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. Educators and trainers hit a blockage. Time was short and the processes for online production long. That's because online learning is still in the hand-crafted stage. It has failed to adopt agile methods using the latest technology. It is largely still in the 'multimedia' world of 20 years ago. 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, gas engineers, lab work... 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.
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. 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 when compared to simply recognising answers from a list (multiple choice).
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.
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.
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.