Lowering Barriers with Help From an AI Chatbot

As an innovative university, Ivy.ai allows for another tool in our tool belt to reach families, and lowers the barrier to entry for many of our students.

At the University of Oklahoma, Bryce Kunkel has leveraged AI technology since 2017 where he serves as Assistant Director of Enrollment Management Communications.

Identifying the Need

Kunkel’s staff found that prospective graduate students navigated to the wrong pages in search of their programs. For instance, rather than finding the correct graduate admissions page, they landed on the site for undergraduate admission. This data paved the way for OU to provide an enhanced user experience (something that Ivy.ai’s chatbot would later uncover). In addition, the University of Oklahoma is proactively strategizing ways to address the enrollment cliff. Despite directives from the President’s office to grow enrollment over the next five years, the potential student population is expected to decline for all colleges and universities in the US.

Implementation

The University of Oklahoma was one of Ivy.ai’s earliest adopters in 2017. Kunkel worked with co-founders Mark McNasby and Michal Oglodek to customize the project to meet OU’s needs with features like Inbox Zero - a tool his team uses to review questions that stumped the bot and add knowledge for future questions. They uncovered one of OU’s biggest pain points when they found that students were seeking information in the wrong places, such as students who sought graduate nursing program information from undergraduate admissions. The chatbot has helped to redirect those inquiries and connect more students with the information they seek.

In addition to the chatbot, OU leverages Ivy.ai’s Live Chat platform to connect students with consultative support at the click of a button. This is especially helpful in situations where the chatbot is unable to answer a question, ensuring that students, parents, and alumni all receive exceptional customer service.

OU also uses Ivy.ai’s SMS texting feature to deliver reminders and reassurance that help is available if it’s needed. “We feed an API over from our CRM, and we’re able to send out messages from Ivy.ai to our prospective students for enrollment and for new student orientation,” said Kunkel.

Results

After Ivy.ai was implemented, OU saw its inbound calls to the admissions department plummet and noticed a change in the types of questions they received. Additionally, Kunkel notes that anonymity helps students to feel more comfortable asking questions they might not ask an advisor. Before Ivy.ai, students would call or send emails to ask “what’s my application status” or “what scholarships are available”, but now, OU is able to use Ivy.ai to answer those questions autonomously or point users to direct resources without requiring them to dig through their website or contact anyone else.

The department uses the time saved to better connect with students to create more intentional, deeper relationships. This shift was especially important because in 2018, OU had its largest freshman class in history and welcomed its third largest freshman class amidst the pandemic. One of Kunkel’s favorite features is the ability to code the bot in humorous ways in order to make it more personable.

Ivy.ai also provided OU with insight into what kinds of questions students ask and when. “We pretty much have it narrowed down to know what topics students are going to ask about at certain times of year,” Kunkel said. He noted that at some points during the year they’re focused on scholarships, enrollment, and setting up appointments, for example. He also noted that they can uncover trends about high school juniors who are starting to look at how to apply, and that such information helps make decisions about where to focus recruiting efforts.



When asked about the experience provided to students, Kunkel says the chatbot makes it really simple. “I don’t have to read a whole web page about how to apply - I get three methods and links for how to do it.

Looking Ahead


The University of Oklahoma has a sincere commitment to providing a great service experience, and has implemented Ivy.ai’s communication tools to support students in real time. OU plans to leverage such tools, along with others, to enhance their communication with current students, as well as with their parents. Ultimately, their goal is to provide an exceptional experience that helps the entire family feel connected to the university.

Visit Ivy.ai to learn more about AI chatbots and tools, and how they may help your college or university.

The University of Oklahoma is a public research university in Norman, Oklahoma. Founded in 1890, it had existed in Oklahoma Territory near Indian Territory for 17 years before the two became the state of Oklahoma. In Fall 2018 the university had 31,702 students enrolled, most at its main campus in Norman.

Download this Case Study