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How the University of Adelaide Leveraged Oracle Digital Assistant


Margaret Lindquist, Oracle BRANDVOICE contributor, wrote in Forbes about how the University of Adelaide is leveraging Oracle Digital Assistant (ODA) to answer important attendance eligibility questions from potential students and, ultimately, substantially grow its student population within the next five years. Catherine Cherry, the school’s director of prospect management, is putting innovative technologies to work to help meet that goal.

Life Before Oracle Digital Assistant

Prior to the introduction of the chatbot, the university’s admissions office couldn’t easily answer questions about eligibility for prospective students from outside of Australia who were curious about whether they could attend or not.

“Eligibility is incredibly complicated. You’ve got all the countries in the world, all the qualifications that come from those countries, all sorts of different English language requirements. All the possible combinations are just mind-boggling. For a human consulting a spreadsheet or a directory, it would take them ages.”

-Catherine Cherry, Director of Prospect Management at the University of Adelaide

Due to limited resources to do these individual evaluations, the answer that is most often given to students is “We don’t know.” If a prospective student is still interested at that point, then they need to apply and pay a [AU] $100 application fee just to find out if they are even eligible to attend.

In addition to providing a poor customer experience, the university also lost out on the opportunity to admit students who might have been eligible but declined to apply.

Life After Oracle Digital Assistant

Enter the international eligibility assessment chatbot, built using Oracle Digital Assistant—the second chatbot the university has introduced into its recruitment process in two years. The new chatbot asks prospective students a series of questions, and, through a simple data integration capability, accesses the data needed to immediately let them know whether they’re eligible to apply.

Since its introduction in June 2019, the chatbot has had more than 9,000 sessions with prospective students, without the need to involve university staff. Even better, more than 60 percent of the sessions have resulted in a positive answer. Either the prospect is eligible to apply immediately or will be eligible after completing some additional study.

“In Australia, we’re in a time zone that is the opposite of many places that we recruit from, so trying to deal with customers globally is a real challenge for us. The chatbot is opening the door to a host of new students who might not have applied before.”

-Catherine Cherry, Director of Prospect Management at the University of Adelaide

The university won’t know the chatbot’s full impact until January 2020, when it accepts next year’s students. However, the outlook is positive, especially because more than 80 percent of prospects who use the chatbot give it a rating of “awesome,” which is the top rank available.

University of Adelaide’s History with ODA

This isn’t the University of Adelaide’s first chatbot project. In 2018, Cherry’s team used Oracle Digital Assistant to build the ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank) chatbot, which gives prospective students the weighted, standardized test score they need to gain admission to colleges across Australia. The ATAR chatbot was also designed to fix a problem in the admissions process. ATAR scores arrive on a single day for thousands of Australian teenagers.

The frustrating challenge was that many students were eligible to add as many as nine schools- and subject-specific bonus points to their ATAR, which could improve their chances of gaining admission to tertiary institutions such as the University of Adelaide. To find out about those bonuses, or adjusted ATAR, students had to talk to university staff to determine the school’s specific criteria.

The ATAR chatbot was so successful, it managed to put itself out of a job by exposing a flaw in the score release process, Cherry says. The third-party organization releasing the unweighted number could just as easily have released the final, adjusted number. As a result, the organization responsible for calculating the weighted scores now sends them to students directly, without the university—or the ATAR chatbot—needing to be involved.

Future of ODA at the University of Adelaide

Oracle Digital Assistant has been a welcome addition to the University of Adelaide’s technology toolbox, says Cherry. The university started with Oracle CX Service in 2009, then expanded to Oracle CX Marketing. Adding Oracle Digital Assistant was an easy decision. Cherry often gets asked if the university looked at any other vendors, and she always gives the answer “Why would I?” The university felt that it already had a great partnership with Oracle and wanted to capitalize on that.

Going forward, Cherry is excited at the prospect of integrating new voice capabilities into the university’s chatbot repertoire as well. The students at the university span age ranges – from digital natives who are very comfortable using chat to older students who still like to call to get their information. Especially with international students, having 24/7 access to information that the chatbot provides has greatly improved the university’s customer experience and made prospective students more comfortable with the process and positive about the university.

For Cherry, any technology added to the recruitment process must provide either a better customer experience or solve a problem that can’t easily be handled by humans.

“The people on my team who are serving the customers see the chatbot as an extension of their ability to serve, rather than something that they fear will replace them. Ultimately we are here to support people through one of the biggest decisions they’ll make in their life—which university to attend.”

-Catherine Cherry, Director of Prospect Management at the University of Adelaide

To learn more about how the University of Adelaide leverages ODA to improve the experience for prospective and current students, check out the video below.

Additional Resources

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