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David Burden explaining recent developments around Virtual Humans
Author of Virtual Humans: Today and Tomorrow
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For years now, there have been looming concerns across all industries about the potentiality that humans will be ousted in favor of artificial intelligence (AI).
Particularly in corporate educational settings, where educators currently play an instrumental role in the delivery of knowledge, the mere suggestion that intelligent machines might one day play a larger part could spark real concern.
Certainly, there’s no escaping the fact that as technology progresses, many of these developments will mean that the roles of educators will change. Yet, this does not necessarily mean that humans will find themselves displaced by shiny new tech.
Developments in automation and AI are largely in place to make our lives easier, and this is no different within the corporate learning and development (L&D) environment. To draw a parallel, this is not unlike innovations such as the assembly line, which was brought into play to make factory work more efficient, and minimize the hours of painstaking labor that workers would otherwise have to endure. Instead of taking away roles, these advances in technology actually opened up new avenues for workers, who would go on to act in tandem with these machines.
The same is to be said for EdTech. Pioneering new solutions will take much of the grunt-work away from educators and enable them to focus on the part of their role that matters most: the human element.
Typically, peer-to-peer (P2P) learning is an instrumental aspect of corporate L&D programs, as well as being one of the most effective modes of sharing knowledge. P2P-driven training incentives are built around the theory that individuals learn best when they can do so alongside their peers. For example, employees might absorb and retain information better when it is delivered to them by a trusted colleague, and will be less intimidated than if it were delivered by a manager or an HR team. A further benefit of this learning method is that it can actually enable workers to take more ownership of their roles and to collaborate more freely with their peers, which can pay dividends further down the line.
The recent surge in uptake of EdTech technologies might wrongly lead corporate leaders to the assumption that this valued learning strategy will be displaced in the new digital age. However, educators must remember one important factor when these concerns rear their head: and that is that intrinsically “human” skills cannot be easily replicated by robots. Even as technology progresses, ‘soft skills’ such as emotional intelligence and empathy will be vital.
Indeed, in a climate where educators and learners alike are relying heavily on technology to fill the gaps exposed by the pandemic, individuals are finding themselves missing the days of face-to-face learning with real life practitioners. And although organizations have managed to put videoconferencing and online learning software to good use during this difficult period, research from Soffos has uncovered that a staggering 42% of full-time workers find it difficult to properly engage with learning materials and training courses when they are conducted online.
No doubt, newer and more thorough applications of AI will enable educators to get a better overview of how their students are performing. By hyper-personalizing learning materials to fit the specific learner, as well as delivering sophisticated data insights in real-time, intelligent solutions will be able to offer made-to-measure L&D opportunities round the clock. This should go some way to lessen the burden on teachers who have, up until now, had to spread themselves thin to get the job done.
It should also make room for learning leaders to focus on another important aspect of their role – namely, creating situations in which employees can collaborate to bolster their development, and engage in a more “Socratic” style of learning. After all, this is thought to be one of the most effective methods of knowledge transfer, and more time devoted to these incentives will encourage better understanding and foster a sense of meaningful connection.
Ultimately, teachers are not just facilitators of knowledge: they are role-models, mentors, and supporters – no EdTech solution will take these roles away. Yet, technology and teachers can and should co-exist. Together, they can make the perfect team to foster a well-rounded education for learners.
Innovative EdTech solutions will even be able to go the extra mile and ensure that educators themselves are receiving the professional development opportunities that they require to do their roles effectively. Indeed, the concept of “teaching the teachers” will offer first-hand benefits to learning leaders, too. For example, learning leaders will benefit from having unique data insights at their fingertips, and will be able to adapt their training strategies on the fly to better fit individual learning needs. What’s more, they will be able to access state of the art instructional methods as well as libraries full of the latest research and pioneering AR and VR (augmented and virtual reality) technologies. This means that training leaders will be better-informed, as well as having the right technology to simulate new experiences for learners, so that they can really apply their new knowledge.
Even post-pandemic, we can expect EdTech to stick around, given that the need for technologies that facilitate learning against the background of a more flexible working environment will not go away. Educators need only to adapt and embrace these developments. And indeed, corporate learning leaders should be able to rest safe in the knowledge that their roles will not only endure, but that they will be even better-equipped to perform them.
Nikolas Kairinos is the chief executive officer and founder of Soffos, the world’s first AI-powered KnowledgeBot. The platform streamlines corporate learning and development (L&D) to deliver seamless professional training for employees. You can follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Author of Virtual Humans: Today and Tomorrow