Recent global events have accelerated the adoption of corporate online learning strategies, leapfrogging years of digital evolution. For some companies the transition to digital learning and development has been smooth, others have found themselves squeezing their L&D initiatives into tools not fit for purpose.
Regardless of where organisations sit on this scale, the first half of 2020 has made it clear that online learning technologies, especially AI and automation, will be fundamental to successful L&D post-Covid.
Digital learning is more than simply taking the physical or analogue classroom and making it virtual.
Organisations are already starting to transition from a state of emergency remote teaching to more mature models that are stable, strategic and iterative.
However, when it comes to bringing the learning experience online, each business faces its own unique hurdles.
Not all organisations have been affected by the crisis in the same way. Impact has varied dramatically across industries. Some organisations have been digital for years, while others face a step-change.
Irrespective of digital maturity, continuous assessment and improvement is needed when tackling new online methodologies to ensure the right tools are identified and implemented. Because digital learning is more than simply taking the physical or analogue classroom and making it virtual.
To create an effective and impactful user experience, learning and development professionals must embrace an exponential approach and redesign all aspects of the learning journey from content to production to delivery.
So, what does the future of digital learning hold for businesses? And, how can organisations better garner opportunities from technologies like AI to address the challenges they face going forward?
Challenges of designing digital learning for the future
Martin Rodriguez Jugo, Director of High Impact Online Programs at IE Business School, believes that organisations must address two areas—transforming everything to online and designing online.
Recent research by the IE’s Center for Corporate Learning Innovation identified a lack of methodology as the top challenge to corporate learning. Other concerns included technology, in terms of management and how to run courses online, quality assurance in content, platform choice, scalability and personalisation.
By taking the learning out of the physical environment and moving it online, businesses are building a whole new interface between the learner and the content. Moreover, designing a course from a different perspective means considering a range of factors.
“It’s not just about asynchronous sessions, but having a mix of resources,” says Rodriguez Jugo. It’s a creative process, utilising a range of tools and technologies to ensure an engaging and relevant learning experience.
Technology and learning
Learning and development professionals are already familiar with the technology’s potential to fundamentally change the learning space. Multiple applications and tools are facilitating the development of far more immersive, interactive and personalised learning experiences.
Essentially, a new learning eco-system comprised of many different elements is beginning to emerge.
Narrow AI has already played a major part in this advancement. Today’s technology can track and measure everything while also enabling asynchronous methodologies.
“Ultimately, it’s all about personalisation.”
As a result, L&D professionals can access valuable learning analytics and insights to help pinpoint skills gaps and design more effective real-time learning models.
According to Joel Hellermark, Founder & CEO of Sana Labs, AI in learning should be viewed less as “artificial intelligence” and more as “augmented intelligence”, echoing a sentiment expressed by IBM Europe’s CHRO, Gary Kildare.
With augmented intelligence teachers can do their jobs more effectively rather than being replaced.
So, is AI about to move the needle on the learning space? In many ways, it’s already here and influencing the sphere. It’s impossible to consume any kind of content without it. Whether it’s Grammarly correcting your writing, Google providing real-time answers or YouTube recommending videos —you’re engaging with AI, it’s just invisible.
Furthermore, by using AI to track the learner’s journey, educators can match learners to subjects that reflect their strengths and knowledge gaps far more effectively.
“Ultimately, it’s all about personalisation.”
How AI is influencing learning
Hellermark identifies three core stakeholders in the process of learning that he believes will have the most significant impact on the next few years. These are the learner, the administrator (or the educator), and the author.
Starting with the learner perspective, the Sana Labs chief predicts they “will be provided with the real-time learning systems that can combine the best from learning sciences in mastery-based learning approaches, spaced repetition, adaptive learning, and assessment with machine learning to provide a completely personalised learning path.” This means the learner benefits from accessing personalised content delivered at the right point in their development journey.
When it comes to the administrator, Hellermark explains, “they will be empowered to analyse and act on a whole new level. By getting the power of hundreds of scientists in their pockets they can generate insights and act on them with a single tap of a button”.
Similarly, rather than publishing a course and looking to improve it over time, authors can harness interaction with the learner to improve the content based on real-time feedback and prioritise improvements accordingly.
Learning through iteration
So, what does this new learning eco-system look like when implemented? The successful Florence Project run by Sana Labs provides an excellent example of how to use technology to deliver iterative development for both the learner and the educator.
The project sought to upskill health workers to fight Covid-19. By using adaptive assessments to measure the knowledge level of the nurses, Sana Labs was able to provide a completely personalised learning experience that focused on their unique skills gaps. Moreover, it also demonstrated how it’s possible to deploy a new learning approach quickly when the need arises.
What machine learning and AI afford us is the opportunity to understand and engage with different learning needs and identify solutions to address them much faster. As a result, the system itself is continually learning the best way to remedy problems and identify data-driven refinements at an accelerated rate.
Through the use of data technologies like AI, we are seeing the emergence of a metacognitive approach where both the learner and the system is growing in sophistication.
As we begin to understand more about how people learn, the learning experience itself begins to evolve. And, as technologies become increasingly nuanced in analysing the more subtle faculties of learning, new and more exciting learning experiences will continue to emerge helping L&D leaders to better address the challenges of the future.
For the full discussion between Martin Rodriguez Jugo and Joel Hellermark, watch our Virtual Masterclass: The Future of Corporate Learning