Administration adopts chatbot to improve retention

Claudia and Caroline Recchi are Italian sisters who, while living in New York in 2018, invented a resourceful mechanism with college students in mind. Edsights uses “research-backed chats to engage and help students over text message,” according to the official Edsights website. In doing so, it collects non-cognitive data about students’ college experiences and connects them to campus resources when problems arise.

Claudia Recchi, CEO of Edsights, spoke in an interview with Gordon Freeman about the difficulties she and her sister faced in college. As international students in the United States, they found it hard to navigate. They did not have a family support system there and were not made aware of resources that could help.

The goal here was to improve collegiate retention, the percentage of a school’s first-time, first-year undergraduate students who continue at that school the next year. They saw too many students feeling alone and ultimately wanting to drop out.

The Recchi sisters wanted to create a retention technology that had direct student involvement, and thus would improve students’ experiences. Colleges and universities that have implemented the system have already seen statistics improved. According to the official Edsights website, retention has increased over 12 percent in these schools.

Many colleges and universities in the Kansas/Missouri area have already adopted Edsights. A few among them are Missouri Western State University, Avila University and now Baker.

Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness Andy Jett was a part of the team of strategic planners who worked together to fill the need of a new retention tool. They knew they needed something that would be more interactive and reach students in a way they are more familiar with. After doing some research of other products in the marketplace, the team discovered Edsights and found it was a group that the Kauffman Foundation, a local philanthropic organization, was promoting as well.

“Students are our number one priority. Keeping students at Baker is important for the students and the university,” Jett said. “Goal one of the 2022 Strategic Plan is Exceptional Student Experience, and if students stay at Baker, that is a sign we may be doing things well and students want to stay.”

All freshmen students at Baker were required to take a survey online and sign up for the chatbot as a part of the Baker Experience 100 program. Non-freshmen students were encouraged to participate as well. 266 first-year students, 121 second-year students and 165 third or fourth-year students participated in the survey.

Students can reach out to WOWzer about any questions or concerns they have and will be directed to helpful resources on Baker’s campus as well as receive encouragement. The University recently purchased this product with the hope that it will improve student retention and wellness.

“The more information and context students can share about the issues where they are happy with the university and those items they are concerned about their experience will only help them in the end by driving the university to provide support and help students be successful,” Jett said.