How to Program a Chatbot – An Introductory Project and Student Perceptions

Ju Long, Juntao Yuan, Hsun-Ming Lee
Issues in Informing Science and Information Technology  •  Volume 16  •  2019  •  pp. 001-031
Aim/Purpose: One of the most fascinating developments in computer user interfaces in recent years is the rise of “chatbots”. Yet extent information system (IS) curriculum lacks teaching resources on chatbots programming..

Background: To better prepare students for this new technological development and to enhance the IS curriculum, we introduce a project that teaches students how to program simple chatbots, including a transactional chatbot and a conversational chatbot.

Methodology: We demonstrated a project that teaches students how to program two types of simple chatbots: a transactional chatbot and a conversational chatbot. We also conducted a survey to examine students’ perceptions on their learning experience.

Findings: Our survey on students’ perception of the project finds that learning chatbots is deemed very useful because chatbot programming projects have enabled the students to understand the subject better. We also found that social influence has positively motivated the students to learn chatbot programming. Though most of the students have no prior experiences programming chatbots, their self-efficacy towards chatbot programming remained high after working through the programming project. Despite the difficult tasks, over 71% of respondents agree to various degrees that chatbot programming is fun. Though most students agree that chatbot programming is not easy to learn, more than 70% of respondents indicated that they will use or learn chatbots in the near future. The overwhelmingly positive responses are impressive given that this is the first time for the students to program and learn chatbots.

Recommendations for Practitioners: In this article, we introduced a step by step project on teaching chatbot programming in an information systems class. Following the project instructions, students can get their first intelligent chatbots up and running in a few hours using Slack. This article describes the project in detail as well as students’ perceptions.

Recommendations for Researchers: We used UTAUT model to measure students’ perception of the projects. This study could be of value to researchers studying students’ technology learning and adoption behaviors.

Impact on Society: To our best knowledge, pedagogical resources that teach IS students how to program chatbots, especially the introductory level materials, are limited. We hope this teaching case could be of value for IS educators when introducing IS students to the wonderful field of chatbot programming.

Future Research: For future work, we plan to expand the teaching resources to cover more advanced chatbot programming projects, such as on how to make chatbot more human-like.
information system education, chatbot, artificial intelligence, student perceptions
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