In 2017, universities’ classrooms are still full and the face-to-face learning market is still the norm in the corporate world. So where is the “Digital Learning” revolution? It will come from the merging of artificial intelligence (AI), e-learning and virtual reality (VR) – but not without struggles.
Professional social networks are increasingly becoming ubiquitous in our lives and businesses. It is now essential to remain current in online skills to retain employability. It is possible to imagine that, thanks to the different information gathered via these networks (LinkedIn, Monster, Viadeo, Facebook), intelligent software could define and follow a profile. A virtual advisor could accelerate a career and boost skills according to this profile, level, experience and desires. He could then suggest useful courses to the employee to remain competitive, boost his employability or advance his career plan. Companies can also use this data and algorithms to offer courses that meet expectations of their future employees.
Artificial intelligence can also detect learners’ emotions and thus anticipate the progress of a training session. Is the employee distracted today? A shorter session will be proposed. The employee is efficient but has little time? The session will be denser. The analysis of the environment – and the user’s emotions – directly impacts its way of interacting with the course. In addition, this machine can study the sensitivity to different formats and interactivities by analyzing the curve of smile, concentration, etc. – the machine will begin to know the learner by heart! Tools such as the webcam, the microphone or the eye-tracking system are essential for this new kind of “trainer.”
Intelligent learning content will not be the only evolution of the EdTech. Virtual reality appears as a new way of learning. By mixing visual, auditory and spatial dimensions, virtual reality makes memorization easier, while making the experience fun and intuitive. Indeed, each person has a different sensitivity to the means of learning.
While technical constraints have been a major obstacle to virtual reality development for decades, today many leaders, i.e. Facebook, Google, etc., and many startups including Alchemy VR and Discovery VR, are promoting this technology to mainstream audiences. The learner’s activity, feedback, motivation, objective knowledge and mastering the requirements are considered – and not determinable in a single course! Reading, role playing, experimenting and training are all learning methods to which virtual reality will add value.
Last year (2016) marked the introduction of chatbots, or conversational robots, on our social networks (Facebook, Slack). Using deep learning, they included varied sentences and are a quick way to access knowledge. Their strength lies in the fact that they execute requests better and more efficiently – leaving more time to the instructors for complex subjects. On the forums, they can provide answers to similar questions asked later.
Vocational training is also of major interest to community management with artificial intelligence dedicated to the animation of the learning community on the course. This means having artificial intelligence capable of knowing millions of learners at their fingertips in seconds, connecting learners to help each other during the course, making the learners interact through animations or meeting their needs at any time. This is a key point to reinforce learners’ engagement in the digital courses and to actually experience social actuation during the training.
New innovations supported by artificial intelligence could mark the beginning of the ‘100 percent digital’ revolution. But what would be the trainer’s role outside dispersion of knowledge? Their link with the learner is not only educational but also creates context and structure. Trainers are essential to create the basis of the academic content. This role is also important in the development of the critical minds of the pupils – which a machine delivering the course could not readily convey. The distribution of this content raises questions of ethics and control of information – in order to allow the student to form his own opinion and to appropriate knowledge.
Learning is not only about content and knowledge, but also about interactions: cooperation, desire, trust, etc. What is interesting about the relationship between learner and trainer is that the learner learns and teaches, as the trainer teaches and continues to learn. To elevate this relationship, it’s necessary to have a referent to drive the machine. It is inevitable that a human mind assisted by a computer is more powerful than without. Therefore, no machine is a substitution for the human brain; however, artificial intelligence makes it possible to act as a human in many instances. There is no substitute, however, to have a teacher with you to ask questions and interact without an intermediary. Learning cannot be reduced to the dispensing of knowledge – it must involve socialization which is even more important when students are young.
These fundamental issues remain items that ‘digital learning’ and artificial intelligence cannot solve. But, this is not just a matter of science fiction – it is a possible modality for learning along with helping each company and each individual in the development of his or her skills.
By Raphaël Droissart, Chief Technology Officer of Learning Tribes, a company of Sitel
Credit: This article first appeared in L’Usine Digitale