By Anadi Upadhyaya, Senior Director, Compensation Product Development
Earlier this year, I experienced one of my most enriching and valuable experiences as an Oracle Volunteer: coaching students to employ technology for good. This opportunity was made possible by the Oracle Education Foundation, whose program engages Oracle Volunteers in coaching high school students through classes at the intersection of design thinking and STEAM disciplines. As an Oracle Volunteer, I had the opportunity to help Design Tech High School (d.tech) students experience artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies by building Chatbots for Good.
After an introductory team-building activity, students were introduced to Oracle Digital Assistant on the Oracle Cloud platform. Multi-day workshops about the platform provided great learning opportunities on chatbots—a computer program that allows humans to interact with digital devices as if they were communicating with a real person. We leveraged a human-centered design approach for building chatbots using the five-phase model of design thinking: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test.
Following a deep dive into chatbot architecture, each team was paired with a nonprofit organization for which to design a chatbot solution. Students started by interviewing with staff at nonprofit organizations. This process helped teams validate findings from their own research and discover new details about their users’ needs. Through researching, observing, and listening to the organizations, teams devised actionable problem statements. Next, students were tasked with crafting the widest possible range of ideas to arrive at the best possible solution.
The ideation process provided the fuel to keep students motivated, plus the building blocks of chatbot creation, i.e. Intent, Utterance, Entity, and Dialog Flow. Conversational design principals were used to achieve better human and bot communication design. Chatbots were generated iteratively, and each iteration helped teams get closer to the final solution.
Soon, it was time to put the prototypes in the hands of internal users to solicit feedback. Teams provided constructive feedback on chatbots developed by other teams, recorded feedback on their own chatbots, and gained empathy for end-users. Using this feedback, teams refined and prepared their chatbots for the final day of class.
On the final day, d.tech students showcased their prototypes with family and friends, as well as with Oracle employees. They also shared learnings and insights gained in the Foundation’s class.
Over the two weeks, Oracle Volunteer coaches hosted “coach popups” to share our personal and professional journeys with the students. Each coach also had the opportunity to engage deeply with a single team, which was a great way to build rapport and understand their strengths and interests.
Through this process, students gained deep exposure to real-life experiences and discovered the magic behind technology. This was a rewarding learning experience for both teams and coaches, and I’m excited to see what solutions these students build using technology for good.
Focus on Education starts in August and invites employees to find or lead a virtual Oracle Volunteering project that supports education-focused nonprofits or public schools. Stay tuned for more content and blog posts about the initiative.