Why Live Chat for Higher Ed?

When I applied to college over a decade ago, I would have loved to ask questions of admissions online. And as a student, getting degree info or career guidance from my dorm room would have been amazing! 

As more and more higher ed institutions adopt live chat, modern students, applicants, and alumni don’t always need to wait on a phone line or walk over to an office. You’ll capture and answer questions that students ask at any time, even after hours. Live chat opens up a line of 24/7 communication between universities and their students.

Olark higher education cover University of Montana
Not only can you work more quickly with live chat, but you can also work smarter. Reviewing live chat data can help you improve your website FAQs and learn more about your visitors at scale, which means easier self-serve information and more personalized interactions. 

And that all adds up to faster responses, greater conversions, and higher satisfaction rates. 

Chat doesn’t just improve the student experience though. It also makes higher ed staff’s lives easier, saving time and resources. You can route questions quickly to the right department and free up the phone for complex inquiries. Each person you serve on live chat is one less walk-in, call, or email you need to field. You’re switching contexts less often, so you can focus on having more quality interactions with each of your students. 

Institutions have also found that live chat has allowed them to quickly adapt to the unexpected, like pandemic closures and the need for remote communications at scale.

So what does that look like in real life? I’m glad you asked… Here’s how four institutions are using live chat.

Live chat use cases: how institutions are benefiting

Higher ed institutions use chat to boost enrollment, improve their sites, pivot quickly to remote support, and more. Click into each of these profiles to learn more.

1) HBA Learning Centres boosted their enrollment by 15% through proactive visitor outreach (chat automation) and learning and updating their site from chat transcripts. Originally, they had been seeing a lot of website traffic but it wasn’t translating into many inquiries. Live chat helped them bridge the gap and engage more effectively with visitors.

2) University of Montana decreased their repetitive inquiries by 50% and improved their website using live chat. They were looking for ways to minimize phone calls and walk-ins due to cuts in clerical staff, and used chat transcripts to inform website additions, which led to a reduction in queries because visitors could find more of the answers they needed. The university also used a special chat feature called co-browsing to help troubleshoot visitors’ forms.

3) Florida SouthWestern State College served over 10,000 students in its first three months of COVID-19 closures, using Olark Groups for departments like advising, admissions, and financial aid. Jason Dudley, Chief Information Officer, explained, “We would’ve been dead in the water without Olark [live chat] when we closed campus. Student services were shut down, but we were able to get student services back up and running remotely within a week with Olark."

4) The Career Center at University of Virginia helps more students fit in last-minute guidance (with live chat making up nearly half of their one-on-one student engagements!). Students would often procrastinate on visiting the Career Center to prep for career fairs and interviews. Chat provides a valuable way to connect on short notice and meet students where they are. 

Tips to get started

Not every live chat tool has exactly what a higher ed institution needs. We recommend looking for the following criteria:

Easy implementation

  • Gets you up and running quickly
  • Is user-friendly for multiple departments
  • Supports you with training and onboarding


  • Lets you proactively reach out to visitors
  • Sends greetings based on criteria you choose
  • Gives you a way to capture messages in off-hours
Efficiency and Shortcuts
  • Offers easy routing and tagging capabilities
  • Has shortcuts to save and resend complex answers

  • Accessible (WCAG 2.0), privacy-aware (FERPA, GDPR, CCPA), and secure (NIST 500-83, HECVAT).

Insights and Analytics
  • Recognizes return visitors
  • Has survey abilities before and after a chat
  • Gives insights into visitor intent and challenges by tracking site activity
  • Provides transcripts to learn from 

  • Integrates easily with your web and CRM platforms (CMS, Slate, ModernCampus, Wordpress, Drupal, OmniUpdate)

Want to learn more about chat for your institution? 

Connect with Us!

Check out relevant topics on: Olark Essentials, Making Business Human

Kerry Vineberg

Read more posts by Kerry Vineberg

Kerry is a B2B technology writer and content marketer. She enjoys exploring her home city (and tech hotspot), San Francisco.