Thursday, March 07, 2019

Meet Beau, a reflection chatbot

Working in a small group to design a blended training I felt very annoyed. I had the feeling we were investing too much energy in defining the goals and was worried that the team was not going in the right direction. Usually I can put my finger on what we need to do, but this time I did not know exactly where it had gone wrong. I decided to use our own "Beau the reflection chatbot". Beau asked me a number of questions such as: "What did you do in this situation?" "How did it work out?" It gave me a different insight: that I have to think more about the role of goals in a certain process and to communicate more clearly about this. You have to play with the importance of learning objectives and the level of detail, depending on the situation. In an open and social process, for example, you formulate your goal more openly. Make goals / learning objectives also the subject of conversation. Thanks to Beau!

Who the hell is Beau?

Beau is the chatbot I developed together with Kirste den Hollander and Steven van Luipen,  a prototype. We wanted to see if you could use a chatbot to support reflection. And you certainly can! I am enthusiastic about the possibilities, although I also see the limitations of Beau. Beau is a scripted bot, in which no artificial intelligence is used. However, talking to specialists I learned that sometimes a scripted bot is all you need.

Beau was tested by 51 people and these are the results

Our conclusions:

  • Most people are positive about the use of Beau, the tone and the language used in the conversation. But more importantly, half of them have gained a new insight through the conversation. 
  • Talking to a text chatbot instead of a person, and typing instead of talking often helps the reflection process. It gives people time to think and enables them to determine the rhythm of the conversation themselves. 
  • In the live confession the reflection of a confessor is central and the confessional taker only asks questions. That role can perfectly be played chatbot. 
We see different possibilities to use a chatbot for reflection. You can encourage people to do this on a regular basis or you can meet as a team to use a reflection bot and exchange them at regular intervals. It is important, though to take into account that a (small) group of people has a lot of resistance to reflecting with a chatbot.

Do you want to read our article about Beau?


Or download
Meet Beau the reflection chatbot

Curious about the chatbot design process?


I have learned and read a lot about the design process, including experiences and got training with IBM Watson. Do you want to learn about bots yourself and maybe even do a first exploration of possible bots? Have a look at this workshop I may facilitate for your organization. 

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Using personas in design of online and blended learning

Why would you work with personas when designing online or blended learning? In this blog I will share my enthusiasm about working with personas. Working with personas is not only useful for marketing professionals but also useful in a design process for learning trajectories.
Abdel lives in the capital of Mali, studies journalism and is eager to learn. He has internet access via the university network on his Huawei smartphone. He would like to learn how he can get in touch with other students in other cities in West Africa and as a journalist he would like to share developments from Mali with the rest of the world.

Hawa lives in the countryside of Mali and buys cards to access to the internet on her mobile, so she has an internet access roughly three times a week. She would like to learn how she can make short videos about her life for the NGO she works with. They have asked her to record and share how she lives and works. 
Abdel and Hawa do not really exist but are personas we have created and discussed during the design of an online citizen journalism course for people in Mali. The names Abdel and Hawa often come back: if Hawa only logs in 3 times a week, shouldn't we allow a full week for the photo assignment instead of 3 days? It also leads to the discussion whether we can actually design one course for Abdel and Hawa. In this way we come to the solution of weekly bonus assignments because Abdel might drop out if the course is not interesting enough. Abdel and Hawa prove their usefulness in this design process because the use of these two personas allow us to get into the skin of our target group. We can continuously test the design against "real personas".

Aren't personas rather used for marketing purposes?

Working with personas has its background in marketing and design thinking. A persona is a very detailed description of a user of a product or service. Marketers use it to develop products and to think about marketing a product. The dutch Albert Heijn was critized by the UN because of their personas. The customer profiles would lead to stereotypical images of customer. That is the first pitfall of working with personas. It can lead to a stereotyping of the practice. If you have that feeling, it may be good to talk more/again with the target group.


How to develop personas?

It is best to developing the personas in an interactive session with a design group consisting of various stakeholders, often content experts and other actors. A first step is to discuss the most important (sub) target groups. Then you divide the target groups among your design group. Ask your design group to crawl under the skin of a participant. In small groups you ask them to make a persona by going through the following steps:
  • Make a drawing of a person
  • Give a name
  • Add a global description of his / her life and work
  • How does he / she use the internet? via which devices?
  • Why does he / she participate in the course, training or community?
  • What does he / she want to learn?
  • What is he / she allergic to?
After this invite the groups to present their persona in the I-form (I am Hawa and I live in Sarafere) so that people can really empathize. I have experienced that some people will make a caricature of the persona, especially if they have a difficult relationship with the group the persona represents. Try to ask for positive aspects. In fact, this exercise also gives you a sense of whether the design group has sufficient knowledge of the target group. Ofcourse, you may adjust these questions yourself or use an empathy-map.
An interesting tool to start personas may be Thispersondoesnotexist. The site will give you a random photo. Similarly uinames will provide you with fake names. You may select a country and then by clicking on the spacebar you get a fake name, that's how I get Camiel de Ruyter born in 1989. I have not tried this yet, but it might stimulate creativity.


Why I believe in the power of personas

The main design challenge is to make sure your design suits the needs and practices of the participants. Content experts in particular often think about what is important for everyone to know rather than what the participants need. At the same time, the content experts often know the target group very well. Of course you can also invite the audience or do interviews, but you may use personas if you think the subject matter experts and others know the participants quite well.

I have very positive experiences with working with personas. Making personas is ideal to get the knowledge of the design group about their colleagues or the target group on the table. Often this knowledge is available in the design group. By working with personas the group develops empathy and gets a lively image of the target group. You force your design group to get into the skin of the future participants. Personas are fictional characters and not persons that make it much more neutral to speak about them.

For the best effect, you should regularly look through the eyes of the personas during the design. With Hawa and Abdel, that worked out well, in other cases you sometimes forget to use the personas lateron during the design process. I do not really know how that is. Maybe too many personas? Or do you still start thinking from the content side and is that a pitfall?


Designing jointly with the target group versus working with personas

An alternative to working with personas is inviting the target group to participate in your design process. This is not always possible, as in the case of Hawa and Abdel. If you invite representatives of the target group in the design process, it is important that they can think along from a broader perspective than their own interests. A persona can be a good alternative because you talk about fictitious case and this gives space to play with the design. When 'real' participants say something, it can not be ignored but it may not be representative for the whole group of participants.

Interested in working with personas? Read also:

Friday, January 11, 2019

Tool of the month: do-it-yourself animation videos

Anyone can now create an animation video using handy do-it-yourself tools. In this blog you will find a number of tools and tips to start with. In every Ennuonline course there is someone who proudly shows a self-made animation video. Margreet rushed in very enthusiastically in the previous course: "Is there a timeslot to show my video?" Of course that was allowed. Her video received a lot of praise and admiration from all participants. Hence the question to Margreet was how much time it took to make ... 'I don´t dare to count but twice I continued till 1 o´clock at night

So the good news is that you do not always need a professional to make a video. The bad news is that it takes you quite some time the first time to learn the program. But it is fun and addictive to do. And the second time it's a lot faster.

 

What is an animation video?

An animation is a film without actors, but many drawings in succession provide movement. This is an example of a professional animation video about teamwork.
 

Within the do-it-yourself animations for learning purposes you can distinguish between:
  •      The whiteboard animations
  •      The drawn animations
  •      The stop motion videos
1.Whiteboard animations
The whiteboard animation consists of a narrative and a person who draws along and thus illustrates the story. These are now popular. A well-known animation is the video about motivation from professionals titled Drive by RSA animate.

  Whiteboard Tools you may use:
2. Drawings
There are many tools that already contain drawings that you can select and where you can add texts, often with different characters. See a trial below from me a few years ago.
Tools to use:
In the latter two you can also use video material that is already online and you can use it in your own video.
3. Stop motion videos
Stop-motion is an animation form in which you photograph an object while it is moving. Then you play the frames in a row. This makes it seem like the object is moving.
I have see the stop motion app for iphone and ipad, but I haven´t tried the app. I don´t really know how easy or difficult it is.

 

Does it work?

There is research on the effect of whiteboard videos by Richard Whiteman. The research shows that whiteboard animation is very effective in retaining attention compared to talking head videos. 15% more information was picked up and remembered. More information in this video.

 

Tips to make your own animation videos


The most important work is to think through your key message and your storyline. Make sure you get this right and that the story is not getting too long.
  •  You can start well with a free account. If you use it more often, it is certainly useful to take a paid account because you then have access to more characters and can make longer videos for example.
  • When choosing between making your own animation versus asking a professional, you can look at your available budget, the number of viewers (it pays off) and how long you can use the video. If the content of the video changes quickly, you may want to try yourself.
  • You could also make an animation video before you have a professional video made. This allows you to test and easily show it to a professional animation studio you are looking for.
  • An alternative is to work with drawings. A good idea is to have the drawings made via Fiverr.com. You can also have an animation made via Fiverr.

Do you have any more tips, questions or a nice video you are proud of? Share it below in the comment!