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The Impact of AI on Digital Learning

Patricia SantosDirector for Group Solutions & Partners, Cegos Group

Since the launch of ChatGPT in late 2022, there has been much talk of the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the way we work and live. There is even discussion on AI’s existential threat to humanity, which is either potentially catastrophic or overhyped, depending on who you listen to!

Nonetheless, AI offers exciting benefits across all sectors, including the learning industry. It is already used in digital learning to enhance personalisation and provide real-time feedback to learners, among other things. But the sheer speed at which AI is developing means learning designers now have more tools at their disposal, which will ultimately benefit the learner.

AI will impact every step of digital learning. It is incredibly disruptive, in life and the way we work, and is going to become more advanced very quickly.

How exactly will AI impact digital learning in the short-term?

1. Instructional Design

A digital course needs to be designed in a way that learners can access, inspired by the latest pedagogy. And there is software available to do just that!

ChatGPT can easily generate training plans will remarkable sophistication. Other tools auto-generate courses based on prompts from the user. For example, you can take an article on ‘how to become a better project manager’, upload it to the system and it will generate slides and quizzes to facilitate learning. The algorithm currently produces somewhat superficial results, unreliable content and a very basic UX. However, it won’t be long before learning providers are using this software to create high quality tutorials, saving hours and hours of work.

ChatGPT is already providing superior answers to some in-app tutorials. Patricia Santos once had an issue with Microsoft Outlook and found the in-app tutorial unhelpful. In contrast, ChatGPT provided a 3-step solution in seconds, and it worked. So, we already are seeing advantages to using AI, even if it currently lacks a genuine and authentic edge.

2. Production

Perhaps the greatest impact will be on how learning designers curate content and use AI software to create videos, images and quizzes, etc.

Currently, for example, the process of producing a professional, polished video is quite cumbersome and expensive; actors need to be hired, studios set up and each video edited.

Tools such as synthesia allow you to auto-generate videos of human-like avatars presenting your script. This saves enormous amounts of time (and money). However, the results are a little clunky. When Cegos experimented with avatars, the feedback showed that some liked it, but others found it difficult to engage with as it lacked authenticity. However, this is what AI can do now. In the future, developers will deal with these teething troubles and the results will be a lot more impressive.

Similarly, AI can be used to generate specific images based on user prompts. Dall-e, for instance, is a popular tool that produces surprisingly realistic results, so the days of searching for stock images that properly illustrate your messaging could soon be a thing of the past. You simply type in the right prompt – ‘young learners looking excitedly at a computer screen’, for example – and your image is generated in seconds.

Finally, there are several AI powered translation tools that can easily interpret learning content so that it can be offered in several languages. While the result always needs a human eye to ensure accuracy, the process is accelerated with AI’s ability to detect speech and voice patterns in a relatively authentic way.

3. Interaction with the learner

Large Language Models (LLM) – a type of AI algorithm that uses deep learning techniques to understand, summarise, generate and predict new content – has put a rocket under advancements in AI. The result is content that mirrors human writing patterns in a way that is easy to engage with. While live feedback is nothing new in digital learning, the sophistication and range just got a whole lot wider to the point where AI can now be used to coach, albeit in a somewhat rudimentary way.

Tools such as Orai can monitor expressions, tone of voice and language to give feedback on presentation skills. Other tools can produce roleplay scenarios where the user interacts with a virtual avatar, programmed to ask the right questions and respond to whatever the user is saying as well as the way they are saying it.

It is unlikely that AI will replace coaches and trainers any time soon, but these tools give learners the opportunity to practise soft skills and get personalised feedback, exactly when they need and without taking up anybody else’s time.

This is all very impressive. But, as with any technological leap, there are limitations and pitfalls ahead.

Firstly, we need to consider the ethical dimensions. LLMs, for instance, rely on existing content produced by humans to generate new material. This has implications for intellectual property rights, with authors and actors rightly concerned that others are using their hard work for free and without recognition.

AI tools can also be used to produce ‘fake news’ and LLMs sometimes pick up sources that are not wholly reliable. This is why fact-checking is important when using AI to generate content.

There are also significant limitations. Generative AI is still not able to:

  • Give specific knowledge without the right prompt (how can I ask what I don’t know?)
  • Perform physical actions in the real world
  • Recognise and give feedback to certain behaviours
  • Recognize, respond and adapt to the personal, emotional and social needs of the learner
  • Provide personalised advice that considers an individual's unique context circumstances
  • Make judgment calls that require moral or ethical reasoning

In time, these limitations will reduce as AI becomes more sophisticated. And there is discussion on implementing legal limits, so that AI does not become so powerful that it is difficult to control.

However, there is no doubt AI will play a much bigger part in digital learning over the course of the next few years.

However, we will always need human trainers. Since the pandemic, people have reported digital fatigue which shows the human touch is essential to learning. But we can certainly use AI to improve efficiency, so long as we use it with purpose and validate all content for authenticity.

If you would like to know more about how to integrate AI into your digital learning programs, contact us today.

Written by

Patricia Santos

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