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“Can you tell me the answers to tomorrow’s chemistry test?”
Well, wouldn’t students like a chatbot that could answer this question? Don’t worry, chatbots aren’t cheaters. But, they can greatly enhance classroom education and educate the general public (think about chatbots that help you learn a foreign language on your mobile, e.g. Duolingo bots).
Chatbots for schools, specifically, could be deployed over messaging apps (like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp), custom school apps (when available) or the school’s website. From there, they can be accessed by students, parents, teachers, and school staff for various reasons.
Although we tend to think of education as an industry that isn’t too tech-savvy, technology has made its way in schools. According to research, education is one of the five top industries benefiting from chatbots right now.
Consider the case of a college professor who developed a chatbot to assist students before, during and outside of his class. The chatbot provided feedback on presentations, access to a bibliography and examples used during lessons and information and notifications about classes.
In 2019, he released the results of a poll of 700+ of his students about their experience with Ed the chatbot. Ninety-nine percent said they were satisfied with it and 63 percent said they would like to see chatbots integrated into all of their classes.
Similar, although much more successful and publicized, is the story of Jill Watson, an AI assistant developed by Ashok Goel to help him manage the overflow of student questions that he and his teaching assistants found difficult to handle. After Jill was trained and introduced to students in 2016, she could pass for an actual human for the whole semester until her identity was revealed.
Chatbots can be used in a variety of ways, but the benefits are roughly the same across use cases. These benefits include:
So, if you’re wondering more specifically about what chatbots can do for educational institutions, here are six common use cases:
Students, especially at certain times of the year such as beginning and end of semesters, have lots of questions about their lesson plans, classes, schedules, and school guidelines. When a teacher has dozens of students to teach, it’s time-consuming to answer these same questions one by one.
Chatbots for education can be programmed by a school (or an individual teacher by uploading material related to their course) to answer questions like:
Also, new students can rely on the school chatbot to help them settle into their new school. These students can use the chatbot to find their way around classes and facilities and sign up for activities that may interest them.
Chatbots can also send reminders when needed to help students keep up with their classes (e.g. “You’ve got a history test today!”)
Whether in high schools or higher ed, chatbots for education are programmed to answer common questions and help students (or prospective students) with administrative topics, such as:
|Function||How chatbots help||Example|
|College admissions and enrollment||Answer questions about documents or deadlines, and give instructions.||When is the deadline to enroll in this class?|
|Campus tours and events||Have the complete event schedule of each school available, and answer questions of prospective students.||Can I take a campus tour?|
|Fees and financial aid programs||Answer basic questions about types of financial aid (e.g. grants, scholarships, loans) and provide standard fees info.||How can I get a scholarship?|
|Student health services||Provide instructions on health matters (e.g. how to dispose of chemicals after chemistry class) and advise during tough situations like the 2020 pandemic.||Should I wear a mask in class because of COVID-19?|
|News about school operations and changes||Answer questions about school operations (e.g. closing times).||What time does the library close?|
|Information and availability of facilities (e.g. gyms, study rooms)||Be connected to a facility information and booking system and answer questions on availability.||Is study room F available now?|
The 24/7 benefit we mentioned above is very important in these cases as well, perhaps more.
Also, imagine the usefulness of chatbots in times of crises, when parents and students have loads of questions that can overwhelm school employees. Such is the case of the 2020 pandemic when schools may slowly reopen and many parents are concerned about the dangers. As students get back to the classroom, questions about health and safety measures, school hours, and protective gear are likely to rise in numbers.
And regardless of the pandemic, questions like “Is the school closed tomorrow?” in cases a blizzard hits or some other cause can be quickly and effectively answered by a helpful bot.
The chatbot doesn’t just have to be the recipient of questions – schools can use it to proactively send reminders, news, or messages. These could be “Be careful, some construction is happening near the main entrance” or “The school hasn’t received your financial aid application.”
This could be invaluable help with the so-called summer melt – the motivation of students who’ve been admitted to college waning over the summer.
By using the chatbot Pounce to send personalized reminders and walk students through school processes, Georgia State University was able to reduce summer melt by 19 percent in the first year of implementation and increase the percentage of students completing pre-enrollment processes like submitting immunizations and transcripts or moving faster through the FAFSA verification process (federal student aid).
AI chatbots for education can assess the learning style and abilities of students who use them. This way they can tailor lessons to each student to help them learn more easily. Chatbots for education can be used:
A great benefit to this chatbot use is promoting inclusiveness in education. Not every student learns the same way, and many have learning disabilities requiring one-on-one lessons and extra care. A chatbot tailors learning and lectures by analyzing each student’s needs and subjects or courses that give them the most trouble.
This can help ease each student’s difficulties and help them learn at the pace they’re comfortable with.
Let’s face it, some parts of learning are boring. Regardless of subject matter, the act of reading and memorizing can sometimes lull even the most dedicated students. Also, modern students of every age are used to getting quick answers over a variety of mediums, including video and search engines.
Chatbots for education provide instant answers and can help create more engaging studying experiences. Bots can use decision trees to guide students within a series of questions and answers to understand each topic better. See, for example, the Quizbot named Frosty the Penguin, developed by a research team at Stanford that found this bot was more effective in helping students learn than flashcards:
If you’ve got interactive content, such as video tutorials, chatbots can tap into your library and provide relevant content to help students study. Not to mention, some chatbots can facilitate learning, e.g. by playing music for concentration by integrating with music apps like Spotify.
And, especially when access to schools is limited (like in the case of the COVID-19 pandemic or another natural disaster), interacting with a chatbot may be a better way of learning for students than just having to read textbooks alone.
A chatbot is a powerful virtual assistant for teachers, too. It can handle part of repetitive or administrative tasks on its own, and also help teachers create more detailed learning plans and materials. More specifically, teacher can use chatbots for education to:
To implement a chatbot, choose a well-designed software to create the chatbot. There are companies that specialize in chatbots for schools, but you can also go for companies that offer chatbots in various industries. Whatever the case, make sure you consider these factors:
Lastly, if you’re a school administrator, you might need to deal with concerns from teachers on chatbots for education. Because of the power of AI tech, many people (in many industries) are afraid they might be replaced. But, chatbots certainly cannot replace teachers.
Instead, bots can take up some of the arduous administrative work from teachers’ hands to free up their time for the more meaningful aspects of their profession: building trust relationships with students and shaping their futures as educated citizens.