Speech Driven Services at Higher Education Institutes

Finding course syllabus, looking for open courses and available days, looking for test results or semester grades, finding the right recorded lecture in the library, taking care of tuition payments…sounds familiar? These, and many others, are daily tasks of every college and university student or staff member. These tasks are time consuming; require investments in manning service positions and demand intensive efforts from the institute in order to assure smooth operation throughout the year.

When considering the unique characteristics of the higher education market - it requires support of massive volumes of information with high quality of service and service to thousands of students and staff members in order for it to be able to operate.

Universities and colleges, as the base of academic knowledge and intelligence, always led the way in bringing progress into everyday life and adopting new and innovative technologies in order to improve existing situation and solve problems. Considering all of the above - the use of speech recognition technology seems a natural and required technology to use in the high-education environment.

Speech recognition is the ability of an automated system to recognize general, naturally flowing utterances (voice inputs) from a wide variety of users. It recognizes the caller's response to a specific call flow and moves along the flow of the call. Speech recognition creates an intuitive way for a human-machine interaction and gradually replaces the traditional and out-of-date touchtone technology we all know.

Let's see what could be the main motivations to use speech recognition in the higher education world:

  • Auto Attendant: internal telephone networks within higher education institutes are a major means of communications among faculty staff, supporting staff members and students. The ability to dial to a specific subscriber by just saying the person's name or position (avoiding the need to remember extension numbers or first few letters of the person's first or last name) proposes an efficient and convenient service which can decrease the need to support directory assistance and saves caller's time.
  • Support service centers (via IVR systems) - automating the services given to the institute members will increase the quality of service, decrease operational costs and provide an intuitive way of interaction between the person and the service center. Services that could be "voice driven" are student's registration to courses, payments and credit cards activities, changes in existing registrations and more.
  • Voice activated voicemails - the ability to use your voice in order to control your voicemail brings new features like "please play only messages from yesterday" or "I would like to check if I have a message from "XXX." All of these eliminate the need for touchtone operation of the voicemail and upgrade the voicemail's capabilities.
  • Performing automatic "key words search" - speech recognition based systems can provide advanced services such as intelligent search for specific words over large databases of recorded lectures. With this service, students and lecturers looking for the lectures which relate to "Spanish inquisition" for example, will be able to run a simple query and immediately get references to relevant tapes.
  • Voice portals: the ability to get relevant information with 24/7 availability in an automated way. Students can query about courses contents, tests results, semester grades, open courses, etc. All of this information is required on daily basis by a massive number of people and requires costly support by human agents.

Analysts believe that it is only a matter of time until speech recognition is widely adopted in large organizations since the advantages this technology brings cannot be overlooked.

This article presents only few examples of the huge potential of using speech recognition in the higher education market. By adopting this technology, not only will the institute improve its operational efficiency and the quality of service to its members, it will also position itself as a technology leader and an adopter of advanced technologies.

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