The future is now

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Written by Barry Johnson on 13 September 2017

The concept of individual learner-centred industrial training is not new. I joined a telecommunications manufacturing company in 1977. Much of the production of electronic components was automated and overseen by operators with some manual operational skills.

The operators learned the job from a TV screen above each machine position, and the operator mastered controlling that machine and the practical skills. He or she could then move on to another machine or machine position. The supervisors were coaches.

With AI that approach has advanced, and the human has more personal control of their learning, and the job complexity has increased and the 'teaching machine' is more responsive to the individual learner. The basic concept has just advanced in its applications, sophistication and personalisation, but learning facilitators will be necessary while there are some humans in the industry. costs fall AI and VR tools will become accessible in your organisation related to the knowledge, skill and attitudes, your organisation requires. 

As we move further into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, many jobs will become automated. Some functions such as HR, industrial law, finance and administrative organisational functions, will have many fewer professionals and operatives.

The World Economic Forum research indicates a net loss of 5m jobs in 15 major developed and emerging economies, but losses can be offset by growth in new key areas. Crucial to enabling and mitigating these changes will be learning that is responsive to the learner in a format tuned to the individual by the learning machine responding to the requirements and characteristics of the learner.

Wow, sounds like Star Trek.

Now virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) are gaining traction. Recent reports show how AI will transform industrial learning soon and academic AI supported learning has started in some universities and has replaced some academic staff, and the students think they are talking to a human.

The future offers the potential of even greater support. Imagine lifelong learning companions for the individuals powered by AI that can support individual learners throughout their academic studies, soft skills, general skills, specific craft and technological learning related to their work and company information such as that sought from professional specialists.

This is not looking up a database but the ability to ask questions and being asked questions, so the information received relates specifically to the learner. If a human supplied the information that is what you might expect, so it is with AI.

Currently, it is only for those organisations prepared to invest and advance into the unknown but where the explorers have gone others will follow. High costs are a challenge, but as costs fall AI and VR tools will become accessible in your organisation related to the knowledge, skill and attitudes, your organisation requires.

Big Data has revolutionised advancing companies as it reveals patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behaviour and interactions. This is crucial to learning at all levels. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is rolling forward, and I believe L&D is pivotal to its success.


About the author

Barry Johnson BA, Chartered MCIPD, MCMI is the co-founder of Learning Partners. He has extensive experience in designing assessment events for development and selection and is an experienced facilitator and assessor.​

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