Personalizing Higher Ed Student Engagement and Recruitment Through Automation

Last updated on: October 10, 2023

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Artificial intelligence (AI) can provide universities the data and capacity to understand what motivates prospective students and engage them on their terms. Wiley University Services is at the forefront of this movement, as we are blending AI-driven automation into services that help our partners support students throughout their education journey. In this article, Jourdan Hathaway, Group Vice President of Operations, shares how our marketing and program management teams began leveraging automation to bring personalization to the college recruitment process.

The Challenge: Connecting with Students as Communication Changes and Accelerates

The ways people exchange and gather information is changing, so it’s no surprise that universities need to modernize their approach to student engagement. Until recently, enrollment teams typically engaged prospective students over the phone; however, 70 percent of Americans now ignore calls from unknown numbers, according to Consumer Reports. This barrier requires institutions to engage prospective students differently, especially since this population is more interested in communicating by email, text/SMS, or through social media. Additionally, most students prefer to visit a website to review program details online before they contact a school, further reducing their motivation to answer calls from recruiters.

As student engagement shifts to platforms built for short-form content, universities are pressed to supply impactful information during every contact. Data from Adweek highlights the importance of providing meaningful content, as its relevance influences the decision-making process for more than 70 percent of consumers. That said, enrollment teams that use manual outreach platforms will struggle to serve relevant content at the speed of student demand. Moreover, they will lack the ability to align communications with each stage of the student recruitment process, preventing prospective students from accessing information that guides them toward enrollment.

Fortunately, automation enables schools to deliver relevant program information using the communication channel that students desire. When exploring how to integrate automation into their messaging platforms, universities should consider:

  • Types of information prospective students typically want to learn about a program.
  • Student needs that can be satisfied through automation, which will help maximize the value of phone conversations once they occur.
  • Automation tools that create stronger connections between students and the schools they are considering.

While conducting this analysis, it’s important to examine potential gaps between current outreach efforts and the emerging preferences of learners. This process can drive a productive search for a messaging solution that keeps pace with student needs.

The Solution: AI-Enabled Campaign Solutions

When we began searching for an automation solution, our focus was to enrich the enrollment experience for students. Keeping their needs in the foreground guided our search for a platform that would provide targeted program information in the format prospective students want to receive it.

We partnered with Acoustic to help augment our student recruitment process by including AI-configured campaign solutions. This platform allows us to tailor content-rich customer experiences and engage prospective students digitally via a cloud-based content management system. We can also use the platform to gather valuable data insights to design, manage, and continually refine intelligent campaigns across a variety of channels.

Through automation, we offer the self-directed experience that prospective students prefer. As they seek information online, we can deliver it in real-time via automated messages tailored to their needs, be it admissions details, program prerequisites, or career outcomes for a degree program. Plus, we can use their communication preferences to quickly serve relevant content via a call, text, email, or social channel.

Automation expedites processes that our enrollment managers used to perform manually, giving them time to personalize conversations they have with learners. As a result, they can nurture student relationships to make a more significant impact on the enrollment process.

Looking Forward: Stronger Engagement with Room for Further Innovation

Before we enhanced our student recruitment process through automation, we manually deployed and managed a wealth of communications targeting prospective students. Today, we have automated these efforts to personalize engagement according to individual needs. For instance, we can mine student data to customize email campaigns around their goals, as well as configure a partner school’s chat tools to respond to frequent questions in real-time. These enhancements help us deliver meaningful messaging to students almost instantly at any time of day, removing barriers from the enrollment process.

Artificial intelligence continues to introduce new ways to provide a better experience to prospective students. We will further leverage these technologies to access comprehensive insights about the motivations and behaviors of potential graduate students, along with options for applying predictive analytics to streamline our marketing and recruitment efforts. These capabilities allow us to refine and tailor content to each stage of the student journey, accelerating our support for their decision-making process.

To learn more about improving student recruitment and ways AI may influence higher education, visit our Resources page.

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