A chatbot solution with Dialogflow and Google Cloud Platform

The National Institute of Educational Technologies and Teacher Training (INTEF) ask as for a chatbot solution with automatic translation features

The National Institute of Educational Technologies and Teacher Training (INTEF) is the unit of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport of Spain responsible for the integration of information technologies in non-university educational stages

Its main goals are:

  • Carry out the elaboration and dissemination of curricular materials and other support documents to the teaching staff, the design of models for the training of the teaching staff and the design and the realization of specific programs, in collaboration with the Autonomous Communities, destined to the scientific update and teaching didactics.
  • Prepare and disseminate the materials in digital and audiovisual support of all areas of knowledge, so that information and communication technologies are an ordinary instrument of work in the classroom for teachers of different educational stages.
  • Carry out specific training programs, in collaboration with the Autonomous Communities, in the field of application in the classroom of Information and Communication Technologies.
  • Maintain the portal of educational resources of the department and the creation of technological tools and communication channels such as social networks to facilitate the exchange of experiences and resources among the teaching staff.

Challenge

Among the tools that INTEF makes available to its users, one of the most important is Aprende (learn) INTEF, a website that offers thousands of learning resources, and promotes the interconnection between teachers with an open training, flexible and versatile, fostering the ability to share and offering different ways to learn supported by people involved, who are on the other side, eager to help.

To this end, the Network Training, Experimentation and Social Networks Area of ​​INTEF has launched three offers, differentiated but complementary, from massive open and online courses:

The MOOCs, a term coined by Dave Cormier during the development of an open course on connectivism in 2008, are Massive, Open, Online courses (Massive Open Online Courses), are a form of training with proposals aimed at web dissemination of contents and a plan of learning activities open to collaboration and massive participation. In 2014, INTEF initiated a pilot MOOCs for Teacher Training program that is now fully consolidated, with a perfectly profiled MOOC INTEF methodology.

The NOOCs Nano Massive Courses, Open, Online, offers participants the opportunity to explore, learn and be evaluated on a key element of a competence, a skill, or an area of ​​knowledge in a period of time that can range from a minimum of 1 hour to a maximum of 20 hours of estimated effort of dedication to the NOOC. Although this is an experimental modality, the NOOC INTEF methodology is already well delineated, including the commitment to an estimated effort of 3 hours by NOOC.

SPOOC INTEF (Self-Paced Open Online Course) is an experimental self-training initiative aimed at the development of professional skills, such as the autonomous management of learning. Each SPOOC created by INTEF has an instructive design focused on the participants to reach, at their own pace, the learning objectives set, develop their autonomy as learners in digital contexts, improve their digital competence and demonstrate it in an aggregated digital product which adds value to the educational community.

Additionally, in the 'Open' space, we make available to any interested person, without prior registration, (has a guest access) a wide range of online tutorials belonging to the INTEF Network Training catalog, prepared for consultation from any computer connected to the Internet, at any time and from anywhere. It is important to note that this offer does not include tutoring of any kind. The offer is therefore made in a strict regime of consultation of materials and activity plan.

As you can see, the number and type of resources offered by INTEF is broad and very heterogeneous. Users usually have difficulties finding the resources they are looking for, or even worse, they are not even clear which resources exist.

Solutions

In this context, the INTEF chatbot was born in January 2017, with the aim of becoming a virtual pedagogical agent to help users understand the complex training ecosystem of INTEF and to browse and find easily through all the available resources.

This chatbot is a project based on natural language processing built with Google's Dialogflow technology and integrated also with translation API, allowing to generate different and interesting conversational scenarios to interact with users in more than 90 different languages.

This is the technical architecture of the system:

The user interacts with a chatbot window, a JS client built with Angular JS that can be easily integrated on any website and fired by demand depending on different triggering rules. In this case, the chatbot window raises when the system detects that a user is probably “lost”, meaning that is looking for a resource with no success.

The chatbot agent is originally developed in Spanish, but the chatbot client automatically detects the language used by the user, translating it if necessary. The agent response is also translated if needed, so the user can communicate with the chatbot agent in practically any language.

The chatbot is also able to use external information coming from a knowledge database to generate dynamic responses for the user, based on that information. Using webhooks and a connection with a database through an app in firebase, the chatbot can search information and specific resources for the user directly during the conversation.

After 10 months of development and shared work with Emergya, INTEF puts its chatbot at the disposal of the entire educational community in AprendeINTEF https://aprende.intef.es.

Results

Using this Google solution has undoubtedly been a success. It has allowed INTEF to focus our efforts on the didactic part, the creation of stories and conversations, since the part of technological development is so intuitive and transparent that in my team, all with teaching profiles, we have not had to worry about it at all. Today it is in an initial phase, but INTEFBot is already able to answer more than 500 different questions with their corresponding variations; It is multilingual, recognizes voice dictation and transcribes its content, and provides audio responses which contributes to progress in terms of accessibility as well.

Hopefully, in the future we will be able to continue moving towards deeper conversations, acquiring more pedagogy and really act as a true didactic and pedagogical facilitator in teacher professional development, which will undoubtedly also result in an economic benefit, an aspect that is also important at the time to select a solution like that. Another advantage of having opted for this cloud solution that Google offers.

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