Just a few years ago, chatbots were seen as something highly futuristic. Today, they are part of our everyday lives. Smart assistants such as Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa are a regular feature of the modern home. At work, chatbots help us book annual leave, arrange check-ins, and keep on top of our daily schedules. When we shop online, we often interact with chatbots without even realising it.
There is a temptation to see chatbots as just the latest fun gadget, but they are much more than that. They have already revolutionised the way we interact with technology, making processes faster and easier than ever before. And this is just the start.
As advances in artificial intelligence (AI) make chatbots ever smarter and more adaptive, the scope of their application will grow to include more advanced, personalised, ‘human’ areas. One such area is learning and development.
The evolution of learning and development
In today’s ever-changing world of work, learning and development play an essential role in ensuring that businesses and their people stay ahead of the curve. But change now comes so rapidly that traditional ways of learning no longer cut it.
For years, the group training session was the go-to way of imparting information. If you wanted to brush up on your soft skills or get to grips with a new piece of software, you had to book yourself into a session. Training was held periodically, or whenever there was enough interest to make running a session worthwhile. This meant that you never received the information when you actually needed it.
Technology has since liberated learners, allowing us to access training materials and online courses as and when we need them. This ‘just-in-time learning’ empowers us to take responsibility for our own development by closing knowledge gaps as soon as we discover them. While this represents a huge leap forward, online learning courses can still feel rather impersonal.
Chatbots — the future of learning and development
With advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning, chatbots have the potential to become much more than the basic digital helpers we know today. They could completely transform the way we think about learning and development, providing a highly intelligent, tailored, and interactive learning platform that knows what you need when you need it. Here are just some of the ways chatbots could revolutionise learning and development.
If one criticism could be made of professional training programmes, it is that they don’t take into account the individual needs of learners. We all have our own specific requirements and learning styles.
Unlike current online training platforms, chatbots could provide a truly individualised approach to learning and development. Smart chatbots — that is those powered by AI — have the ability to learn on the job. The more data they process, the better they are at predicting and interpreting what the user needs.
Imagine a chatbot that knows where the gaps in your knowledge are, based on your profile, history and current goals, and then pushes relevant training materials your way to help you close those gaps and stay on track.
As with any chatbot function, the point is to make processes simpler and more efficient. Chatbots allow learners to access learning materials without having to log in to and navigate a clunky learning management system. Instead, they simply interact with their bot using natural language, either through text or speech.
The chatbot acts as a single go-to point for all their learning needs, handling user requests and returning appropriate information and training materials on demand. Learners have access to their chatbots via smart devices, meaning that learning can happen anywhere, anytime.
Given the busy reality of modern work, learning and development can sometimes take a backseat. This can have serious repercussions in the long run. The professional world is changing rapidly, and we need to invest in ourselves constantly in order to keep up.
Chatbots can provide a friendly nudge when we need it most, sending us timely prompts and reminders to stay on track with our learning and development. They can also ensure that our progress is aligned with short- and long-term professional goals, and provide instant feedback and results. Progress can be presented in the form of rankings, points, leaderboards, or other graphical displays, providing that insight and motivation we need to push forward.
Digital coaches and mentors
Not long ago, personal assistants were the preserve of a minority of people at the very top of the business hierarchy. But now, with chatbots, we all have access to one. In the future, we may well say the same about professional coaches and mentors.
Digital coaches could play a central role in our professional lives in the not-too-distant future. These highly specified chatbots will follow us throughout our careers, guiding us towards personal and professional goals. They will understand our abilities, and provide us with tailor-made training plans to help us take our development to the next level.
They will also understand our preferences — how we learn, and when we are most receptive — and will shape our learning experience accordingly. They will know exactly what motivates us, and work diligently to ensure we maintain focus.
There is much talk about how artificial intelligence will make human work obsolete in the future. Instead, it could be the thing that helps us stay relevant in a fast-changing world.