Senior Strategist

Artificial Intelligence in Learning: Are You Ready for the Age of AI?

Raise your hand if artificial intelligence in learning and development has been on your mind lately. You’re not alone—thanks to the recent explosion of AI tools, including the history-making AI-powered chatbot ChatGPT, AI is disrupting nearly every industry.

Trends in L&D come and go, but AI is one worth exploring. The development of artificial intelligence is poised to change every aspect of our lives, including how we work, communicate, and learn. Every new technology has its pros and cons, but AI is so revolutionary that the biggest mistake would be to not explore it at all.

As a learning professional, one of your primary responsibilities is to help inspire change in your learners, and that means being willing to embrace change yourself. AI tools are more accessible than ever and there are big opportunities for learning professionals to use AI to work more efficiently, think more creatively, and free up more time to focus on the work they love to do (and that ChatGPT could never replicate).

There’s a lot to explore when it comes to generative AI in L&D, and we’re excited to share what’s on our minds and how we’re thinking about AI in learning and development.

In this article, we’ll cover …

  • What is artificial intelligence?
  • The state of AI in learning & development
  • AI should support human intelligence, not replace it
  • How to start exploring AI in L&D

Let’s get to it.

What is artificial intelligence?

The age of AI has begun, and it’s important to understand what artificial intelligence really is. Artificial intelligence (AI) is a catchall term for technologies that perform tasks that typically require human intelligence. AI applications are designed to solve a specific problem or provide a particular service—at this point, there’s no form of AI that’s capable of learning any task or subject (i.e., artificial general intelligence). You might also be familiar with the term “machine learning,” which refers to systems that learn or improve their performance based on the data they consume. All machine learning is AI, but not all AI is machine learning.

So where does that put ChatGPT (short for Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer), the AI-powered chatbot that has taken the world by storm? ChatGPT uses at least two forms of machine learning, the primary being a Large Language Model (LLMs), a language-based AI model that enables it to learn from text data inputs in order to generate coherent, natural-sounding language outputs.

To say that ChatGPT is revolutionary would be an understatement. ChatGPT is the fastest-growing consumer application in history, with an estimated 100 million active monthly users in early 2023. The rapid adoption of ChatGPT could very well be a glimpse into a future where AI is the norm and AI tools are as integrated into our daily lives as the internet and computers are today. Experts in the field view the development of AI as being “as fundamental as the creation of the microprocessor, the personal computer, the Internet, and the mobile phone. It will change the way people work, learn, travel, get health care, and communicate with each other.”

The state of AI in learning & development

What does this all mean for the future of artificial intelligence in learning and development? Will AI help or hurt L&D? It depends—if the technology goes unregulated, it holds the potential to hurt the L&D job market. And although AI can help learners access information more quickly, that doesn’t mean AI is helping them learn more effectively.

On the other hand, opportunities abound for learning professionals to leverage AI to save time and money, freeing them up to focus on the parts of their work where their expertise and creativity can shine. AI is also revolutionizing how learning professionals can design and deliver learning experiences. AI can analyze huge amounts of data and identify themes, and it can write the first drafts of your outlines and storyboards. AI-powered translation services can quickly and affordably translate courses into countless languages. And integrating AI tools into learning experiences can make them more adaptable and personalized for learners.

The bottom line: AI in L&D is likely here to stay, and that’s exciting. But as with any new technology, especially one this powerful, it’s critical to explore it thoughtfully, intentionally, and through the lens of your or your organization’s values, mission, and vision. That’s how we’re thinking about AI here at Maestro, and we thought we’d share a bit of our current point of view on artificial intelligence in learning and development.

AI should support human intelligence, not replace it

Whenever there’s hype around a new technology, it sparks debate about whether people will be better or worse off by using it. AI is no exception, but we’d argue that, at least on the micro level, AI is what you make it, and how you choose to use it. We have a say in how AI impacts us and influences our work and lives.

Let’s say you want to start using an AI-powered translation service for your courses—it’s cheaper and faster, and some services can even translate voiceover into other languages—but you’re worried about linguistic and cultural accuracy. In this scenario, we’d opt for the AI-powered translation service to do the bulk of the work, but hire a human translator to do a final review of the output. Artificial and human intelligence can and should work together. When combined with human intelligence, AI empowers you to do inefficient work more efficiently and can accelerate many of your typical workflows.

But let’s keep it real: there will likely exist a temptation to cut corners when using AI. Those who do are likely to get burned—the outputs of tools like ChatGPT are only as good as the inputs we give it, and weak inputs will generate weak outputs. Not to mention the many limitations of the tool, such as hallucinating information, that can lead to inaccurate responses without human oversight.

This should come as a relief to those worried about AI taking their jobs—the need for domain knowledge and human involvement isn’t going anywhere. AI isn’t likely to take your job, but keep in mind, somebody using AI could.

Where will AI in LD go from here? We’re confident enough to be humble (it’s one of our core values—“Check your ego”) and say that we don’t know. Tools like ChatGPT could turn out to have more problems than we realize, or AI tools could completely take over the market. The potential benefits of AI are not yet fully understood, so in the meantime, use this liminal period to explore AI and think through how you do—and don’t—want to use artificial intelligence in learning and development.

How to start exploring AI in L&D

Love it or hate it, AI has infiltrated the workplace, and it would be a mistake not to explore it. Our advice: the best way to start is to just start. Request access to ChatGPT and go play with it for an hour. What’s a simple task you can ask it to do, like writing an email or summarizing notes? Ask it questions, keep an open mind, and allow yourself to be surprised.

Let’s take a look at a few other ways to start exploring artificial intelligence in learning and development.

Practice crafting high-quality prompts

The first step of exploring artificial intelligence is learning how to use it. When it comes to using ChatGPT, better inputs lead to better outputs. This calls for mastering the art of prompt crafting, or succinctly communicating requests that yield high-quality results.

Education-technology expert Tom Barrett shared a few pointers for prompt crafting as part of his CREATE framework (Clarity, Relevant info, Examples, Avoid ambiguity) for writing, reviewing, and adjusting your AI prompts. A high-quality prompt clearly defines the task, includes the required information and parameters, and shares examples to guide the tool in generating a quality output. But try not to settle for the first output. Instead, tinker and refine the prompt through iteration, regenerating it until you’re satisfied with the response.

Try using AI to speed up research and discovery

AI can be a major time-saver, especially with the early work of researching, gathering, and analyzing information. For example, you can feed ChatGPT large amounts of learner data and let it organize and format it for you, analyze it for themes and patterns, and even draft initial outlines or storyboards.

Or, let’s say you’ve built out learner personas and want to understand them better. You could prompt ChatGPT to script a realistic conversation between two different personas. Exercises like this can help spark new ideas and give you something to react to during the brainstorming and divergent-thinking stages of the learning-design process, helping you define and develop the right solution that much faster.

ChatGPT can accomplish in minutes what it takes humans days to complete. ChatGPT can’t think as creatively as an instructional designer, but it can free up time for them by generating thought-starters and first drafts. With a strong base from ChatGPT, you can then review the outputs, explore its ideas, and spend more time on the aspects of learning design that require human intelligence.

Explore working with a partner

There are major benefits to working with an experienced learning partner, especially when it comes to new technology. As with any tech, the more familiar you are with it, the more successful you’ll be using it. Part of working with AI is knowing how to train the model to get the results you’re after—a learning partner who’s more familiar than you are with AI can help you use it more effectively.

Keep in mind that AI in L&D expands beyond occasionally consulting ChatGPT—AI can be integrated into learning experiences to create adaptable, interactive, and personalized learning that truly meets people where they are. But it takes serious technical chops (did you know we have an in-house Engineering team?) to successfully integrate AI into eLearning platforms, learning experiences, and other workflows. As a learning innovation company, that’s our bread and butter—our strategists, engineers, and designers partner with you to identify the right AI tools for your needs, and we’ll show you the ropes along the way so you can build your AI know-how, too. We’re always up for a conversation if you want to learn more!

The future of AI in L&D is bright

This is only the beginning of what lies ahead for AI in L&D, but what we’re seeing so far is exciting. AI can boost efficiency, make learning more personalized, and most importantly, give learning professionals more of their most valuable resource: time.

AI isn’t perfect, and it’s critical that those using it supervise the tool and take responsibility for its outputs. New technology can be intimidating, but the most successful learning teams aren’t afraid to explore, discover, and innovate new ways to work smarter and deliver better learning. AI should never replace the unique talents of your team—protect that at all costs—but delegating to AI what slows your team down could unlock new opportunities and take your learning to new heights.

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