Alexa 

Learning

A voice-interaction based Alexa App that teaches young children English in an engaging and delightful manner through storytelling

OVERVIEW

Voice based assistants like Amazon Alexa, Google Home, or Siri, are becoming common in our lives, assisting us better and better each day. In this project, our team designs and builds an Alexa app that acts as a conversation partner and can help children of age 5-12 learn the English language. This is an educational app focused on areas with limited educational resources.

Duration:

4 months ( Jan 2019 - May 2019 )

Team:

Shashank Jain , Jayeeta Roy

My Role:

• Performed secondary research on best practices in designing for children, and UX design for voice interaction, to apply the learnings to the design of teaching conversational partner.

• Designed and developed the app, and extracted and implemented learnings from usability testings on the work of my teammate.

Guide:

Prof. Kishore Gawande

Research shows that interacting with other native speakers is the fastest way to learn a new language. There are many language learning programs that pair you with a native speaker, or have lessons built on the same concept ex. Pimsleur, Rosetta Stone or Babbel.

CHALLENGE

/ Problem Statement

How might we use Alexa as a  conversation partner 

to help children overcome language barriers by 

learning to speak English in areas with limited teaching resources?

Users :           Children (age 7-14)

Development area goals :

Listening

Vocabulary

Understanding

Confidence

Speaking

Articulation

RESEARCH

I conducted in-depth secondary research on what considerations come into play in two different scenarios

/ Designing for Voice Interaction - Key Takeaways

* Craft a conversational design interface

Design for error prevention

Provide users with information about what they can do

Let users know what functionality they are using

Limit the amount of information

Give clear and specific instructions

/ Designing for Children - Key Takeaways

Room to explore and support growth

Offer 

guidance

Encourage active participation

Relatable communication

Provide instant effect  to account for attention span

Give clear and specific instructions

To "Craft a conversational design interface", it becomes important to understand

What is a conversation?

DESIGN & DEVELOPMENT

/ Vision

With brainstorming around the idea of a stand-alone app, we converged and finalised a roadmap for an app which can be  integrated in the school curriculum. This would allow for fewer additional resources, more adoptability, and greater overall impact and learning. 

This was based on the idea that instead of just making Alexa a conversation partner, we looked to create an environment of English speakers, where children and learn and grow from each other too along with Alexa.

I created a 3 day teaching plan for the app, which aimed at developing different skills over 3 days. 

/ Conversation Flow

/ Making Conversation Human - Sample Utterances

/ User Testing

We conducted usability tests with our target audience,  children, in a classroom setting. Key takeaways were:

  • Response time of children was less than planned due to excitement. So spoke in between. Better planning for dialogue and error preventions needs to be done.

  • Alexa sometimes got confused due to multiple voices. Error prevention needs to be improved.

  • Children lose interest if Alexa goes into "Sorry, I cant understand" mode for long.

  • Story based quiz approach was loved by children.

  • Children came up with more variety of correct answers than had been accounted for in test run.

/ Future Steps

With valuable feedback, the project is being developed further. I am no longer a member of the core team, but regularly meet and consult on the design thinking and user testing process for the project.

@2019 Shashank Jain  |   sjain@utexas.edu