A lot of the technology we use today involves Artificial Intelligence. AI’s not just about automating processes or analysing big data, there are also AI-driven bots for human-computer interactions. Think of Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana.
Now, attention is turning to what AI can do for learning support. With businesses under ever-increasing pressure to be more efficient, productive, and cost-effective, AI-powered chatbots can help establish learning in the workflow.
Ask a bot
With a chatbot, you’re engaging in a dialogue. AI enables the bot to be responsive, agile, and adaptive. The more advanced chatbots learn from each interaction or conversation, detecting preferences and making recommendations based on past requests.
Chatbots are currently used to answer financial queries, provide customer support, diagnose healthcare issues, and even offer counselling. They’re already starting to make an impact on education and corporate learning.
So, are you ready to use a chatbot to support learning in your organisation? Let’s look at 10 common scenarios where using a chatbot for learning support can make a real difference.
1. Onboarding and HR queries
Let’s think about the support new employees typically need from Human Resources when they first join the organisation. Often the onboarding process means days even weeks of training in the basics of their job and an introduction to HR procedures. It’s likely that not even the keenest newbie can take that all in. Imagine though, that instead of pushing all this information at new employees, you had an assistant (a virtual chatbot) who could guide them through the training at their own pace where and when they need it and respond to their questions (like procedures for expenses requests, how to order IT equipment, how to comply with health and safety and so on) as they pop into their heads. Instead of trying to swallow that all at one go, with a chatbot the new employee, digests information piecemeal.
2. Not enough experts
What applies to onboarding also applies to other areas of training. You know that training is critical, but you also know it’s a drain of time and resources. You lose productivity when people are in training either in a classroom or in front of their computer screen. Not everyone is of the same standard or has the same learning needs. And many employees are likely to forget it almost as quickly as they learned it.
With a chatbot, you can bring the learning to them when they need it, while they’re working, and it can be directed by themselves. A chatbot is a resident assistant, which leaves the human experts with more time to make critical, higher-level learning interventions and use their expertise to have real impact.
3. Just-in time support
Information and training have real impact only if they’re acted upon. Often training is too removed from the point of need. Even in this age of connectivity, it isn’t always accessible. Digital resources can be locked up in an LMS or too unwieldy to use on the job. Consider employees who are away from their desks – in off-site meetings, on the factory floor, fixing appliances in customers’ homes. With a chatbot app, they’ll be able to pose the question and have the information they need to perform the task or answer the query at their fingertips on smart, mobile devices. This is learning support at the point of need and just in time.
4. Replace drudgery with creativity
The worry is that AI means automation and consequent loss of jobs. The machine outperforms the human. While automation has certainly transformed industries (look at a car assembly line) AI can actually enhance the work experience rather than replace it. A lot of tasks involve repetition and drudgery. Why not hand that work over to an AI agent and open up more time for more creative, high-end, high-value activity where human beings excel?
5. Relieving cognitive overload
The advance of technology has seen the collection of and access to increasing amounts of information. We’re in the era of big data. Data is often seen as power, but what if there’s too much of it? And what can we do with it? Here we can harness the real power of AI to sift through, sort and analyse the data and deliver it in manageable chunks so that human agents can qualify and use it. We may need certain information only rarely or for a very short time. With a chatbot, you have the answer always right with you.
6. The right stuff
Just like Netflix, Amazon, or YouTube, a chatbot you can make recommendations based on user choices and preferences. Learning by interacting with a bot is targeted, not the scattergun, one-size-fits-all approach of the e-learning course. The learning a bot delivers is personalised, relevant and contextualised, accounting for learners’ particular needs and their own level of competence.
7. Changing the way learning happens
Chatbots encourage collaborative working practices by allowing information to be shared efficiently. We all recognise the problem that too much information and learning are stored in the heads of experts. Applications like SharePoint were designed as a way of opening up that information and encouraging collaboration. But they’re static, not dynamic in a way a bot can be. It’s like having an expert with you all the time that you can consult and who can advise. That applies equally to employees working alone or in teams.
8. Continuous learning in the workflow
It’s commonplace to talk about lifelong learning, but if that just means more courses and awards it just perpetuates the cycle of learning and forgetting. Most learning sticks by engagement and relevance. Having a chatbot as a personal coaching, mentor and learning buddy offers the prospect of continuous and personalised support and learning at work.
9. Improving customer service
Chances are that when you use the chat function of a website you’re not chatting to a human, but a bot. Bots can be trained to answer the basic queries to which most customers need answers. They can marshal a great deal more information a lot quicker than a human support agent. This frees up humans to do what bots can’t do: creative and empathetic understanding.
10. Making learning productive
Obviously, organisations are always looking to improve efficiency and productivity and at the same time reduce costs. AI can do that by removing the unnecessary tasks, reducing the reliance on repeat training, and delivering learning and information more efficiently. It’s not just that employees have more time to be productive, they’re also relieved of big restrictions on their time. This enables them up to concentrate on the areas where they make a difference and add value.
Ready, set, go
In fact, you don’t need much to be ready for chatbots. Chatbots can live and act inside existing platforms and systems: you don’t need to re-engineer, overhaul, or replace your existing technology.
What you do need, though, is to engage with your chatbot – train and educate it on what you need from it. This is the part of the higher order work that you’re freeing up your experts to do.
And you need your L&D to embrace the opportunities offered by chatbots. Bots place the learner at the centre and L&D needs to move from pushing learning at employees and design training so that you hand over more control to the learner.
If these scenarios resonate with you, engage a chatbot and explore what it can do for learning support.