Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Necessity (Coronavirus) is clearly the mother of innovation - why AI should be used to create online learning... in minutes not months...

So you spend decades trying to convince people to learn online, then in a day or so, the whole word does it - not from choice but necessity. Necessity is clearly the mother of innovation. But in the mad rush to get online there's a paucity of good content. Some think we don't need content - really? How do you think all those nurses, healthcare professionals and Doctors for their knowledge and skills? As this V-shaped recovery turns into a U-shaped recovery, we need to be more adaptable and agile. The solution is to use AI to create the content. We've done this in a wide range of medical subjects for nurses and Doctors... an aircraft engineers, customer serving staff, vocational learners, lawyers... it can be done. All it needs is a forward looking mindset that allows us to focus on retention, to get things done in minutes not months.

Agile AI solution
This means agile training – relentless attention to training and behaviour. By agile I mean the use of AI to create education and training quickly, that really does deliver high retention training to learners on any device. 
Agile learning
Every piece of content can have an AI generated audio introduction (AI text to speech), that explains what you have to do and to relax about getting things wrong, as it is OK to make mistakes while learning. Staff then read or watch a video and, rather than click on multiple-choice questions, have to bring to mind and type in what they think they know. This ‘effortful’ learning was inspired by recent research in learning that shows recall, with open input, is superior for retention to simply recognising answers from a list. 

Agile production

Learning content has literally been created in a day, as the AI creates the content, by identifying the relevant learning points and automatically creating the learning experiences. This superfast production process means that quality assurance can be done on the real content, without the need for design documents and scripts. There is no need for multiple iterations by SMEs, as the original document.PPT/video contained all that was needed. The look and feel, logo, images, palette numbers for screen features can be quickly agreed. Everything from brief to final delivery can be done online through screen-sharing on Zoom or Skype. Not a single face-to-face meeting is necessary.

Agile data
Finally, the modules can be SCORM wrapped for delivery on the LMS. As SCORM is rather limited, we can also embed extra data gathering capability which WildFire harvests for further analysis. This allows detailed analysis of who did what when and within the training, the specific times taken by each individual. Beyond this. WildFire have been looking at data and correlating it with other data.

Agile preparation
One important lesson in being agile is the ‘Garbage IN: Garbage OUT’ rule. When you use an agile production process, you need agile preparation. An intensive look at the input material pays dividends. Eliminate all of that extraneous material and text, cut until it bleeds and cut again, catch those pesky spelling and punctuation errors, make sure things are consistent. In our TUI work the source material was edited down to the essential ‘need to know’ content. 

Agile project management
Another essential ingredient is an agile project manager. In both the TUI project, we spoke frequently, but didn’t have a single face-to-face meeting. It was all quick decisions, problems solvedon the spot and process change to get things done. The project manager never saw problems, only issues to be solved – quickly.
This was made easier by the fact that AI was used to produce content in minutes not months. That means the quality control was on real content, not paper documents. And as we use approved documents, PowerPoints and videos, there was no real need for intensive SME input, which is the main brake on agile  production.

Agile production
This is where the real gains lie. AI is now being used to create content and add curated resourced at the click of a button. WildFire will take any document, PowerPoint or video and turn it into high retention online learning, in minutes not months. Want an audio podcast or audio introduction to the course?  It takes seconds using AI to do text to speech. The time savings are enormous, as well as costs. AI is used not only to identify learning points, it also constructs the questions, assesses open input (words or full short answer) and locates external resources for further learning.

Agile promotion
I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve bust a gasket getting something finished, only to see it languish on a server before release. Agile marketing should also be part of our mindset. This means blogs like this and good internal (and external if required) marketing. Managers and learners are intrigued by the use of AI in learning – use that to best advantage.

Conclusion
Agile is as much a state of mind as process. Yet Learning and Development still works to an old model of months not minutes. We procure slowly, prepare slowly, produce slowly and deliver slowly. Despite relentless calls to align with the business and respond to business needs, we are too slow. L and D needs things in days, yet we deliver in months. This is what needs to change.

Online learning has traditionally been a rather slow in design and production. We can now use AI in WildFire to create content quickly, to produce agile learning and data that allows us to adapt to new circumstances. I may have used the word 'Agile' too often here but it captures, in a word, what is now necessary. The days of seeing online learning production as some sort of feature film project with matching budgets and timescales – months, should be re-examined. Sure some high-end content may need this approach but much can be automated and done at 10% of the cost, in minutes not months.

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