How Chatbots Could Be The Future Of Learning

How Chatbots Could Be The Future Of Learning
panuwat phimpha/
Summary: Have you ever wondered how chatbots could help your corporate training? Chatbots are now so good sometimes it is hard to distinguish between robots and humans. Read on to learn more about how chatbots and conversational learning can develop awesome employees.

The Robot Teacher

We are constantly in pursuit of better, faster, and deeper ways to learn. We are in an age where education is more accessible than ever before. And, adult learners are busy people and making time for learning is rarely a priority. How can you change that? You may want to consider learning how chatbots can enhance your corporate Learning and Development (L&D).

Imagine the spike in productivity if your employees are empowered with a knowledgeable and personalized training assistant at no additional cost. With the proliferation and high adoption of chatbots, this is no longer science fiction; chatbots are becoming ubiquitous within the eLearning industry.

Modern chatbots offer a welcome change as they stop one-way conversations that bombard learners with generic information (documents, videos, and "next" buttons). Tailor-made interactive training elements can lead to engaged learners with high knowledge retention and put learners in control of their learning journeys.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is rapidly changing corporate L&D with chatbots proving to be incredibly useful learning tools. This article summarizes the chatbot trend in eLearning by demonstrating why chatbots are the most logical and affordable alternative for talent development. Read more to find out how AI is being successfully applied to digital learning and how you can leverage chatbots to enhance the impact of your corporate training.

Have You Encountered A Chatbot Yet?

When visiting a website, a chat feature sometimes connects you with a live chat (with a real person) to assist you with your query or sometimes organizations use a chatbot that hopefully is sophisticated enough to pretend to be a human. Often these chatbots are employed to support customers with general questions and reduce calls to their help desk. However, chatbots have an up and coming role in the eLearning manager’s toolkit as they help support holistic digital training strategies.

The Chatbot

Chatbots can support your current trainers and they do not have human limitations, such as forgetting, recall, cognitive bias, cognitive overload, getting ill, sleeping 8 hours a day, retiring, dying, etc. New conversational learning technologies (chatbots) can provide a training experience that is just like chatting with a colleague. A training event can look and feel like a natural conversation between yourself and a colleague—so, it can be very personal, straight to the point, and fun.

Intelligently-designed chatbots are becoming a key component in corporate L&D delivery because modern technologies empower chatbots to engage with learners and give point-of-need training. Chatbots support real-time interactions, with instant access to relevant information—providing immediate answers to questions and providing relevant follow-up questions or prompts.

A chatbot is a conversational agent (an Artificial Intelligence (AI) program) that interacts with users using natural language and makes decisions based on predefined rules. Better speech recognition systems are making it easier to chat with robots in a more natural way. Remember MS Office Clippy? That was an early chatbot viewed more as a novelty than strategy.

Chatbots might just fulfill the promise of true interactivity for corporate learning—the possibilities could be transformative!

Chatbots interact through instant messaging, artificially replicating human interaction patterns. So, a chatbot is a computer program that simulates human conversations and answers questions posed to it with natural language and answers as a real person would. Better speech recognition systems are making it easier to chat with robots in a more natural way.

When Did We Start Using Chatbots?

The first chatbot was developed in 1950 with the Turing Test. Computer pioneer Alan Turing suggested that if a text-based bot could fool 50% of people, it could be considered “intelligent.” So, in order to pass Turing’s test, a computer must be able to carry on a conversation that is indistinguishable from a conversation with a human being.

And while that is quite a while ago, it took a while until the technology was adopted and developed further. In 2006, IBM AI platform Watson defeated human champions on the TV quiz show Jeopardy.

In 2010, Apple introduced their intelligent assistant "Siri," which had a natural language User Interface to perform tasks and answer questions. In 2015, Amazon and Microsoft introduced their version of a personal assistant, modeled after Siri, called Alexa and Cortana. In 2016, Georgia Tech’s Jill Watson was implemented by a computer science professor, who introduced his "teaching assistant" to his students without telling them that Jill is an AI. Many reported that they did not know that they were not talking to a real person. The AI field is developing rapidly and promises to deliver chatbot technology that is better and cheaper by the month.

How Conversational Learning Works

AI chatbots can be used to personalize the learning experience and "guide" learners through the learning process. Also, they can be very useful in answering learners' questions. In the context of Learning and Development, chatbots can create a learning experience similar to one-on-one teaching, making social and interactive learning "in dialogue" with an end-device possible. In the L&D field, a chatbot acts as a Virtual Teaching Assistant (VTA), and, can provide point-of-need training support by delivering content, such as links, images, videos, etc.

Chatbots typically:

  • Target a specific use-case
  • Provide a service
  • Use natural language to perform a task/provide service
  • Focus on answering certain types of questions
  • Chatbots that work in context know who you are, know what you want to do, and can provide intelligent answers
  • Are easier/more intuitive than applications that you have never used before and they navigate between screens/tabs/menus/etc.

Once a conversation comes to a point where the chatbot does not know what to do it will either attempt to deflect the conversation or switch the conversation over to a real person.

Chatbots In Corporate eLearning

Integrating chatbot technology into the prevailing Learning Management System (LMS) environment can provide additional data about learners and significantly contribute to the process of learning because they are an interactive mechanism as compared to traditional eLearning systems. L&D can use that data to improve their training programs and feed that content back to the chatbot to provide more up-to-date information to learners.

Chatbots can be used intelligently in eLearning to reinforce learning at spaced intervals. Plus, chatbots can make learning more relevant and accessible by moving the LMS out of the way. Learners gain direct access and control to the information and learning stored in the LMS via a chatbot, bypassing complex interfaces or sign-up procedures needed for a course. This makes for more personalized and effective learning.

Chatbots: The Corporate L&D Support Tool You Need

As workforce demographics continue to get more distributed and accustomed to mobile communication, enterprises must embrace chatbots to streamline their HR L&D processes.

Corporate L&D can benefit from introducing chatbots as a training support tool as they help overcome the following modern workplace learning challenges:

  • Chatbots enable training to occur at regular intervals throughout the day, which is more efficient than training that takes up a huge chunk of your day.
  • Chatbots never lose patience and will constantly offer assistance to a learner for as long as they are needed.
  • Chatbots offer a unique way to engage with learners through dialogue that is essential to the learning process. Chatbots allow the learner to initiate the conversation, which unfolds as the learning event transpires. Being in control of the story gives the learner the feeling of engagement and investment in the learning outcome.
  • Chatbots keep learners engaged and motivated as they advance through courses, by prompting them on what to do, entertaining them whilst keeping them informed. For example, a bot that offers words of encouragement such as “Great work” or “Well done, you got all the answers correct,” or gives learners additional information or an additional challenge periodically so that they don’t get bored—keeping them engaged.
  • Chatbots are available 24/7. Since chatbots are basically virtual robots they never get tired and continue to obey your commands. They will continue to operate every day throughout the year without the need for a break. Learners can turn to their chatbot anytime they wish to continue their learning journey.
  • An explorative and mobile-friendly learning environment can provide training highlights in an attractive and highly compressed way. A chatbot host can introduce learners to key learning tasks, which can then be explored interactively during microlearning nuggets.
  • Chatbots can include technical learning nuggets whilst maintaining a conversational flow to the learning structure. A cohesive and educational narrative culminated in a what-would-you-do style series of video-based scenarios can create a memorable and engaging experience for the learner.

Chatbot Supporting Educational Processes

You can now employ a chatbot to act as a trainer to guide the learner during training delivery, checking and fixing learners’ mistakes. Trainer bots can ask a string of questions and offer words of encouragement to learners and get them to apply the knowledge or material that they should be learning.

Chatbots provide quick and easy access to information and are often much cheaper and faster than trainers. Since chatbots are automated solutions, they allow organizations to train many learners at once and simultaneously. Chatbots provide instant access to expert knowledge and advice all the time. Chatbots can also break the cycle of learning and forgetting by applying learning in a real-world context, this way it is more likely to stick.

Chatbots can be employed to create intelligent tutoring systems that are intended to replace classroom instruction and typically support practice in 2 ways:

  1.  Act as product tutors: evaluate final outcomes
  2.  Act as process tutors: hints and feedback

Leveraging chatbots as a teaching and learning resource offers the opportunity to enhance instructional services to serve a large number of patrons and a wide range of people at any time of day. Chatbots can potentially assume a wide-range of educational tasks, such as delivering onboarding services, supporting learners, acting as a tutor, acting as a mentor, providing FAQs, prompting through training events, providing feedback, and assessing effort.

As interfaces are becoming more frictionless and invisible, they appear to be more "human" conforming to our natural form of communication (dialogue) through text or speech. This makes technology less intrusive and more of a natural fit for providing educational services. Whilst chatbots can potentially be used in a wide variety of ways in instructional situations, the aim of a chatbot should be to help people and facilitate training in organizations using natural language, but not to totally replace the trainer’s role.

Chatbot Benefits For Learners

  • Conversational services and chatbots will transform how individuals interact and engage with eLearning.
  • They will stop one-way conversations and boring training with generic content.
  • They can immediately consume a learning nugget and solve a problem when it's needed to be solved—instantly.
  • They are personal, straight to the point, and fun.
  • Learners feel supported even if they are embarrassed to ask a question in person.
    • Learners aren't afraid to ask questions anymore.
    • They provide comprehensive feedback for trainers.
    • Trainers, who are monitoring, ensure the conversation is always appropriate.
  • They are user-friendly, appeal to learners of all ages, and provide highly visual answers to common questions.
  • They engage your learners by offering training that looks and feels like a natural conversation.
  • They are designed to interact like a human. They have the ability to engage with humor and intelligence.
  • Learners know they can come back and ask additional questions.
  • They can help learners with language barriers as they can read the information several times, without feeling uncomfortable.
  • They work on mobile devices supporting on-the-go training.

Chatbot Benefits For Organizations

  • Real-time analytics dashboards, which measure the most commonly asked questions, track active and engaged learners versus learners who are not engaged, view the interactions that happen during off-hours, and evaluate learners’ skill development.
  •  They improve training ROI.
    • Chatbots improve on what your trainers already do by supporting and streamlining it to produce faster and better outcomes at a lower cost.
    • An effective, conversational learning chatbot session can turn an hour-long presentation into a 10-minute microlearning session.
  • Employees will be more productive and better placed to optimize learning opportunities because they are learning at their own pace and when they need support.
  • They have the ability to nudge and push out personalized information to learners.
  • They have the ability to review and access all learner created questions and responses.
  • They reduce trainer workload.

Chatbots Applied To Your Learners' Journeys

Conversational learning is far more efficient than sectioning off a big chunk of your employees’ day as it allows training at regular intervals throughout the day.

Intelligence agents, such as chatbots, have tremendous potential through simulating an intelligent conversation with human users via auditory or textual methods. The potential use of chatbots can simulate human-like communication. Dialogue is essential to the learning process. Chatbots allow the learner to kick-start the conversation and, as the process unfolds, so does the story. Because the learner is in control of the story, they are more engaged and invested in the outcome. Understanding your organizational culture is key to understanding the language to use in your learning contexts.

Chatbots can improve onboarding giving your new staff instant and direct solutions to a challenge when they encounter it, especially in those first few weeks. The employee being onboarded asks a question, the chatbot replies. The employee follows-up with another question, the chatbot replies again. The employee can, therefore, go on sharpening the queries while the chatbot progressively refines the answers. In this way, the new staff member does not have to wait for answers, building a solid onboarding foundation for each employee.

We know that feedback is a classical concept in learning, whose importance is acknowledged across different learning theories, which chatbots can provide by giving learners timely and effective feedback. A great advantage of chatbot technologies is that they offer learners realistic opportunities for individual tutoring/mentoring. Conversational learning provides fast, targeted and personalized training right in the workflow, which is key to effective knowledge retention. And, learners can tailor a chatbot to their own learning pace. For example, they can enter an answer to each question, repeat a sentence without pressure, or skip a sentence.

Chatbot instructional innovation also opens-up possibilities for connecting and analyzing your learners’ training data, which can empower you to better plan, develop, and grow successful L&D offerings in the long-term.

What This Means For Your eLearning

Chatbots can make L&D initiatives more productive. Chatbots not only offer more personalized experiences, but they also ensure that L&D professionals are more efficient. For example, instead of spending an exorbitant amount of time fielding inquiries and emails, they will be able to spend more time developing courses and learning materials, developing onboarding practices, and so much more.

Chatbots can also offer a more natural experience and can be given different personalities to meet the expectations/cultural nuances of different learner populations, this ability for personalization is particularly important for organizations with global operations. The biggest challenge you may need to pay attention to the most is the conversation capability or "personality" of your chatbot in order to match your training target group. The conversational styles can be changed depending on learner demographic data (i.e. be more relaxed with younger learners and more formal with older ones).

So, if you want to provide Just-In-Time training support and real-time personalization for your learners, make L&D initiatives more productive, more efficient, available 24/7, answer frequently asked questions (FAQs), increase learner engagement, and more…a chatbot might be right for you.

Who knows, by introducing a chatbot into your organization's training perhaps your learners, clients and stakeholders will soon be saying “Wow!”