Martin Ford, Author of Rise of the Robots, once said: “Imagine the uproar when Uber’s cars start arriving without drivers.” But what if, instead, we imagine a world where user support is provided by bots? We are constantly in pursuit of better ways to learn, faster ways to learn, deeper ways to learn. We’re in an age where education is more accessible than ever before.
And so, with the rise of the robot and artificial intelligence seeping into almost all aspects of our world, what’s next for digital learning?
The digital learning environment allows learners to access content around the clock. At the click of a button, they’re able to find lecture videos, read course materials and post questions on discussion forums. The downside? Sometimes learners have to wait lengthy periods of time to have their questions answered.
Chatbots may just be the solution to responding to instant and meaningful feedback, and possibly even motivating and guiding learners through the learning journey. So are chatbots the next big thing in digital learning, or are we not quite there yet?
What Are Chatbots?
For high tech, the definition of a chatbot may be something of an anticlimax. It’s a robot that chats, typically via text. These cute little guys (and girls), also known as conversational agents, pop up on your screen to offer help by replicating previous conversations with people.
Over the last few years, the chatbot market has grown dramatically, and it ain’t stopping. In 2016, the chatbot market size was estimated to be worth $703.3 million and is expected to reach over $3100 million by the year 2021. That’s more than a 400% growth in just five years!
Yes, the trend is real.
Chatbot dialog is now mostly powered by AI learning. But the concept of chatbots is actually older than you’d think. In fact, it’s been around since the 1960s.
At one point or another, you’ve probably spoken to a chatbot. Maybe you didn’t even know it because the interaction seemed so human-like. But, all sorts of companies are using chatbots to better understand and engage customers and staff.
Devoted digital assistants leading the chatbots revolution are the Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, Samsung Bixby, Microsoft Cortana and Google Assistant. Chatbots can be used on almost any digital platform, from websites to mobile phones. From scheduling meetings to finding the best resources, this smart advisors’ technology extends beyond receiving and answering basic questions.
What Can Smart AI-driven Chatbots Do?
Well, chatbots powered by AI don’t just sound like they’re human, they sound like experts! Yes, these smart bots give expert, well-informed, prompt responses. AI is advancing to the extent where chatbots are not only designed to analyze semantics but actually, have personalities and show empathy.
Semantic analysis allows chatbots to categorize user sentiment as positive, negative or neutral. This capability facilitates appropriate responses that are more meaningful to the user. To take it one step further, some chatbots are able to recognize speech and supply speech-to-text functions, enabling an even quicker and more natural interaction.
Through chatbot machine learning, chatbots can learn from databases, online resources, and past interactions with users, without being pre-programmed. To encourage and facilitate user interaction, chatbots learn how to tailor the way they speak to their audiences.
Chatbots as Digital Learning Tools
Considering the exponential growth of AI, introducing chatbots as digital tools for online learning may just be the next step. Chatbots present a variety of exciting opportunities for both learners and trainers alike.
For example, LMS software today is geared towards delivering learn-as-you-like experiences, which can happen everywhere and anywhere. The nature of chatbots means that learners can access content and get instant answers to questions through messenger-like interfaces, like on their mobile phones.
But chatbots can also be used to facilitate the kind of interactive learning experiences traditionally found in training workshops. Imagine chatbots prompting eLearners to work through their learning path, sending reminders, and even tracking student progress and performance.
A More Personalized eLearning Experience
In pure eLearning, learners risk feeling isolated, just another number. Chatbots could reduce feelings of loneliness and increase engagement.
Duolingo’s chatbot is a fascinating example of how digital assistants can help to create interactive learning experiences. Learners can have conversations with different bots, each with distinctive personality traits and interests.
In digital learning environments, chatbots may be the answer to boost learner engagement, through personalized education. For example, the BI Norwegian Business School uses virtual assistants like Siri and Cortana to interact with learners in a similar way to tutors.
Essentially, chatbots have the technological potential to act as a teacher on tap, providing almost instantaneous answers to individualized queries. Digital learning technologies could position chatbots as facilitators, who guide learners through their course content. During this time, the chatbot might act as a source of reinforcement, posting information at key points in the learning path.
Just ask Professor Ashok Goel, from Georgia Tech. He developed his own ‘undercover’ chatbot for a Knowledge-Based Artificial Intelligence class. The Professor called her Jill Watson and introduced her to his class as a Teaching Assistant. Learners rated Jill so highly that she was almost nominated as an outstanding TA.
Beyond acting as private tutors and sources of reinforcement, chatbots can engage with large audiences as well.
Chatbots may be one of the key digital learning technologies for scaling online education, and encouraging social learning through group debate. While promoting discussions, chatbots are even able to generate the development of a digital learning community.
What’s more exciting about chatbots is that they’ve got the technological capabilities to curate learner-generated content, which would ultimately drive further learner motivation and interaction.
Chatbots in Organizational Training and Development?
The full impact of chatbots on training and development is yet to be discovered. Nevertheless, whether recruiting and selecting, training employees, or facilitating a better workflow between teams and departments, chatbots can be used to make learning more efficient and effective for all parties involved.
In 2020, it’s predicted that chatbots will play a major role in organization’s Human Resource departments. Organizations could be utilizing chatbot technology as an interface between staff, and the organization’s content and databases.
Employees might use chatbots to work through onboarding content and to train staff for specific organizational roles. Chatbots may even have the potential to gather and analyze employee data, which could assist in improving employee talent retention.
By removing aspects of human involvement in organizational training and development, there’s huge potential to save on the costs while still prioritizing employee learning, and keeping them connected to the content.
Companies could use chatbot technology to train staff within the organization. Here, bots could act as teachers, motivators, accountability partners, and even reminder buddies.
Whether seen as virtual assistants, or conversational agents, chatbots certainly show great potential in the digital learning environment. It’s still to be determined whether chatbots are the next major trend in educational technology. But it’s hard to argue against the view that chatbots are an excellent starting point for understanding how AI could transform digital learning.
The question is, are you ready to embrace this disruptive technology?