The COVID-19 pandemic presented many challenges that required recovery. Specifically, McGownd says that some students were concerned about transitioning to online learning. “They started in January with one mindset, and by March that all changed,” he said, “so we had to help them adapt to a new environment as well as we possibly could.”
McGownd says they used the data from their chatbot to plan their outreach. “We could take that information and decide if we needed to add a banner notification, or send a text message.” It also gave them the opportunity to see if they needed to add content or information to their websites.
The banner notification he referenced is something that sits inside their AI chatbot. Anytime anyone would interact with the chatbot, they would see the notification at the top of the dialogue box. “We use banner notifications to provide quick updates, and would sometimes point students to a resource page, for example.”
The AI solution used at OTC includes SMS texting with a feature called Guided Flows. “We used Guided Flows and texting to offer detailed information about things like the CARES act,” said McGownd. “We even altered our grading practice for the Spring of 2020, and students were given some control over how their final grade would be determined.”
McGownd says it was helpful being able to deliver that information via text, a channel he says is preferred by students. If a student was not impacted by the update they did not need to take action. However, for anyone who would be affected, they were able to communicate with the chatbot over text, and even connect to a live chat agent if necessary. “Our chatbot helped deliver updates and point students to additional resources, and the SMS text feature provided a great tool for keeping students informed in real-time.”