AI in corporate learning and development has come a long way in the past 20+ years. Nearly two decades ago, Clark Aldrich, a friend of our Managing Partner David Milliken, developed the first “artificially intelligent” business simulation. Clark and his team at Simulearn called that program Virtual Leader and used it to teach interpersonal skills to leaders. In addition to creating a real breakthrough in design through the use of avatars and a powerful gaming engine, Virtual Leader was the first of its kind to adapt to the learner’s individual needs. As you engaged with Virtual Leader, the simulation’s AI engine identified and amplified your bad habits. For example, let’s say you demonstrated a habit of interrupting and talking over other people. The computer would notice this behavior and then adapt to expose it as an area of developmental need.
Back then, we believed that Virtual Leader would forever transform the way that e-based learning was designed and delivered. But that didn’t quite happen. Mainstream application of these techniques proved elusive for several reasons, including development costs in the millions of dollars; project timelines that took years instead of months; and the difficulty of creating access within locked-down corporate IT environments. Although many of those early barriers have been removed, AI in the context of adult learning still has many hurdles to overcome.
Today, few pioneers in artificial intelligence are still chasing the dream of replicating the complex processes inherent in the human brain. Instead, they use machine learning, massive data sets, sophisticated sensors, and comprehensive algorithms to facilitate complex calculations, pattern recognition, and data analyses. AI doesn’t inhabit the faraway galaxies of sci-fi; it has found a comfortable, unassuming role in many corners of our culture—from what we watch on Netflix to what we buy on Amazon. Look around, and you’ll find AI redefining consumer tech products, from personal assistants to smart cars and smartphones. This technology makes our lives easier and personalizes our experiences. Indeed, customized experiences have become so enmeshed in our day-to-day life that we’ve come to expect them as standard (“Siri, you KNOW I don’t enjoy that kind of humor!”).
But, for the most part, AI hasn’t yet fulfilled the promises many in L&D hoped to see—to deliver just-in-time, personalized, highly relevant learning experiences in context. Learning professionals have embraced curated web-based curriculums, some of which deliver on a portion, but not all of this promise. So, what should the new vision for AI applied to adult learning be? How can we leverage this important innovation to deliver personalized learning journeys that reflect individual skill levels and interests? And improve learner engagement and outcomes along the way?
Learners expect more: How AI in corporate learning and development is growing
Consider the consumer technology experiences your learners are interacting with every day. The interface doesn’t need to be complex, but it does need to be intuitive to navigate, accessible at the point of need, and able to present content in context. Those are basic table stakes. The top apps excel in another area—they seek ways to delight their users, to win them over not only as paying subscribers, but as raving fans.
How would your learning experiences change if you had to convince learners to fork over their hard-earned cash in order to engage with them? Sure, this question goes against most L&D business models, but it’s a worthwhile thought experiment. Are you meeting basic table stakes? Are your employees delighted by the learning experiences that are accessible to them?
Many L&D professionals today are plagued by corporate learning content consumption problems. If learners feel overburdened by the amount of training material or uninterested in learning that doesn’t apply to their specific context, they’ll slowly grow disengaged and disillusioned with their learning journeys. But, as we know, engaged learners drive business results. When learners engage meaningfully with the learning content, they gain critical skills and generate a tangible impact on the business. AI can help learning designers create relevant courses and intelligent content recommendations to deliver the right content to the right audience at the right time.
At Blueline, some of our most sophisticated branching simulations leverage gaming engines (with rules, probabilities, and randomization dictating the occurrence of certain nodes), voice recognition, and thousands of nodes that lead the learner to believe that the simulation they are interacting with is real. Search responses, relevant links, and associated content are determined using AI algorithms to predict and share the most relevant content for each user. The engine doesn’t have the ability to learn from previous users’ choices and the designer’s intended objectives—but that isn’t far off.
We are also working on asynchronous scenario simulation designs that adapt to the specific role each learner plays, measures their skill gaps, and directs them to relevant content in curated libraries like SkillSoft and Coursera.
Solutions like these allow us to help our clients maximize the impact of their investments in talent development. Schedule a demo, and we’ll show you how we’re using AI in corporate learning and development to improve access to needed content, engage learners, and drive business results.