AI is everywhere in our lives - through virtual assistants on our mobile phones, robots in hospitals and nursing homes and social media recommendations.
We live in a time of technological marvels. With the development of speedier Internet networks, mobile applications and voice-activated interfaces, computing has become ubiquitous and integrated into our daily lives. This is fueling the advance of machine learning and the push for artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence (AI) is the ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings. AI has the ability to transform many walks of life and is used in finance, transportation, national defence and other sectors in society. In fact, education is a key area that AI have had an impact on and personalised learning is the most common AI application today.
Consumer facing companies such as Amazon and Netflix have become experts at using data to provide personalised content and product recommendations that appeal to their customers. Companies are hopping onto this trend and doing the same with their training and development plans. By personalising learning, businesses can improve the learning experience for employees, delivering relevant and practical knowledge and skills for their work needs.
One of the things AI can do is to create smart learning content. Textbooks, course materials and instruction manuals are normally produced for the average learners in large quantities. But as we have all experienced, not everyone has the same learning styles or comprehend the materials at the same rate. Some of us are fast learners and some of us take our time to digest new information. With the help of AI, organisations can convert and digitise learning materials to create content that is catered to the needs of learners. For instance, a system called Crane101 uses AI to condense content in textbooks into more digestible study guides with chapter summaries, flashcards and practice tests. Digital content means that learners can be engaged through interactive quizzes, videos, podcasts and games. For businesses, AI could assist in summarizing core concepts, troubleshooting guides into more comprehensible formats such as charts or simulations to help learners absorb information more efficiently.
In comparison to traditional classroom training where it would be disruptive to stop the lesson and inundate the trainer with questions, AI allows learners to learn at their own pace without posing inconvenience to other learners. For example, a learner with a strong interest in sales could get more instructional examples featuring sales target management and thus feel a stronger connection to the lesson and an understanding of how it could apply to the workplace. Faster learners can charge ahead with more challenging tasks while slower learners can repeat difficult parts until they are ready to move on, without having to slow down the entire class. It can be overwhelmingly difficult for one instructor to figure out how to meet the needs of all learners in their classroom.
Furthermore, AI systems easily adapt to each learner’s individual learning needs and can recommend additional learning based on their strengths and weaknesses. For instance, in learning about presentation skills, learner A may need to improve on his body language skills post-assessment while learner B may move on to public speaking modules if he has managed to complete the assessment successfully. Learner B may also receive recommendations on related communication skills modules or see what other advanced learners are learning in terms of content. AI also collects data at every step of the online learning journey, allow learners and human resources personnel to track their progress and learning. AI is then able to customise learner journeys ideal for maximum absorption of new information.
Another way that AI helps in personalising learning is the ability to provide feedback on the quality of course materials. AI can identify instruction gaps in the course content based on learner performance on assessments. For example, if a significant group of learners fail to answer a question correctly, AI can identify the specific knowledge or skills gap for that group of employees. Harnessing AI to discover missing concepts or flow of information in online curriculum could allow course developers to modify the course content or close instruction gaps more efficiently.
Having an intelligent AI system is also akin to having a mentor at work, but even better. Have you ever spent precious time locating the right person to seek advice on a work issue or wasted time waiting for others to respond on your urgent work email? Right now, there are already virtual tutors for students to coach them in their weaker subjects. These systems may present case studies or pose questions to test learners’ level of understanding or mastery of knowledge and monitor learner responses to evaluation questions. Interaction between learners and virtual tutoring systems could eliminate the awkwardness of face to face meetings as junior employees may feel intimidated in approaching senior employees for help. Some companies have also incorporated the use of chat-bots as virtual mentors at work. These virtual mentors could assist new hires with on-boarding processes, human resources department with recruitment and enhance retention of learning for existing employees. For instance, if an employee needs help on recalling the steps of a business process, he could simply type the query into the chat-bot function and gets the answer instantaneously. Not only does AI helps him learn and re-learn knowledge, he does not have to travel beyond his work desk to seek help. Flexibility and convenience offered by AI mentors should be considered as part of companies’ drive towards online training.
Given the importance of human relationships in learning, AI will not replace but complement traditional learning. In order for learners to have a meaningful and engaging experience, businesses need to evaluate how they could best adopt AI in personalising learning journeys for their training programmes. In the years to come, AI will continue to support learning in innovative ways when properly aligned with learning objectives and training content.
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