How Artificial Intelligence can support learning and development

by Leena Malik, MBA

Imagine that you want to learn French. You load the “French Lessons in Paris” module on your PC and don your special 3D eyeglasses. You’re now in a new world, welcome to Paris; the city of love!

Your assignment is to find your way to the Eiffel Tower, which you see way afar in the distance. You ask someone on the street for directions. You’re struggling and can’t seem to find the right words. Seemingly out of nowhere, a young girl shows up and she seems just like la real person! She asks in your own native language if you need help, and proceeds to walk with you while teaching you French until you arrive at your destination.

Could this scene using artificially intelligent learning be a way of learning in the future? How can Artificial Intelligence support learning and development? Artificial Intelligence is a big topic and this article will narrow specifically on the potential impacts of Artificial Intelligence on Learning and Development (L&D).

What is Artificial Intelligence?

There is no universally accepted definition of Artificial Intelligence (AI). A simple definition from the Encyclopedia Britannica states, “Artificial Intelligence is the ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings.” Intelligent beings are those that can adapt to changing circumstances.

How can AI support L&D?

Technology has propelled L&D to evolve at a rapid pace. Bersin by Deloitte predicts that within a few years we will move into the age of “Intelligent Learning.” Intelligent learning leverages technology to put the learner front and center. Instead of passive learning, it provides the opportunity for the learner to act and behave in a rich learning context (see image below).

The number one potential benefit to AI is the ability to personalize the user experience to learner needs by:

  • Providing 24/7 on-demand access to just-in-time immersive learning, tailored to one’s specific learning style, needs and preferences. For example, AI could shift something written into visuals for visual learners and read it out for auditory learners.

  • Facilitating the full cycle of learning including measurement and reinforcement by enabling back-end machine learning delivered through speech recognition and intelligence user interfaces. Rich just-in-time data analysis would allow AI to provide on the spot feedback, just the right testing and reinforcement tailored to the learner’s needs during the learning, including changing the learning curriculum based on the participant’s learning performance. Continually adjusting and adapting to the learner’s progress, speed and pace will foster learning retention and drive overall learning effectiveness in real-time.

The second key benefit allows computer systems to measure training results and outcomes more easily and effectively. Here AI has the potential to:

  • Assess the way learners are engaging with the content including how and when they access it, their test performance and the way they’re consuming content. All of this can help in making the training better and better. For example, if a learner can’t seem to finish a 20- minute module, AI could break up the learning into two 10-minute segments.

  • Produce reports on training effectiveness and whether the training is doing it’s intended job in enhancing the learner’s ability to perform their work effectively. An AI program could more effectively measure each employee’s engagement with the program, and intelligently compare to multiple sources of data to figure out whether the learning program is doing its job. It would then be able to modify programs to improve them and the learning experience for all learners.

Experts are sharing that AI promises to deliver engaged workplaces, stronger employee performance, improved career and talent management, all the way up to more loyal employees. The bottom line for learning professionals is that everything starts with defining the learning objectives. The design and selection of the best learning methods/technological tools to meet the objectives comes next.

AI sounds like a promising tool, one of many in our ever-increasing technology toolbox to support learning and development. While promising, AI also leaves me with many questions:

1. How will AI shape the learning design and delivery roles and the learning function?

2. Could AI replace face-to-face training?

3. What skills do instructional designers need to build now to be ready?

4. How would a designer be able to utilize AI if it takes extensive coding and programming to create it?

5. How will learners feel and perform if they know they are always being monitored during training?

Where will AI take us? It’s still early days. The best thing we can do for ourselves as learning professionals is to stay abreast of new technologies, learn them, use them, share your learning, and keep calm and continue learning!

Find out more about Leena Malik here. Her post and views expressed here are her own and not as a representative of her company or Robin Yap.


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