Reversing the Disappearing Act to Drive Enrollment and Retention

CSU Global was the first fully-accredited, 100% online university. Being part of the Colorado State University system, students get the benefits of a larger state school at a fraction of the cost with total flexibility.

Location

Aurora, Colorado

Institution Type

4 Year Public

Number of Students

19,000

Customer Spotlight
Jerid Counterman
Jerid Counterman
Director of Student Experience

Jerid Counterman, Colorado State University (CSU) Global’s Director of Student Experience, faces unique challenges in his work. Unlike with CSU’s two in-person campuses (Fort Collins and Pueblo), he’s tasked with keeping students happy behind their computer screens.

Feeling the Pain

Making connections without a physical campus has its challenges. Students may attend classes for a semester or two and then vanish without a trace.

“We were trying to connect with students who had disappeared in a way that was both efficient but that could find those people that are notoriously difficult to reach,” Jerid says.

When he set out to solve the case of the disappearing student, Jerid had two sides to consider. One was that he wanted to make things more efficient from the university’s standpoint, keeping staff from wasting time on low-level tasks. The other goal was to make sure the student could find the answers they needed without losing interest and fading away.

CSU Global isn’t the only university trying to solve the mystery. Ocelot’s Higher Education Leadership Survey offers some clues. As many as 87% of university leaders said students are less likely to apply if they can’t find clear answers on admissions requirements. And 80% agree that students are confused by the multitude of systems they have to interact with. CSU Global wanted to find a solution that would help students navigate those varied systems and get them back on track to complete their coursework and graduate in a timely fashion.

Boosting Retention with 2-Way Texting

For outreach, Jerid knew it was important to reach students in the way they like to be reached. 

With hardly anyone answering phone calls, and email inboxes are almost always overflowing, increasing engagement via texting ensured CSU Global was actually connecting with students and bringing a more personal touch to communications.

Targeted, 2-way texting proved especially helpful in engaging the disappearing students. As an online university, CSU Global has students in all 50 states as well as in 50 other countries. That’s a large and difficult footprint to manage from a retention standpoint. 

“The footprint makes it really easy for students to fall off and just quietly disappear. We didn’t have any actual data about what students’ intentions were as far as returning within the near future, distant future, whether students were unable to return and why or whether students hated us and were done,” Jerid shares.

“The footprint makes it really easy for students to fall off and just quietly disappear. We didn’t have any actual data about what students’ intentions were as far as returning.”

With 2-way texting, Jerid was finally able to ask students whether they were coming back. In one text campaign, CSU Global sent out a one-question survey over text with seven possible reasons why they hadn’t returned. 50% of the 1,700 students who were messaged responded, returning a wealth of meaningful data. 

“[The survey] gave us the ability to go into that student’s record … and start to dig a little bit more about the experience we were providing to our students — possibly why they were moving on from us and what we could be doing differently as well.”


BY THE NUMBERS: COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY GLOBAL’S 2-WAY TEXTING CAMPAIGN 

✅ Messaged 1,700+ students who hadn’t attended in 4+ months

✅ 50% engagement rate

✅ Increased staff efficiencies and gave quantitative projections


Optimizing the AI Architecture to a Single “Brain”

Before working with Ocelot, CSU Global’s AI tech stack was split in two. 

“Our previous chatbot partner had two brains: one that lived on our public website and then one that lived on our gated student portal. Not only did it take additional time from the university to make sure that students were having that consistent experience between one brain and the other brain… but it also took additional man-hours and an uncoordinated dance between university staff in order to make sure that everything was consistent between those two,” Jerid explains.

“Our previous chatbot partner had two brains. Not only did it take additional time from the university to make sure that students were having that consistent experience… but it also took additional man-hours and an uncoordinated dance between university staff in order to make sure that everything was consistent between those two.”

Because of the two-brained system, Jerid needed to reduce redundancies between the public-facing and student portal chatbots. Ideally, he wanted all groups to be able to function with one solution.

Another dichotomy to address was communication for prospective students versus current students. Those two groups have very different needs, but it was inefficient to have separate systems serving each set.

Goldiebot Is Just Right

Where CSU Global had two separate chatbot brains before, Ocelot’s unique multi-tenant architecture provided one universal AI brain. 

“From a university staff perspective, we were scrambling to make sure that Bot A was giving the same answer as Bot B,” says Jerid.

With Ocelot, the university is able to serve prospective and current students with one solution: Goldiebot. Even more importantly, this single solution made it easier for all departments to be represented in the new chatbot’s capabilities.

“[Goldiebot] grabbed information from all of our resources as opposed to just a fraction of resources. So our career center, our writing center, our library and financial aid [were] able to come into that specific chat bot as well.”

The best part? Ocelot’s integrations with both Anthology and Salesforce deliver the tailored student experience that support both enrollment and retention goals. Prospective student leads are piped straight into Salesforce for the admissions office, while current students get personalized answers to their questions from SIS data wherever they happen to be interacting with Goldiebot.

But no matter how comprehensively Goldiebot is built, there will always be more complex issues that require an actual human to provide support. Enter AI-assisted live chat. Advisors and staff can join conversations when necessary and even transfer chats to other agents with specific expertise. And with the Zoom integration, CSU Global can maintain that personal, albeit online, connection.

Physically Far but Digitally Close

The results are palpable. In less than a year, Goldiebot has provided valuable retention data using 2-way texting and answered 45,000 questions for students. That’s more than double what CSU Global’s previous chatbot was answering. This light lift equates to more time for staff to do things that matter in creating successful students.

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