Chatbots Study Up on Students
Chatbots are everywhere, from media to marketing and business. Now these computerized conversation services are making their debut at French universities. EducPros discusses the new artificial intelligence tool with three pioneering schools.
Meet Jill Watson, 2016 teaching assistant to professor Ashok Goel at Georgia Tech. After a semester of online interactions, no one in Goel's computer science class suspected that Jill was a chatbot, developed using IBM's Watson platform. The era of computerized conversation has hit higher education.
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French universities are following suit. On business school Skema's Facebook page for eligible students, an artificial intelligence robot answers questions. Development and admissions marketing director Benoît Anger says, "The project is part of larger efforts to improve candidates' experience."
At ISC Paris Business School, a similar Facebook page also employs a chatbot. Director of student businesses Pierre Barreaud explains, "The rapid development of conversational marketing together with millennials' everyday use of messaging and chatbots convinced us to take the leap." This new technological touch could be the deciding factor for certain students.
Similarly, Centrale Marseille's chatbot Lutz answers basic questions via Facebook. Communications director Nicolas Chapuis argues, "The advantage of Facebook Messenger is that you can integrate a chatbot without any major technical upgrades." Thanks to the platform Chatfuel, all the school had to invest was its time. While Skema worked with an agency to implement its tool, Centrale Marseille sought out consulting on issues such as content, tone and technical specifications from the student business ISC Waving.
"97% of chatbot users have found the tool useful," observes Anger. At ISC, the student-manned phone line for potential students has seen its call volume drop. Yet Chapuis maintains, "There's no replacement for human interactions." Centrale Marseille and ISC still call on students to answer certain questions.
All three schools dream of developing a learning robot like Jill Watson. Chapuis reflects, "For now, our chatbot can only answer simple questions that fit within the scenarios we've scripted." At Skema, Anger would love to create a smart, bilingual, FAQ style robot that could answer questions year round.