Will AI transform eLearning?

We are already experiencing how AI is affecting some facets of our lives. How you ask? The movement sensing lights that go on when you enter an unoccupied conference room or a parking area, intelligent sensors in cameras now that detect a smile and help take good pictures, cars with automatic parking features, Alexa switching on the living room lights, and Google adding items to your shopping list! We have personal assistants in our smartphones that we have rather got used to. The buzz around AI in eLearning has also acquired lot of weight in the last few years. Needless to say, AI is the primary topic of interest at most learning and technology conferences these days. I happened to attend Learning Solutions 2019 Conference in Orlando in March this year, and not surprisingly, AI took the center stage. It was evident from the numerous sessions being conducted around AI and many renowned speakers talking about its impact on the current eLearning scenario. Following are some interesting trends and insights that caught my attention.


Chatbots have become synonymous with AI in eLearning. They stole the show at this conference as well by being the most discussed AI application.

Vince Han, CEO and Founder of Mobile Coach, talked about how chatbots can be an effective solution in connecting learners with resources and job aids they need, and when they need them.

Hugh Seaton, CEO of Aquinas Learning, touched upon how chatbots offer a way to easily create and deploy interactive and adaptive learning sequences in learning engagements. He walked the audience through creating a simple chatbot based on Google’s DialogFlow.

Joe Ganci, President of eLearning Joe, helped identify ways to incorporate a chatbot in your learning project and gave examples of how chatbots can introduce a course and deliver pre-work, give embedded performance feedback during the course, and share personalized tips after the course.

AI and Instructional Design

AI and its effect on instructional designers was the next most discussed thing after chatbots.

A panel discussion titled ‘Where is instructional design heading?’ which was conducted by industry’s instructional design experts discussed how instructional design needs to evolve as new technologies and approaches emerge. The panel gave tips on what can best help instructional designers prepare for where instructional design may be heading.

Poonam Jaypuriya, Vice President of eLearning at Harbinger Interactive Learning, talked about why the fear of AI replacing humans in the learning workforce is unwarranted.  She emphasized on how instructional designers’ role has evolved with the emergence of AI in the learning ecosystem.

With so much to ponder on, it’s but natural to think how AI is making inroads to eLearning and revolutionizing the learning industry.

Apart from the above points, here’s how AI could impress.

  • eLearning powered by AI will differentiate learners’ learning speeds and suggest different paths of learning depending on their current level of mastery.
  • The key to building successful learning experiences lies in asking the right questions. AI-powered platforms can be used to create questions, assessments, and quizzes with greater speed and efficiency.

As I understand, the overall research goal of AI is to create technology that allows computers and machines to function in an intelligent manner. Time will only tell whether AI in eLearning lives upto the hype or not, but for now, the future seems to be bright.

Learning Trends to Watch Out for in 2019

It is that time of year when we all take a pause and reflect on the year passing by and get ready to welcome the new one. My role as a Proposal Engineer at Harbinger Interactive Learning makes me stretch outside the norms and design interesting solutions for our customers. While looking back at 2018, I realized this year was unique in many ways. It challenged the eLearning stakeholders in many ways and got them out of their comfort zone. All these advancements have paved way for an even more exciting 2019.

Here are the trends I foresee for the upcoming year.

Instructional Design to Learning Experience Design

Instructional design seems to be gradually evolving into learning experience design. Instructional designers will now need to think beyond course instructional strategy, chunking content, and storyboard creation. Delivering learning content in newer ways based on learner behavior would be their new agenda. Applying instructional strategies for newer formats like chatbot, AR/VR, short animated videos, would be very different than applying them to an hour long course. Our instructional designers have already started experiencing this change. Have you?

Redefined eLearning Course Development and Design

The ideal duration of an eLearning course changed from an hour or two to about 30 minutes in the last few years. It would further dip down to 2-5 minute long modules. The delivery formats would now also include interactive infographics, AR content, and other such interesting forms. It implies that every course and every learning experience could be unique. This change would also form the premise for a huge transformation in the way eLearning content development units and L&D departments function, since they won’t be using the waterfall model to develop hundreds of hours of learning in the same format anymore.

eLearning Project Management Moves Agile

Agile project management practices have been around in software development cycle since ages. And they have been talked about for quite some time now in eLearning teams as well. With the type of variety in content being developed now, it would be a welcome to see agile project management in action here as well.

CLOs and Learning Directors Ready to Take Risks

In the past, for many of our proposals, we have been asked to put down the ROI for eLearning development in black and white. But in 2018, we saw that quite a few learning stake-holders were open to newer ideas, trying out different forms of learning content delivery, and not being hung upon the ROI. I don’t deny that ROI is important. And it would have to be asked one day. But, what is important is that stake-holders are ready to take risks. The parameters of ROI are being shifted from “number of hours of learning” to “performance improvement” of an employee in areas that matter. If a support desk employee can get a just-in-time learning nugget on how to fill a complex form and completes that form within record time and handle more support queries, the ROI is achieved.

Netflix-like Experiences in Learning

Today, no learner would like to login to an LMS to take up a course even if they have free time. But, if the same employee is on an internal portal browsing some content and there comes a learning nugget in the context of what they are surfing, there are high chances of them clicking on this learning nugget. And that is how learning would happen now: In-context and nudged based on user actions. A seemingly Netflix like experience where movies are recommended based on what the user watches and surfs. And the recommendations only become better with time.

Artificial Intelligence in Learning

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has made great advancements through the past few years and this year will mark its remarkable presence in L&D setup. AI is going to play a dual role here: Providing personalized experiences and learner evaluation through analytics.

AI-powered chatbots are currently being used to answer financial queries, provide customer support, diagnose healthcare issues, and even offer counselling on various topics. They are already starting to make an impact on education and corporate learning. Bots similar to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Microsoft’s Cortana could be developed to frontend a course and provide personalized learning experiences.  Besides delivering learning, a chatbot can also provide information about what people learn, how they learn, and what they need to learn. The data recorded from chatbot interactions can be analyzed to see what is being learned and when. It will also tell you what information is missing by recording the queries that it couldn’t respond to. This means that training can become more relevant and effective as it’s based on the demonstrable needs of employees rather the notional needs determined by L&D.

Interesting time lies ahead for the L&D function as some new learning and re-skilling looks to be the order of the year. Do you agree? Get immersed and enjoy the journey!

Make Your Instructor-Led Training Interactive

Instructor-Led Training (ILT) seemed to have had lost its sheen and eLearning had caught up big time. As a part of an eLearning content development company and involved closely with proposals and customers, there weren’t many ILT related proposals we got to work on. But since last couple of years, ILT have again gained importance and are in demand than ever before. My guess is flipped classroom and virtual ILT helped in this change.

We had quite a few of our clients thinking of ILT development, but were concerned about it becoming stagnant very quickly if developed the traditional way. Their learners would expect ILT to be equally engaging and interactive as their eLearning courses. That got us thinking. Apart from the traditional ways of engaging a learner in an ILT, what are some interesting ways to make it engaging and interactive?Converting Boring ILTs to Interactive ILTs

An important point to note is that an ILT will require as much instructional design as an eLearning course development. Even though the PowerPoint presentation is the backbone of the ILT, just a good looking presentation with numerous bulleted lists and graphics thrown in will not be able to sustain the learner’s attention. There’s a lot an instructional designer can do to add value.

Here are few guidelines to follow while designing an ILT-

1. Design a theme for presentation and the guides– Design graphical theme of the presentation in line with the branding guidelines. Follow the theme for the Instructor/ Facilitator guide (FG) and Participant/Student guide (PG). Once familiar with the theme, it will then not serve as an attention diverter.

2. Use appropriate amount of graphics and multimedia elements – Have less text on your slides. Make use of graphics, infographics, multimedia elements such as animations and videos appropriately. Less text on screen will ensure learner to focus on the instructor rather than reading the slide.

3. Take benefit of learners being together by designing activities which encourage their participation.

Some techniques that can be used for increasing learner participation are listed below:

1. Ice breaker session is a must. Get people to know each other. Only then will they interact. Instead of having it as the first session, have it once the participants have settled down and are comfortable with the instructor.

2. Use training games– There are various training games that can be designed by the instructional designer in collaboration with the SME and instructor/facilitator. Some such games are Card or Board games, Puzzles, Show of hands etc. For one of our customer we designed similar games using YawnBuster (http://www.yawnbuster.com/). YawnBuster provides some interesting group activities and game templates.

Interactive ILT Activities  Interactive Instructor-Led Training

Raptivity (www.raptivity.com) is another such tool which can help create variety of interactions that can be embedded into PowerPoint.

3. Role plays– By assuming roles and acting out scenarios that might occur in a situation, learners learn how to handle them before they face them on the job. It’s an excellent training technique for many interpersonal skills and sales training.

4. Quizzes– Design small end of topic quizzes or ask the learners to design one for you by jotting down questions on the topic and use these questions to create quizzes on the go. Reward the best question! Yes you read it right 🙂

5. Case studies– Discuss and analyze job related real scenarios that would allow learners to handle similar situations.

6. Crowd-sourcing– Get people to interact with each other. Encourage learners to learn from each other by designing small group activities.

At Harbinger we believe that ILT should not be designed as standalone training. They work best if they are a part of a flipped classroom or blending learning program. The ‘need to know’ content should be covered in the ILT and the ‘good to know’ content can be developed into an eLearning course to supplement learning. eLearning also acts as a good refresher to the classroom sessions.

A blended learning program could follow below format.

Blended learning program designAdditional learning components such as online discussion forums, reference reading material etc. could be added at appropriate places.

Are you seeing similar demands for ILT? What are some ways you make them interactive? Do share your thoughts in the comments below.