Blog: Algorithm-driven Intelligent Learning


Algorithm-driven Intelligent Learning

We are heading towards an algorithm driven intelligent learning that will disrupt the learning industry like never before
Algorithm-driven Intelligent Learning

 “The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed” - William Gibson

 This is what the famous science fiction author is reported to have aired in an interview to Fresh Air, NPR. 

With the turn of the modern era, one cannot agree with him more. Such has been the influence of technology in today’s world. A mere sifting of a few online news feeds and interaction with people, throws light on how technology is moving ahead at a phenomenal pace. If you look at the technology trends that have been covered in the news you would be awestruck with the technology and the potential it has in shaping our tomorrow. 

Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Automation, Intelligent Apps, Internet of things, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Blockchain, Conversational UI (Bots), Drones… the T-list is virtually endless. Technology has become so powerful that it is now influencing human behavior in terms of way we think and act, I believe this time around technology is heralding the change. 

Yes, I could indeed vouch for the same as I have experienced it all in my own domain.

My interactions with various leaders in Learning and Development space reveal that some organizations have successfully implemented micro learning, real-time video learning, and courses from open source. Over the past 5 years, we have made a significant improvement in making learning available at any time and offering content using different form factors.

A significant shift has also been witnessed in terms of the approach to foster learning culture.

Learning Management Systems have moved from being the principle employee experience systems to a background enabler. Many organizations have successfully implemented gamification as a mainstream learning element and it has reported to have helped them achieve great results. Organizations have started using design thinking and have laid greater focus on learning experience than in the past. 

We are heading towards an algorithm driven intelligent learning and I would like to call it “Gen I”. Things required for this change to happen are just falling in place as we are discussing this topic. The next three to five years are going to be exciting and I believe the below highlighted technology trio will disrupt the learning industry like never before:

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Artificial Intelligence, as we see it, is a collection of multiple scientific disciplines, supported by technologies, which enable machines to sense, comprehend, act and learn, either on their own or by augmenting human activities. Some of the disciplines are Natural Language Processing, Video Analytics, Ontology, Deep Learning, Robotic Process Automation, Sensor Processing, Mini Bots, Knowledge Representation, Expert Systems, Facial Recognition, Computer Vision, Machine Learning, Inference Engines, Neural Networks, Reinforcement Learning, and Gesture Recognition. 

Learning and development industry has shown a keen interest in the usage of AI. I have tried to capture some use cases of AI application in learning and development. You would have come across some of the use cases already and some would are slated to become reality in the near future. 

Use Case 1: Hyper Personalization 

One of the key forces disrupting the learning and development today is hyper personalization. Every learner is unique and is ready to do what they need to do to learn effectively. With advancements in data analytics and Artificial Intelligence, we are now able to provide hyper personalized learning and development recommendations. Edcast and Degreed have emerged as learning experience platform that uses AI technology to offer hyper personalized content. Cornerstone, a leading HRMS solution provider, has announced the launch of its new version of LMS that offers hyper personalization, "Netflix-style" User Experience, Curated Content and Learning Paths. The system also will automatically identify the best learning paths by role or career trajectory to help employees pursue their ambitions. One of the largest and leading retail chain outlets in India recently has started using Edcast for training and developing its employees. A noticeable improvement in learner experience and performance has been observed. 

Use Case 2: Career Coaching

Even though most organizations have career paths and have linked competencies required at each of their job roles, employees struggle to visualize various career progression paths. Imagine a situation where a career coach bot is able to engage in meaningful conversations with employees and suggest different career paths and at the same time recommend an optimal path based on his/her personal facets such as competency, experience, innate attributes like traits and drivers. I believe such recommendations would empower the employee and would allow them to own/script their career. This would also unravel patterns in the career path maze in terms of the nature of career paths that are most suited for employees with similar persona (competency, experience and innate attributes like traits and drivers, etc.)

A leading Indian conglomerate is putting together a system that analyses how employees in the past have progressed in their career and how successful they have been in each job role. The career path modeling system is able to learn dynamically more about the employee persona and what attributes are emerging as the key differentiating factor for a successful persona. 

Use Case 3: Virtual Mentors  

CEB conducted a survey in 2016 covering over 9000 employees to better understand what learners value the most. Analysis of the same revealed that ease of learning has 2.7x times greater impact in terms of application of learning compared to engagement focused learning strategy. 

Virtual mentors could make this a reality. Identifying what an employee needs at the right time and offering information/tools/support that would help address the need is the key to making this happen. A virtual mentor would be a bot that is constantly on the lookout for events where employees would need additional support or simply a nudge. The virtual mentor would constantly scan and learn from your communications (email/chats/messages), search, emotions transmitted through facial recognition. As a self-learning system, it would be able to identify the trigger events and also the chronological sequence of activities. These virtual mentors would be able to communicate via email, chat with the employee and offer timely information/guidance that could help the employees improve performance on the job.

Amelia (from IPSoft) and Nuance are some of the examples of what an intelligent bot could do to an enterprise. Affectiva is an emotion recognition technology that collects insights from consumer’s emotional responses. Affectiva SDK could capture learner’s facial expression, body movements and processes it using its patented machine learning algorithm. Affectiva’s AI algorithm uses computer vision, machine learning and deep learning methodologies to train algorithms that classify emotions. This is just the beginning! Imagine what we could do with this technology to improve learning in a corporate context. 

Use Case 4: Automation of Learning Administration

More than 45 percent of the employees in the learning and development function mostly focus on learning administration related tasks. Learning administration has been an area where automation has not been attempted in a big way. The LMSs available today too have not attempted to solve this as the focus has always been on the learning experience. Robotics Process Automation (RPA) is the answer to bringing efficiency in the learning administration space. In short, RPA is all about configuring specially designed software (mini bots) to capture and interpret existing applications for processing a transaction, manipulating data, triggering responses and communicating with other digital systems.

Tools like Blue Prism, Automation Anywhere and Phantom FTE could be used to achieve automation in the learning administration space. A large IT major has used RPA to automate many learning administration tasks and have thereby freed up the human capital to focus on the more critical aspect of improving the human potential of employees.  

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)

Pokémon GO game has highlighted to the world the power of VR/AR. VR/AR and has changed the way we people interact with the system and with the environment. VR/AR has found its way into the education sector, many schools have started exploring the use of VR/AR to help students experience near real life experience with what they are learning. Adoption of VR/AR at enterprises has been slow, but nevertheless, the adoption is bound to increase with the cost coming down and with tools now available for enterprises to create their own content. 

In the recent article published by Google “Daydream Labs: Teaching Skills in VR” they have highlighted how people using VR could outperform others who do not use VR but used YouTube to learn how to make a coffee. This experiment proves beyond doubt that VR/AR based learning would improve the performance as it reduces the knowing-doing gap. 

EON Reality, a start-up is taking a very different approach to the educational space. They provide the tools for educators to create their own applications. Using the EON Creator, educators can create their own VR/AR content and use them for training and development. 

Many organizations in the manufacturing industry have found training their employees using VR/AR very useful as it has helped them become better prepared to operate the machines and reduce safety incidents. General Motors uses Google Glass to train factory workers in real-time. This technology also helps connect the workers on the floor with others in the back office and allows for more collaboration and communication.

With the cost of technology coming down and mobile devices becoming more adept at handling VR/AR, it is only a matter of time before learning and development is able to leverage the technology to improve employee productivity. 

Learning Record Stores (LRS) /xAPI

The world of learning and development over the past two decades has been so obsessed with Learning Management Systems that L&D functions would seldom think of ways and means of developing a skill if it could not be accommodated in an LMS. Today’s learners have changed and they do not want to be constrained by what an LMS can provide. L&D function conventionally looked at learning with the perspective of courses and programs that are available within an LMS, but today learning is everywhere. We have MOOCs, TED, YouTube, e-books and hundreds of content sources from where the learner could learn. The learner is no longer keen on being controlled or limited by an LMS within an enterprise. Further, apart from their desire to augment their knowledge from different sources of learning, they also expect the L&D function to recognize their learning that is happening outside of the LMS. 

The solution to this interesting problem is the Learning Record Stores (LRS).

An LRS is a system of records that stores any kind of learning activity that is happening within a formal or informal context. Corporate Universities would establish an LRS to which LMS would be able to write records of learning taken up by learners, similarly, other systems could also write into an LRS when a learner learns something outside of an LMS. When a learner reads an e-book, watches a video, completes a coaching session an LRS record could be created for each of them.

By implementing LRS, the L&D team is able to expand the way in which the learners are able to learn and get credits. 

GrassBlade, Watershed, Learning Locker, Wax LRS (from SaltBox) are some of the LRS solutions that are available. Additionally, organizations will be able to gain better insight into their employees’ informal learning activities via Cornerstone. We could clearly see a trend where LRS is getting integrated into LMS or enterprises are implementing it separately to provide their employees the required freedom with respect to informal learning.

So, get ready for the Gen I era of learning and development.

(Source -

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Topics: Technology, Learning & Development, #LearningLandscapes

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