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opened up learning to fit the student, on whichever device they prefer to use, in any environment or even country and at the time of day that they find it easiest to learn. We’re already seeing this flexible approach enable those on maternity leave to complete the same courses as their colleagues. As technology becomes widespread, it will empower more people to do the same. Like all areas of our lives, online courses of the future will be increas- ingly personalised and responsive. As artificial intelligence becomes more

AI will enable non-linear learning paths – that means understanding how a learner is progressing and adapting the course to fit their pace

sophisticated, it will change the way we structure a course forever. We envisage a time when AI will enable non-linear learning paths – that means under- standing how a learner is progressing and adapting the course to fit their pace. Tis could mean reinforcing

certain modules that require more understanding or skipping ahead when learners are picking things up quickly. Te more data

AI can gather about individual learners, the better equipped it will be to spot patterns in behaviour and change the course content accordingly. It will also be able to understand how certain elements of a course are more or less engaging than others, and feed back to the course creators accordingly. In a group training scenario, a tutor may not be able to monitor the progress of all students at all times, especially in a large cohort. Yet with AI, learners have the benefit of one-to-one tuition, but without the associated cost. While AI will allow the delivery of a course to be personalised, at scale, we’re still a long way from seeing robots writing course content on our behalf. In its assessment of jobs at risk of auto- mation, the BBC ranks senior teaching roles as one of the safest jobs in the UK, at only 1% likely to be replaced by AI.2

Expert human tutors should

continue to play a key role in curation and creation of content, relying on their wealth of experience. Te creativity and ideas will always need to come from the human side, in a perfect marriage of art and science. Te first

effective uses of AI are therefore likely to be in

areas such as more advanced use of learning analytics to drive course improvement and personalised expe- rience; and the use of virtual chatbots, powered by machine learning, that can respond to common questions to help to release valuable human instructor time for higher-impact activities. Tese are themes that we are exploring in partnership with a leading university.

What does the future hold?

While AI will no doubt improve the learning experience of the future, I don’t believe robots will ever replace humans completely. We will always need human tutors to bring a course to life and take it from a good experience, to something excellent. Personal, human interaction and the support network around an online course is also vital to its success. Technology should enhance the

role of the tutor and enable them to perform their role even better. Rather than developing technology for technology’s sake, online learning platforms need to be based on the science of learning, but using technology to improve their delivery at scale and with measurable outcomes. Te online learning revolution is

upon us and, with the best technology in their corner, L&D professionals will be well placed to lead it.

Mark O’Donoghue is managing director of AVADO Digital. To find out more, visit

References 1 2

22 | AUGUST 2017 | @TrainingJournal

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