The Ghosts In The Machine: 4 Styles Of Chatbot Mentors
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Chatbot Mentors: Delivering eLearning Courses

Designing eLearning courses for delivery over social messenger involves achieving a natural integration of form and content. An important concept for consideration is flow, which has 3 main elements: Courses are designed to reflect the natural rhythms of a conversation, to release nuggets of content at a suitable pace, and to give the participant the right amount of agency. Once this element of form is honed, the scope for social messenger course content is broad. Inspired by Christy Tucker’s series on designing conversation-driven eLearning, we’ve identified 4 styles of chatbot mentors, i.e. 'chatbot coach' characters, which have proved highly successful in delivering a wide range of courses. Here’s how we use them.

1. The Workshop Leader

When It’s Useful

The moniker is perhaps slightly misleading – in fact, the Workshop Leader style was crafted to provide an innovative alternative to traditional workshop delivery. This mentor provides clear, effective delivery of new business strategies, or can introduce new concepts. Useful where the normal purview of a team leader would be to assemble colleagues for workplace presentations, we’ve used the Workshop Leader to deliver introductory courses on affiliate marketing systems, and on the implementation of OKR goal-setting frameworks.


Traditional workshops require a lot of time, resources, and planning, and are often inefficient. Focus is placed on running the event itself, rather than enabling listeners to practice the key takeaways. Furthermore, all listeners must absorb the information at a uniform pace. Restyling such sessions as bite-size courses, which can be absorbed at each participant’s preferred time and pace, transfers agency to each learner. Moreover, a bite-size approach separates the wheat from the chaff in terms of information transfer. The extraneous set-ups of a, for example, PowerPoint presentation and an accompanying script, can be refined to leave the key points clearly expressed. The Workshop Leader can remake a 90-minute presentation into a 10-15-minute course, saving time and resources while facilitating clear delivery of key concepts, and empowering individual learners.

2. The Personal Tutor

When It’s Useful

The Personal Tutor coaches individuals on a certain topic over a period of time. Rather than the condensed delivery which provides a workshop alternative, this style of mentor builds learning and development gradually in small amounts. We’ve used it to improve brand alignment for both customers and employees – for example, hospitality staff serving a changing menu can be continually coached on the provenance and ethics of each new offering. Retailers, meanwhile, can consistently yet informally push products, with different styles of make-up tutorial or DIY projects.

One of our most versatile styles, the Personal Tutor also works ideally for professional industries, and can be combined with an initial Workshop course to unlock supplementary content. Those who’ve learned the basics of the OKR framework can be updated with different examples of successful implementation – or, workers in finance can unlock weekly updates on market trends.


This style of conversation is unobtrusive, and can be seamlessly integrated into the normal daily routine of learners. A daily amount of content might take only five minutes to absorb, yet knowledge is reliably built up over time. Furthermore, both length and time of delivery can be personalized afresh with each course – the messenger can be made active at, say, 8 each morning or 5 each evening to align with commuting hours. The Personal Tutor increases an informal but trusted sense of mentorship.

3. The Manager

When It’s Useful

The Manager style is appropriate for more rudimentary forms of training – health and safety policies, or other initial workplace requirements. Its aptitude lies in repackaging essential information which can often seem dense and dry in a clear, engaging format. We’ve used it to deliver the essentials of first aid, and to instruct hospitality staff on everything from managing operational flow and table-setting to allergy awareness.


Much like workshop learning, training new employees can take up a lot of time and resources. While this often feels necessary, in fact eLearning is by now an established tool for most industries – but it’s too often done using limited in-house electronic resources, perhaps the sole desktop or tablet in a restaurant. The Manager not only frees up these resources but it makes onboarding new staff much more flexible and efficient – ideal for those operating on a high turnover, or aiming to tailor training to a young, millennial workforce.

4. The Friendly Face

When It’s Useful

Just like the Manager, this style of course provider is ideal for employee onboarding; but it works on the elements which come before and after basic training. A style of friendly introductory briefings will facilitate employee assimilation in any company, and as such is suitable for any industry.

It often works best to deliver onboarding courses using the figurehead of the supervisor new employees will answer to. Hence, a friendly face and a personal introduction are usually the most useful way to initiate onboarding courses, which can then go on to cover anything from company values and history to employee benefits.


The specific personal touch can dramatically increase successful onboarding, helping new employees feel welcomed, assimilated, and aligned with company values. This chatbot style combines well with engaging interactive elements such as images and questions – onboarding is all about presenting an attractive company image to the employee. The Friendly Face style can also overlap with the Personal Tutor to work throughout the onboarding process - from an introduction before the first day, to developing personnel in the first few weeks. In this way, it becomes not just a successful introduction, but a technique for retention.

The Takaway Message

Of course, a persistent challenge for Instructional Design is deciding where the limits of a course’s scope lie. Yes, often less is more, and courses which take on too much will end up in trouble, with an unappealing user experience. But by giving names to different styles of conversational design we can better outline the scope of each, and test its effectiveness within established boundaries.

Furthermore, chatbot mentors aren’t just about packaging information into a ‘conversational’ delivery: Rather, courses are designed from the beginning with a honed style of ‘mentor’ in mind. Rather than imposing certain personalities on arbitrary content, using a specific type of mentor drives courses created with certain rhythms and patterns of information conveyance in mind throughout.