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Artificial Intelligence

University of Illinois Uses AI Chatbot to Grow Student Recruitment for Online MBA Program

The University of Illinois's Gies College of Business is employing an artificial intelligence-powered chatbot to help prospective students gain information about its online MBA program (iMBA). The college worked with AI company Juji to create the tool, branded Alma, which sits on the iMBA's home page and answers students' questions via text chat. Alma also offers key information about the program and records prospects' contact information for follow-up.

The college's admissions and recruitment team started with an existing template within Juji Studio, a chatbot builder with no coding required, and then customized the chat flow to suit the needs of the iMBA program. Alma was created and deployed in a couple of weeks with no IT resources required, according to a news announcement. Once the chatbot went live, Juji automatically captured unanswered user questions, which the team then used to fine-tune the chatbot's answers.

Initial data has shown that prospective students who interacted with Alma were 72% more like to apply for the iMBA program compared to those who did not use the chatbot, the college reported. Alma has now answered more than 99.5% of student questions, freeing up staff time for other tasks.  

"We have a handful of recruitment staff members who need to answer tens of thousands of questions from prospective students in addition to their other responsibilities such as advising students," noted Brooke Elliott, associate dean of the college, in a statement. "A chatbot solution could help us automate certain operations so we can meet increasing student demands while keeping our staff happy."

"We love Alma," added Myranda Crist, assistant director of admissions and recruitment. "It's created another way for prospects to connect with us and receive quick answers. Alma has helped inform us of areas in our process that may not be as clear as we would like, and we've been able to address that. Another added benefit is that our current students also utilize Alma for answers, something we did not expect!"

"Universities and their recruiting staff are overwhelmed by the volume of student inquiries, stretching resources thin," commented Michelle Zhou, co-founder and CEO of Juji. "Since human-driven conversations are hard to scale, organizations like University of Illinois are enlisting the help of no-code conversational AI to rapidly set up, deploy and manage chatbots that can streamline operations and scale out recruitment efforts to keep both prospective students and recruitment staff happy."

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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