In 2018, Artificial Intelligence is all around us. Whether we realize it or not, AI has deeply influenced both our professional and personal lives. From virtual assistants to fraud detection systems, AI has and is being widely adopted across all industries.
However, when looking at AI’s influence in the world of continuing education and adult learning, it isn't as easy to spot. This is because the eLearning industry poses a unique set of challenges which has made it more difficult for institutions to adopt new technologies powered by AI.
But it’s certainly not all doom and gloom for those eLearning course providers making efforts to evolve and keep up with these changes. Here’s a look at three ways Artificial Intelligence is beginning to impact online continuing education and other adult learning programs.
1. Intelligent Tutoring Systems
Tutoring has often been touted as one of the most effective learning methods, regardless of age. By utilizing a more personalized approach, students develop a better practical understanding of the subject at hand, thereby improving their overall performance. But for professionals pursuing online CE, private in-person tutoring can be hard to accommodate. That’s where AI can step in.
Intelligent tutoring systems are, in essence, computer software that's been built to emulate a human tutor. The AI asks questions, which are answered by the student, and the system then interprets the answers and provides customized feedback. Similar to their human counterparts, the primary objective of these systems is to go beyond simply identifying whether a response is correct or incorrect. Rather the goal is to learn and recognize why a particular response is incorrect and provide guidance as to how to arrive at the correct response.
For adult learning, this could potentially mean a direct integration of intelligent tutoring systems into existing Learning Management Systems and eLearning platforms, ultimately providing easy access and personalized real-time support. Learners can simply consult the tutoring system via a chat interface, leveraging an AI powered chat bot, and receive guidance at any time from any device. While intelligent tutoring systems aren’t designed to replace human teachers, they can provide supplementary feedback and support to program participants, making it easier for them to understand their curriculum and ultimately achieve better results.
2. Personalized Learning
In the context of corporate training, a company's courses are frequently designed with a one-size-fits-all approach, where the onus falls on the employee to either learn the material and succeed – or fail to do so. While delivering the same content in the same way to all employees may seem like an efficient and fair common practice, people have different learning styles and this is rarely taken into account with respect to a traditional training program.
With Artificial Intelligence aids, this shortcoming can be mitigated. Machine learning algorithms can incorporate prior performance data, and use that data to alter an individual’s curriculum in order to address their specific needs. Some systems also learn as individuals progress through an eLearning course, identifying areas where an individual might lack proficiency and prioritize that content. Likewise, individuals struggling in a particular section might be guided through at a slower pace, whereas for others who find it easy, the system would propose a more expedited approach.
Rather than making all employees learn the same content in the same time frame, the system could also present content pertaining to each employee’s job function. This way, participants could enjoy a tailor-made program designed to help them succeed in their role – and ultimately their career.
3. Increased ROI
Of course, companies have every incentive to want their employees to take continuing education and/or training seriously. Not only do these types of growth opportunities develop and nurture them into more skilled professionals who can make greater contributions to the organization, there are costs associated with CE and development programs.
AI-powered systems, through personalized and more efficient learning, lead to less time being spent by employees in the classroom and more time applying what they’ve learned. By ensuring that training is delivered in the most streamlined manner possible, these systems reduce redundancies and directly contribute to higher efficiency and ROI.
What's more, through machine learning, companies are more easily able to identify irrelevant areas of training that are misaligned with company goals. This gives organizations the ability to do away with unnecessary training programs and focus on new areas of improvement.
Artificial Intelligence in continuing education is still in its infancy. Adults can benefit from a different type of learning in order to address twenty-first century challenges – and AI could prove to be the missing ingredient. AI has the potential to disrupt continuing education by enhancing and accelerating the learning process through streamlining content delivery and providing more current, relevant, and personalized learning experiences. While there may be detractors, the potential good that AI could contribute to the adult eLearning far exceeds any negative impact, and must be explored in depth.