised for replacement as tertiary institutions work to meet the shifting expectations of a new generation hungry to learn.
Dubbed Gen Z-ers, the latest student cohort has grown up in the digital era and is looking to transact and communicate in ways that are different from their older peers. They’re comfortable with digital conversational platforms and expect immediate answers to questions and access to data whenever it’s needed.
In response, growing numbers of universities are evaluating how virtual assistants powered by artificial intelligence can streamline and improve interactions with students. Rather than expecting students to raise queries via email or queue at an information desk, universities are turning to natural language tools that can automate communication channels and deliver faster and more targeted responses.
Platforms based on such technologies can draw information held in a variety of locations across a campus and use it to provide a personalised response. For example, this could be in answer to a student question about academic performance or issues around the payment of outstanding fees. If resolution is not possible, the query can be handed on to a human for further assistance.
Another exciting technology on university radar screens is blockchain. This can be used to deliver digital credentials that are verifiable and irrefutable. Rather than needing to dig out paper certificates to prove academic achievements, students will be able to point to a blockchain-based digital record that shows details of their entire academic career.
The application of emerging technologies like these will enable universities to strengthen their relationship with students through greatly improved communication processes. Just as everything from banking and retail is being transformed through technology and data, so too is education.