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The case for using (some) Machine Learning and AI in online training

Technological advancements come with both overall progress and fear of change. From the Luddites to the current factory workers fearing for their jobs, people have always been reluctant to technical innovations that have replaced the human workforce.

The Luddites became famous for having destroyed textile machinery as a form of protest in the 19th century. Believe it or not, in the 1750s the first umbrella user in London had a hard time with coach drivers who feared that such an invention might make them obsolete on rainy days.

Nonetheless, technology and innovation have brought progress to mankind and made peoples’ lives significantly better, longer and healthier.

The steam engine in the late 18th century, electricity in the 19th century and computing in the 20th century were the most significant technological advancements of their era and changed peoples’ lives like nothing else before.

Each of them had a disruptive effect on the economy and society as a whole, creating industrial revolutions, bringing products, services, and jobs no one could have imagined.

The fourth industrial revolution will be the one brought by Artificial Intelligence and it will change the way we live, work, relate to one another, or even learn.

It sounds bleak, doesn’t it? Well, it doesn’t. We have managed to overcome three industrial revolutions already while making the most of them.

The case for using (some) Machine Learning and AI in online training

Educators of all kinds will not be replaced by robots or algorithms any time soon.

Read more: Will Artificial Intelligence make face-to-face training redundant?

On the contrary, research shows that education is one of the fields that are less likely to be fully automatized (together with management, engineering, and science). It doesn’t mean that AI cannot be put to good use, to enhance learning and improve teaching. Online or blended online-offline training programs will benefit most from using AI tools, such as algorithms or machine learning.

Let us see a few ways to embrace AI in learning:

1. Algorithms

See where they can be used to improve learning (e.g. learning/forgetting curve, the general performance of the attendees). An algorithm that analyzes the content delivery and the results of the tests in time can easily identify patterns in learning and forgetting curves. It could also suggest different solutions to combat the forgetting curve: reinforce training regularity, improve content clarity, make it more relevant, etc. By correlating training materials with test results of the attendees, algorithms can identity in time the most efficient methods of content delivery and thus enhance learning outcomes.

2. Chatbots

Already used in banking, e-commerce, air travel, etc., chatbots could be a useful tool in online training as well. They could handle administrative tasks, such as course enrolment, fees payment, they could answer general questions about homework, resources available across platforms, schedules, testing, etc. An interactive FAQ, that could allow trainers to focus on more creative tasks, such as course design, content creation, answering more specific questions, assessment of more creative forms of testing, such as essays, portfolios, etc. Taking some of the administrative burdens of the trainers will improve productivity, enhance creativity and boost efficiency.

3. AI-driven learning tools

Last but not least, research some AI-driven learning tools. Most of them are question-based tools that adapt according to results and predict proficiency levels. Some have been used in flight safety training, language learning, nursing training, product training. Give it a go, integrate them into your online classes, and see if it is suitable for you and your attendees! Having an AI-driven learning tool might be a helping hand to all overwhelmed trainers who do not find time to do statistical analysis and thus come up with a clear assessment metric.

All in all

Computers and the internet have enhanced access to information for billions of learners and instructors all over the world. They did not replace the latter. Learners value empathy and the “human touch” of a caring and thoughtful teacher or trainer.

Trevor Paglen may be right in saying: “Anything humans can do in space, robots can do better”. However, “Anything robots can do in the classroom (virtual or not), humans can do better.''