Thursday, June 30, 2016

AI builds e-learning at 10% of cost, in minutes not months, with higher retention and recall

Paying 20k an hour for e-learning content, over many months, that is laden with noisy pages of text/graphics, punctuated by low retention multiple-choice questions? AI can help you to build content at 10% of the cost, in minutes not months, with higher retention and recall.
The problem with the traditional, online learning, bespoke content paradigm is the tools. They push vendors and buyers into producing content that has ten major flaws:
1. Expensive to produce
2. Too long to produce
3. Difficulties with SMEs
4. Media (but not mind) rich
5. Weak Multiple-Choice
6. Low effort learning
7. Pavlovian gamification
8. Impersonal learning
9. Low retention and recall
10. No practice
1. Expensive to produce
I ran a large, bespoke, content company. It was very successful but that was back in the day and used the tools of the day. Yet the content produced today costs and looks much as it was 30 years ago, despite the fact that computers are faster, better, cheaper and online. Why does it still cost 20k an hour to produce e-learning content? Because we’re still in the old paradigm of traditional authoring tools and a mindset besotted with appearance, not learning. Imagine reducing that cost by 90% through a radically different approach, using AI and automation. You can.
2. Takes too long to produce
E-learning projects can take three to six months or longer, with lots of process and angst. It’s a highly iterative process, and takes a huge amount of management, definition, design, development and delivery time to produce anything. Imagine doing all of this in minutes, not months. You can.
3. Difficulties with SMEs
By far the most difficult step in the production of online learning is getting the knowledge and expertise from the mind of the subject matter expert (SME) across and into the course. It’s a tricky process and often full of angst and recrimination. Imagine taking SME content – any document, PowerPoint or video - and turning it automatically into online learning. You can.
4. Media (but not mind) rich
As computers have allowed us to deliver media rich experiences, we have, often blindly, ignored the research by Mayer, Clark and many others, showing that media-rich is not always mind-rich. This has resulted in an often garish concoction of movement, graphics, cartoons and animation, that inhibits, rather than enhances learning. There’s maybe not enough ‘edu’ and too much ‘tainment’ in ‘edu-tainment’. We need to pay attention to the research, reduce cognitive overload and focus on the learning. Less is more.
5. Weak Multiple Choice Questions
Long the staple of online learning, yet when in real life does anyone choose an option from a list, as if the mind was a simplistic ATM, choosing from menus? Besotted with MCQs, we have produced low-effort, low-retention and low-recall learning. It doesn’t have to be this way. Use more effortful, open response learning. The research shows it is superior.
6. Low effort learning
The illusion of mastery is what much online learning produces, the feeling that you’ve learnt things through light-touch exposure and occasional selections from lists. In truth, real learning is learning by doing, real effort, not page turning and exposure to fancy media. Recent reseach turns traditional onine learning on its head. Make the learner make the effort – that’s what results in high retention and recall. Read to remember.
7. Trivial Pavlovian gamification
Does gamification play Pavlov with learners? It so often does, collecting coins, trivial games that just put more cognitive effort into the mix. Or, you can focus on the sort of gamification that Demis Hassabis uses in AI learning – repeated deliberate practice. Don’t make it too easy to sail through, allow learners to fail, make them work, make them do things until they get 100% competence…. That’s true gamification.
8. Impersonal
Good online learning is always a balance between directed and open-learning. There needs to be structure, often quite directed, but there also has to be the opportunity for support, expansion and curiosity. Allow the learner to explore by providing automatically generated links out to extra content. Make your course porous. This is possible with AI.
9. Low retention and recall
Over the last ten years, evidence has emerged (summarized in Make It Stick) that effortful learning matters, that open response is superior to multiple choice and that deliberate practice matters. We have the ability to use AI to embody and deliver practice based on contemporary learning theory.
10. No practice
The once only, sheep-dip experience was the target of online learning, with its anytime, anywhere offer. Yet online learning simply replaced one type of sheep-dip (offline) with another (online). The fact that they rarely delivered opportunities for reinforcement and practice, was the same in both camps. AI, the algorithmic delivery of simple and effective online learning, through effortful and deliberate practice, can change this.
We can now, for certain types of leaning, produce content at 10% of the cost, in minutes not months, with higher retention and recall. We can avoid the trap of whizz-bang graphics, weak MCQs and Pavlovian ‘collect the coins’ gamification. The new approach, using AI, creates e-learning which is effortful and allows the learner to expand on their learning with access to external resources and further opportunities for practice. It’s called WildFire.

WildFire takes any document, PowerPoint or video and turns it into online learning, within minutes, using AI. More than this, it uses effortful open-response learning to increase retention and recall. Beyond this it automatically curates links to content beyond the course and, in real time, can create online learning from this content. It is unique. For more information see the WildFire website.

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