A Phenomenological Exploration of Students’ Perceptions of AI Chatbots in Higher Education

Soniya Antony, Department of Education, Alagappa University, Karaikudi, India
R. Ramnath, Department of Education, Alagappa University, Karaikudi, India
Email: soniyaantony4@gmail.com
Published: August 26, 2023

Citation: Antony, S., & Ramnath, R. (2023). A Phenomenological Exploration of Students’ Perceptions of AI Chatbots in Higher Education. IAFOR Journal of Education11(2). https://doi.org/10.22492/ije.11.2.01


This study examines the impact of AI chatbots as a communication medium on student engagement and support in higher education. The qualitative method and Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) were employed as the research approach, utilizing in-depth semi-structured interviews. Purposive sampling was used to select 11 participants from the state of Kerala, India, in higher education. Data analysis followed the Systematic Text Consideration (STC), a five-step process, including framing meaning units, condensing meaning units, coding, creating sub-themes, and deriving themes. By exploring themes aligned with the UTAUT2 constructs, a comprehensive understanding of the factors influencing student engagement and support was achieved. A total of eight themes were identified, encompassing “Effectiveness and Limitations,” “Beyond,” “Enrichment,” “Optimization,” “Synergize,” “Streamlining Communication,” “Engage+AI,” and “Refine.” These themes provided compelling evidence of the transformative potential of AI chatbots in facilitating effective communication, enhancing engagement, and offering timely support. The study’s results carry significant practical implications for higher education institutions. Embracing AI chatbots, universities and institutions can enhance student engagement and support through efficient communication, personalized recommendations, and streamlined interactions. These chatbots offer a balance between quick assistance and human expertise, optimizing both routine tasks and complex inquiries. Additionally, addressing security and privacy concerns is crucial to fostering trust and successful integration. Overall, embracing AI chatbots can transform the educational experience, making it more efficient, engaging, and supportive for students in higher education.


chatbots, AI chatbots, higher education, Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, UTAUT2