TESOL Chatbot Use Case

David Robertson

TESOL Chatbot Use Case

0.0 Executive Summary

This report looks at the case study of adding a chatbot to a higher education business model that is based on providing training and assessment for TESOL courses. As these qualifications are predominantly studied online, the minimal viable product of a limited feature chatbot has been determined to assist students in real-time with their TESOL study and fits with business objectives of lowering costs in regards to teacher employment and has potential to increase student numbers. The chatbot business model meets the criteria for an efficient, feasible, viable, and desirable product. The implementation of a simple chatbot is in-scope for the business as there is a learning management system manager on-site who can manage the coding addition. The out of scope features such as downloading resources is not complicated but not in the scope of the MVP. The design thinking strategy is to use something similar to a Facebook page chat application that is simple for customers (students) to use as they are knowledgeable on using Facebook. The positive impact is that we can reduce costs as mentioned before and offer students a better experience compared to not having a chatbot for resource assistance.

0.1 Introduction

Chatbots are now very much available to all businesses with limited technical proficiency, but still pose a risk if not properly analysed for the business as various models exist, with various costly and technically elaborate features that may not suit the business or create too much stress and development costs which can mean extinction of the addition or potentially more dire consequences. In order for businesses to be ready for the addition of a chatbot, minimal viable product and business model canvases can be used to guide the stakeholders through the process of designing a product that will be beneficial to the business and stakeholders. This report will be helpful to those engaged in business where there may be ideas to add a chabot but do not know some of the various models that can be used to analyse if one will be not just necessary or not, but also feasible and viable.

0.0 Executive summary 2

0.1 Introduction 2

1.0 Overview of higher education institution and selected artificial intelligence technology use case summary 3

1.1 Artificial Intelligence use case selected and the MVP overview 3

1.2 Key benefits of the use case and success criteria outline 3

1.3 Strategic alignment of the use case to the institution’s objectives/goals outline 3

2.0 The problem statement and intended use case solution 4

2.1 Value Proposition Canvas for the use case 4

2.2 The value proposition canvas 4

2.3 Solving the problem statement 5

3.0 The business model canvas 6

3.1 Business model canvas segment information 6

3.2 Value proposition 6

3.3 Key activities 7

3.4 Key partners required 7

3.5 Detailed costs 7

3.6 Revenue streams 7

3.7 Feasible, viable, and desirable 7

4.0 MVP overview 9

4.1 The in-scope MVP and validation 9

4.2 MVP implementation timeline 9

4.3 Out of the MVP scope 10

5.0 Roadmap for the MVP case 11

5.1 MVP in-scope and out of scope roadmap 11

5.2 Roadmap summary 12

6.0 Design thinking 13

6.1 Design thinking for the chatbot 13

6.2 Design thinking and customer needs 13

7.0 Impacted business processes 15

7.1 Positive and negative impact on business processes 15

7.2 Positives vs. negatives 15

8.0 Recommendations and conclusion 16

9.0 References 17

1.0 Overview of higher education institution and selected artificial intelligence technology use case summary

The higher education institution offers students the opportunity to study Australian Government accredited vocational TESOL qualifications. These qualifications are usually studied online, where students require resources and handouts in order to complete exercises. The artificial intelligence selected to assist students is the chatbot, a simple cloud-based application that can be used to source information based on keywords used by students in information requests.

1.1 Artificial Intelligence use case selected and the MVP overview

The immediate need for the minimal viable product product to fulfill is to validate product-market fit. For product-market fit validation, the features that must be demoed are those that people pay for (Bernard 2018). The absolutely necessary features to make this saleable are the search functions for resources that assist students in completing their course. The feature most desired does not require any special AI such as available in advanced human-like chatbots, but just a simple response with links attached. Some chatbots costs can increase due to complexity (May 2016). 

1.2 Key benefits of the use case and success criteria outline

Brandlitic’s minimal viable product guide (Singh 2019) states a good MVP should be of user-centric design, solve real problems, and deliver value to the end user. This simple first adaptation will allow for a product to be available, and therefore contribute to students’ studies in real time. The chatbot is a start towards turning the registered training organisation into a smart school, where the criteria for success is improvement in the learning and teaching experience (Matviiok 2019). This must be done in a secure fashion, keeping costs low, and there is a balance between tech and education experts.

1.3 Strategic alignment of the use case to the institution’s objectives/goals outline

Aligning the new business model to the vision and how it will fit into the business architecture is paramount to effective performance (DuPont 2013). The business architecture strategy is to have the necessary elements that can help students be available to them as a first stage. The new business model fits into this vision by providing a low-cost and low-tech chatbot (compared to more advanced AI models) solution that has in mind the minimal viable product required for students to get information in real-time.

2.0 The problem statement and intended use case solution

The problem statement canvas can be used to define the problem that is to be solved (Ursache 2019) . The problem statement for this example can be students who are studying TESOL online (customer type, context), requesting information but not receiving resources in real-time (root problem) which can make students less satisfied with their training (emotional impact). By not making information immediately available to students, trainers must spend time each month sending students extra resources (quantifiable impact).

2.1 Value Proposition Canvas for the use case

(Google Drawings, n.d)

2.2 The value proposition canvas

Breaking down the value proposition canvas allows us to step away from the whole approach to analysing the business model and to connect each individual compartment for its own merit. What we can see from the example above is that we now have easily identifiable goals to work towards to improve services and products for customers. The value proposition helps the business to prepare what the customer wants (Orange n.d). It also allows us to concentrate on individual segments (Garner 2015).

2.3 Solving the problem statement

The user canvas allows us to clearly identify the users of the product, with the intention to understand the user.  We can then validate the problem in regards to serving the customer (user) with a product or service. It allows us to validate the problem we have and identify potential solutions (Krasadakis 2019) . The simple design of the value proposition canvas allows us to see clearly the two different sections, the customer segment, and align the value proposition of the product to each customer segment (Alex Osterwalder et al. 2017). The job pains students currently face are related to obtaining relevant and reliable information in real time. This causes serious issues with completing workbooks in good time and the feeling of frustration of not completing their units as quickly as they would like. By being able to deliver them resources in real-time, students will be more confident that they can complete workbooks and tasks in a quicker time period than they were able to do before the chatbot was made available. 

3.0 The business model canvas

(Google Drawings, n.d)

3.1 Business model canvas segment information

The business model canvas visualizes the value being created (Strategyzer n.d), which helps to negotiate the product-market fit and define the customer profile. Before starting the venture, the business canvas can be used to determine what the customer wants and whether the proposed product can be profitable and achievable in regards to partners and resources required. Each segment can be broken down to be individually analyzed, and when put together, an overall picture can be seen and either accepted as-is or modified and edited until an acceptable case is determined or the project cancelled if nothing satisfactory is achievable.

3.2 Value proposition

The value proposition visualizes the value being created (Strategyzer n.d), which helps to negotiate the product-market fit and define the customer profile. Before starting the venture, the value proposition canvas can be used to determine what product is available to the customer. Ideally this is something that the customer wants and has been researched during the value proposition canvas development period. The chatbot in question can be thought of in the context of studying. It is quite often difficult to find desired information. The chatbot will give students the feeling of being able to find information quickly and efficiently, and arguably will think it is an essential service.

3.3 Key activities

Simply put, Key activities are the steps the team must complete to make the product successful (Juncal n.d). with the business model generation, you can unite all your activities into production, problem-solving, or platform orientation (Altexsoft 2018). The chatbot activities are platform related, where we are to maintain it through coding, something a Moodle learning management system manager can do without hesitation.

3.4 Key partners required

Talking in terms of the network required who will assist in the key activities and provide the value proposition (McGill 2018). Breaking down the necessary partners from those that may not be required helps in efficiency and costing. Breaking down to the bare minimum, we can see the partners to be the chatbot cloud service provider and website programmer. We can see this as a reduction of uncertainty (Strategyzer n.d) as the key partner can maintain the operation of the chatbot. 

3.5 Detailed costs

Businesses need to think in terms of preventative measures to survive in downturns and when customer demands drop (Dudin et al. 2015), something that has caused an issue to the TESOL programme in 2020 due to governments around the World shutting down travel. Evergrowth uses the term “most important inherent costs” (Bloze n.d), and this term can be used to help separate costs associated with regular business operations and those associated only with the new business project. The SAAS based chatbot application service fee is set at AUD$50 per month, and this cost must be maintained over the continuance of the TESOL courses running online. There is no other cost as and maintenance of the chatbot can be done during regular website maintenance of the Moodle learning management system.

3.6 Revenue streams

One of the ways customers (students) reward businesses is by the increase in revenue for the value that you create (Slavic 2019). Using the asset sale price, we need to see that the value proposition can be turned into a revenue stream (Carnegie Melon University 2017). It has been determined that revenue will not come from a higher price from the sale of courses, but from an increase in scale due to the benefit of being the only TESOL training programme with a chatbot to assist students and as the chatbot will replace some menial tasks, a lowering in labor costs can be expected (exactly how much cannot be determined at this point). We should also see an increase in student numbers as people will see they can finish their course sooner.

3.7 Feasible, viable, and desirable

The desirability is explored through Customer segments, customer relationships, channels and value propositions (Jeffries 2017). A customer’s geographic, demographic and social context will define who the customer is (Belyh 2020), and creating products to suit the customer is paramount for creating demand. Segmenting is vital as it helps to pin who our customer is and for who we can make products for. A good example is how banks can break down customers into tiny units, such as power users, normal users, and lapsed users of online banking (Levin & Camner 2017), and thinking about TESOL students to specific points, in particular information seekers, does make our customer segmentation research satisfactory.

Managing the customer’s needs is concerned with creating improved shareholder value and building the customer relationships (Tarasi 2007) and understanding how these expectations are to be integrated into the current business model (Competence Business Model Canvas n.d) are vital in any business model canvas study. As the website is already operating and running as a resource for students to obtain information, we should see that our customer relationship will continue to be one based on education and training, and very well integrated into the business as they will be students of TESOL, and no changes to be required in the new business model. The value is simple to understand, the business model gives them one more way to find information and at no extra cost to them. The customers can feel as though they are getting more than what they get now.

Feasibility is explored through Key resources, key activities and key partners. How this business can be interpreted primarily is as a digital business and therefore focuses on the opportunities that relate to digital technologies (SAP White Paper 2016). The resources in this instance are digital, therefore we can think of physical space as not being required. Focusing on the right activities helps keep the product feasible (TDi n.d). As the activities involve an uncomplicated activity of basically what can be called data entry and nothing such as human-like AI is required, the process therefore can be determined to be uncomplicated. 

The activities are what actions and activities a company must take to make the business work (Strategyzer n.d). As the Moodle learning management system is already running, the only new activity is maintenance activity to occur. The activities in themselves are quite straightforward and without any technical difficulty for a website administrator. As it is not a physical object that requires transportation and exists only on the internet, the only activity that must be maintained will be any additions to the web based chatbot programming.

Key partners can be related through these activities. As the only activity is to install a chatbot (through CSS coding) on a Moodle learning management system website, the partner required is the tech person required to install the application, who already is maintaining the current Moodle learning management system.

Viability is explored through Cost structure and revenue streams. As the key resources, key activities and key partnerships are all rather limited in their changes to the business model, we can expect the costing to be attractive to the business. As mentioned, there is a once a month cost of AUD$50, with programming and database upgrades able to be done by the current website manager. We can think of them as “impact costs” (Knode 2016). Thinking in terms of what users currently pay, what users are willing to pay, and how much does each revenue stream add to revenue are standard questions to ask (Sparkle Project 2019), there is a hypothesis while students will not pay any more for the service, we can see that the scale of revenue stream can be increased due an increase in TESOL students.

4.0 MVP overview

The minimal viable product in tech, in particular coding and code-based applications, requires the code to work, be functional, and only comprise of the essential components to complete the proposed MVP job (Merrick 2015). Agile Alliance (n.d) states the MVP product is sufficient to learn about the business viability of the future product development.

4.1 The in-scope MVP and validation

Focusing in on end goals, for which the goal is to support students. No financing or mass financial layout is required, and an iterative approach can be used in order to test what ultimately can work (Bernard 2018), starting with a minimal viable product hypothesis based on an in-house simple (low-tech) model for testing. The iterative approach should take into account the customer value of receiving relevant resources in real time (Münch, Fagerholm & Johnson 2013).

4.2 MVP implementation timeline

One of the simplest timeline diagrams to work with is available from IT Craft (Suddia 2020).

(Suddia, 2020)

1 Is your solution an answer to a real problem?Yes, students want information to help them complete tasks, and this gets them that information.
2 List your ideasThe idea for a text-based chatbot is the only one put forward.
3 Prioritize your ideasOrganise resources to be listed when a query is made.
4 Determine what is possible for your given budget and timelineAs this is able to be set up by the LMS manager and for less than AUD$50 per month (Capterra, n.d), we can estimate this to be completed in one month.
5 Set up your success criteriaThe success criteria relates to whether students use it or not, and whether we see an increase in student numbers.
6 Determine your next stepsPlan the implementation processes and timeframe for each:1. Put together the resources required, including purchase of the chatbot (one month).2. Development of the chatbot, including content to be used (two months).3. Testing the application offline (one month).4. Install into the public website (one month).

4.3 Out of the MVP scope

Chatbots are now able to be very elaborate, from virtual reality, predictive text input features, messaging assistants, voice and virtual assistants (Shah & Priyadarshini 2020), all requiring extreme and elaborate programming efforts from programmers. These advanced forms of chatbots are not part of the MVP as they require much more technical (and therefore financial) resources that are not available (Saxena 2018). As an ability for customers to save searches that they find useful will be one simple feature to add on, this is out of scope for now as it is not required to start the minimal viable product as customers will be able to download all resources they search for.

5.0 Roadmap for the MVP case

In order to prepare the organisation for the roadmap, the organisation needs to have the skills in place (Nyle´n & Holmstrom 2015) or be able to source the skills and human capital required (CIPD 2018) to fulfill the requirements set out in the roadmap. The early in-scope functions need to be explained to those capable of completing the tasks involved to have a market ready MVP.

5.1 MVP in-scope and out of scope roadmap

MonthGoalTeamProductsOpportunity statement
1Complete purchase of the SAAS chatbot.LMS ManagerPurchase of the SAAS chatbot application, read instructions and manuals available.This is the crux of everything we are adding value to for the student.
2Keyword collocationsTESOL Trainer/ LMS ManagerCompiling a list of words commonly used in each module.Students will now have a database of terms they use that will help them find information.
3Resource collocationsLMS ManagerAfter the list has been compiled, each word is categorized and linked to presentations and resources that may be of interest to students.Having access to resources and handouts at the simple entry of a keyword now 
#4TestingLMS ManagerThe chatbot set up is to be tested at this point (not part of the in-scope/ out-of-scope requirement but should be mentioned)Ensure before the MVO model is released to the market, any coding/ programming/ keywording issues are found and fixed.
MVP is ready for market, install (or activate code) on the website (one month).
FutureMVP model to advanced modelLMS ManagerApplication of the download/ save function for students to keep copies of resources they found useful.This is where students can start to hold on to resources offline (as well as online).

In deciding which features to lay out in the roadmap, it is most important to keep use of opportunity statements and to break down the features being promoted in the roadmap (Moderna n.d). The opportunities can be broken into release to market now (in-scope) and opportunities for the future (out of scope). As we can see, downloading and saving resources does not need to be made available immediately, this opportunity can be kept out of scope for the first release to customers.

5.2 Roadmap summary

It helps set the stage for the activities to come, and reduce risk by knowing in advance what the process will follow (STX Next n.d). Preparing ourselves for what is to come is important as we can plan out what is needed over the MVP release roadmap timeframe. By maintaining commitment and respect to the process, all stakeholders in the in-scope release process stay on track to have a functional product in an agreed upon time (although iterations can cause a prolonged time frame, it is still in the in-scope development process and would be acceptable as stakeholders are still focused on the release of a product). 

6.0 Design thinking

Designing the product to suit the end user requires skill sets that differ from MVP development. Svarytsevych (2015) breaks implementing design thinking down into defining the customers’ needs, share findings with stakeholders to develop who will complete which activities, prioritize what activities are to be completed first, in particular related to the MVP, iterate the implementation to ensure market-ready performance, and validation of the in-scope product to enter the market. The Deutsche Bank used design thinking for its IT platform as IT departments are filled with programmers, engineers, and other technical staff who may not see the perspective of the customer (Brenner, Uebernickel & Vetterlie 2016), therefore needing assistance to make a user-friendly model. There must be a complete avoidance of releasing a product that is too technical as we are developing a product for language trainers who may not be experts at using computers.

Reference: Svarytsevych (2015)

6.1 Design thinking for the chatbot

Using the guide from Hobcraft (2018), the start will be to keep in mind the MVP case of a minimal chabot. Framing the potential MVP by questioning what customers use now, such as what model of chatbots are most popular now, will be paramount. The obvious choice would be the Facebook page messages chatbot model (Facebook n.d), as almost everyone studying TESOL has used this chabot style. The framework we have (Facebook style) will be reframed to work within the context of TESOL training. After this has been completed, there will be an effort to reflect on what it will look like to give the stakeholders time to think if it is appropriate, what may need to be added, and if we are missing any features or have too many features for the MVP. After this has been completed, we will then move on to putting the options that have been found in the design thinking process into a working model which can be the prototype that is delivered to customers.

6.2 Design thinking and customer needs

The Google Design Sprint follows a five day sprint and has two specific points, defining the problem and selecting the solution (Design Sprint, n.d). A design thinker works towards taking the product concept to a human-needs model (Razzouk & Shute 2012). Design thinking visualizes the model for human interests and the simplicity in human function. Selecting which solution will benefit the customer is most important at this design thinking stage as it must be efficient for the customer to find the product resourceful and worth using. It is advised to use everyday internet users to be a part of the design thinking stage as they will add the empathetic human touch to any design that is deemed releasable (Mortensen n.d). 

7.0 Impacted business processes

One area where information technology can assist service businesses is by eradicating inefficiencies (Colback 2018), which are in getting information to students in real-time. Over the years improvements in technology have led to quicker implementations and adaptations of chatbots (Luzhanskiy 2018). With the improvement of the internet of things does come risks, and so whether we are to proceed with upgrading technology that affects business processes must receive careful attention to both the pros and cons associated with the upgrades. Businesses can become antiquated (Candito 2016), and this causes issues with keeping up to date with the technology and advancements in tech-savvy business developments which is required to remain competitive in the modern marketplace (Stosic 2015).

7.1 Positive and negative impact on business processes

The positive effect of the chatbot on the business processes is that it can improve customer service by resolving repetitive requests (Rencybeth 2020). JISC’s six elements (n.d) identifies that adding AI-based chatbots helps add to the digital competency of a business and can add technical skills and knowledge in other areas of the business to improve service and efficiency (Simpson, Siguaw & Enz 2006). Businesses can also be negatively affected by a high error rate in the new process’ setup, it can be unreliable by poor coding or maintenance (EXCELOR n.d).

7.2 Positives vs. negatives

Innovation-orientated firms are able to offer customers more than those not involved in innovation (Simpson, Sigauw & Enz 2006). As is noted the innovation of the chatbot being proposed will allow students to get information they want in real-time, and it will do it in a cost effective (AUD $50 per month) application that can be programmed by someone proficient in Moodle learning management systems, which is already available within the organisation. The negatives such as poor coding and maintenance are not concerns as there is someone available who understands the basics of Moodle and its maintenance needs. The advantage of starting to create an environment of change and development that customers want will far outweigh the potential disadvantages of adding a chatbot, as keeping the business model away from innovation orientated developments keeps the business model in a stagnate state (Decker 2019).

8.0 Recommendations and conclusion

The use case is simple and straightforward, we are not dealing with a technically elaborate or difficult programming-wise application. Our value proposition is focused on the TESOL student customer, and our product solution will be able to assist in the pain students (customers) now face with trying to find information related to their queries. The proposed off-the-shelf solution (with some input from the business) to assist students in finding and sourcing information relevant to their studies. The business model canvas ascertains that the business has the ability to implement such a minimum viable product as the stakeholders involved are available, the activities are not complicated and any Moodle learning management system administrator could manage the changes required, and the model we are using is of low cost and will increase enrolments, so scalability is there for the revenue stream. With very little key partners required, there will be less delays and as the people involved are knowledgeable of TESOL, there will be a better understanding of what needs to get done.

As the viability, feasibility, and desirability of the project is a net positive, the project should be started. It will be most important to organise the feasibility team to purchase the resource (chatbot SAAS application) and organise the activities required with the key stakeholders as soon as possible to not cause any delays. We should be able to see quickly an increase in revenue by customers (TESOL students) seeing such a value proposition as helping them complete their workbooks, and therefore course, quicker.

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