Winter 2016
Microsoft Expo
Design 483

Camila De Vincenzo
Paige Kwon
Kim Le
Sarah O'Connor
Christine You


A three month long project that focuses on a solution that utilizes a conversational user interface (CUI). After exploring various topics, my group and I decided to land on the topic of high school education. 

After concluding our primary and secondary research, we found that there are systemic limitations in the current educational system that lead to students not receiving an individualized education experience. We created a CUI that provides a personalized learning experience by tailoring education the students' learning styles, preferences, and life experiences.



How might we design a product, service or solution that demonstrates the value and differentiation of a CUI?


During our secondary research, we looked at current CUI's like Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and other existing platforms that could help inform our design decisions. While exploring the space of education, one of our group members came from a small school and noticed many problems within the system. Therefore, our initial focus was concentrating on underserved high schools because it presented a wide range of opportunities.


Initial target audience:

+ high school students
+ at small underserved schools



For our prototype, we performed a 'Wizard of Oz' effect. We had a looped video of a moving sound wave playing on a computer, while in the background, a person from our team was talking to the student in real time. We did not tell the students we interviewed that they were talking to a real person but created the illusion that they were talking to a computerized voice. Below is a diagram of how the prototype works. 


This is a demo of how the prototype worked and a student's reaction of interacting with Apollo.

These are some of the reactions from students interacting with Apollo for the first time and hearing its voice.



To begin our user testing, we went to School 1, a small public high school where one of our group members attended. We wanted to see if students could benefit or potentially utilize a CUI specifically for education. At School 1, we interviewed various teachers, counselors, the principle, and a variety of students. From our test run, we concluded four main observations and insights.

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From our testing, we saw that Apollo could benefit students from smaller high schools and that if the product existed, they would utilize it and find a way to integrate it into their lives. We were curious to see if our target audience could expand to a wider range of all high school students instead of students from small high schools. Therefore, we decided to interview more students from School 2, a medium sized private school, and School 3, a large public school. 


Students wanted some type of feedback that tells them that Apollo is listening to them

Students would utilized Apollo mainly for homework and college preparation

Some students thought Apollo could also help them in college or a new setting

Apollo should be strictly for education and not be engaged or interfere in personal or social life

Some students wish Apollo existed


After our user testing, we looked at the students' feedback about Apollo and saw great results. Here are the main takeaways from the prototype:

At first, students were uncomfortable about conversing with Apollo

If the interviewers were not present, the students would feel more comfortable talking to Apollo

Students enjoyed the fact that they could have a conversation with Apollo

Students did not mind that Apollo was a man's voice and thought it was refreshing

Apollo's humanized voice seemed more personable than other CUI's like Siri or Cortana



After our second round of testing and receiving feedback from School 2 and School 3, we saw that Apollo could not only benefit students at smaller high schools, but could be used across all high school students. We recognized that we could change our target audience from students at small schools, to all high school students. From our research, we concluded five overall insights about high school students' needs, wants, and education.




A CUI that provides a personalized learning experience for students by tailoring education to their learning styles, preferences, and life experiences.


Act as a personalized tutor to help motivate and work through the material with the student

Share student performance with teachers to assess trends and identify problematic areas

Share information about education and career options with the student while providing a comfortable space to discuss future wants and goals

Provide guidance when navigating the process of preparing, applying and paying for college

Engage with the student on a variety of platforms that best suits the student's needs and current situation



This solution is not trying to change the current high school education system, but rather implement a tool that can help motivate and encourage students to pursue their goals and higher academic endeavors

Apollo is not tied to just one device, but is cross-platform and lives on existing technology (smart phones, tablets, laptops) and futuristic platforms that are yet to come

With a limited amount of time, we were unable to completely refine the design and complete system operations. However, we designed with the assumption that a CUI could function at this capacity