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2024 (needs to be) the year of learning intelligence

Looking ahead to 2024, it is easy to be drawn straight into ruminations about AI (artificial intelligence). ChatGPT has dominated the conversation of the year, with AI as the source of our hopes and fears. Inevitably, it is not so simple.

Rising above the fuss and noise, we can see the thread of learning intelligence running ahead into 2024 and beyond. It will set our agenda; determine how we bring projects to life and how we know what progress we are making. It might define what we make and will certainly shape how we make it. But it is still a tool, and we must choose which uses we put it to.

Skills will continue to set the agenda for learning functions

The skills imperative will continue to set the agenda for people development. In 2023, 74% of organizations saw the availability of skills as a major challenge. The top priority, in fact. As hiring alone continues to fall short of meeting skills needs, developing capabilities will remain crucial. 71% saw building skills as a high priority for the future of their organization. This is unlikely to change.

Added to ongoing demand for technology and digital skills are the human and interpersonal skills that make businesses work – the ‘power skills’ such as collaboration, problem solving and communication. Many of these skills will need to be learned together as roles change and competent performance shifts. Self study from content alone is rarely sufficient.

Skills intelligence will accelerate the L&D response

But which skills matters most in your context? This is where skills intelligence comes in. The application of AI tools to the analysis of a vast range of data sources will grow further in importance. Identifying skills demand from job listings, LinkedIn posts and social media, as examples, is made possible by these systems at speed and scale, as is the analysis of corporate data to understand skill levels and their presence within the workforce. AI systems can identify employee potential for adjacent and latent skills in work history data in ways that human analysis cannot achieve.

Perhaps the most important shift is from static and hierarchical taxonomies to skills ontologies where the relationship between skills data is mapped dynamically across multiple categories. Freeing skills analysis from the rigidity of hierarchy enables a more fluid and flexible approach at scale, adding individual insight that can drive a truly personalized skills development strategy.

Whilst skills intelligence will continue to define learning strategy, it also provides the L&D profession with a great opportunity to connect with the most fundamental people challenge most business face. It can be our route to the fabled top table and a genuinely strategic contribution to the business.

It’s still all about proving value – and defining it with intelligence

Following the rush to digital during the pandemic, expectations are evolving about the concrete results digital learning can achieve. The need to prove value beyond delivery and consumption measures will continue to gather pace, in part driven by economic pressure on budgets as senior leaders scrutinise what they are getting for their investment. Learning services which can define and measure their activity as a business service, with strong relationships across the business, will be well placed to gain stronger support through uncertain times.

Here again, the opportunity to measure and monitor value will be aided by AI systems as they gather a broader range of data, beyond learning boundaries, and can handle analysis at a speed and scale not previously possible. Progressive learning functions are focusing on data quality, accuracy and consistency to enable machine intelligence to add this to analysis. Partnerships with IT as the custodians of data storage and management is an important part of this activity.

From hype to action – starting to understand what AI in learning is for

The path to much greater efficiency in the design and creation of content seems clear for the learning industry. Automation will continue to drop the cost of content and increase the speed of creation rapidly. AI tools that thrive on prediction are well suited to much traditional elearning content and we should expect changes in design and production to be far reaching.

But will efficient learning content creation take the industry where it needs to go? What we do with it is where the real value lies. Learning intelligence takes us in the direction of adaptive learning experiences, responding to individual behaviour and inputs as we progress through programs, for example. True personalization of development plans will create new possibilities for learning functions and start to set a new level of expectation for personal relevance for learners. The unfulfilled personal promise of the digital learning world feels much more achievable as we look ahead.

The arrival of conversation as a new learning experience paradigm creates a further new strand of personal potential. More than a chat interface alone, generative AI tools are beginning to demonstrate how we can discover, explore and consume content in new ways, exactly as we need and when that need arises. Beyond content consumption, conversational experiences with more intelligent agents can help us rehearse and test our skills in a safe personal way, adding personal feedback at scale. We are starting to see the value within content can be unlocked for us as we use it.

Intelligence in the tools of work will change what learning ‘in the flow’ means

‘Learning in the flow of work’ has been a goal for many years in learning technology. The industry has tended to focus on accessibility of brief learning content items alongside our work tasks as the solution. The arrival of powerful copilot software agents integrated in productivity tools themselves supercharges this capability, placing it right into our work tools. Trained on company data and external content resources, these copilots can be called on to identify the best answers within our personal context and provide feedback on our work as we go.

The coming year will see these tools become more mainstream in our workplaces and working patterns. They will become more helpful as they understand us better and we teach them what we need as we work. For learning professionals, there is a new route the flow of work opening up which can being us clear to important moments of need.

Learning intelligence will continue to define the L&D landscape this coming year. We need to encourage it. It will create efficiencies we have not seen before. Most significantly, it will provide a more powerful learning toolset. With care and judicious experimentation, we can use it to help redefine the value we can offer.

This blog was written for Learning Pool by Myles Runham, Senior Analyst at Fosway Group

About Fosway

Fosway Group is Europe’s #1 HR Industry Analyst focused on Next Gen HR, Talent and Learning. Founded in 1996, we are known for our unique European research, our independence and our integrity. And just like the Roman road we draw our name from, you’ll find that we’re unusually direct. We don’t have a vested interest in your supplier or consulting choices. So, whether you’re looking for independent research, specific advice or a critical friend to cut through the market hype, we can tell you what you need to know to succeed.

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