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      Future of digital learning: chatbots and artificial intelligence

      by Eoin McDonnell

      Learning platforms

      How can the two big technology trends - chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI) be used for workplace learning? Some organisations are starting to use intelligent chatbots to help them automate all kinds of tasks, including supporting learning and development. We give you a few practical examples to help you make sense of this new area. 

      AI chatbot development

      As technology advances, so does its application to new ideas and tasks. In the world of digital learning, we are now starting to benefit from the use of artificial intelligence (AI).  Unless you’ve been sleeping for the past few years, you’ll have seen many headlines on ‘bots’ and artificial intelligence (AI), how this is the next big thing, especially in relation to mobile computing and our App ecosystem. There’s even talk of how bots will boost the march of Facebook – as if that was really needed!


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      A bot is a tool that helps users complete tasks which can be easily automated. Many current bots are chat-based and are bundled inside messenger apps. You think you are ‘talking’ to a human, but you aren’t – it’s an automated service that can make sense of what you are typing. The chat bot, depending on the service it is attached to, can then transform your typing into commands that can be executed.

      Put simply, you can ask a bot to do things for you – quickly, efficiently and without having to wait for a human to respond. Other bots automate time-consuming interactions – like sending and replying to common types of emails and scheduling meetings. Bots depend on artificial intelligence. And it’s our increasing skill and development in AI that is driving the bot revolution.

      It is hoped that once the technology develops further, bots will be able to many more complicated tasks - from completing your taxes to monitoring your working and living habits. Put this together with other developments such as the IoT (internet of things) and wearable technology, the possibilities seem endless.

      Why chatbots and why not apps?


      As consumers, we are demanding more and more of our mobile devices – our expectations are increasingly raised, as mobile tech gets more powerful. It can be time consuming and complicated downloading single apps and content bundles for separate services. Bots put users in charge of creating the experience they want, rather than having to navigate specific content and services in the web and app ecosystem. Think - Cortana, Google Now and Siri. Instead of wading through mountains of content or using a specific App, you ask the tech to bring it to you.


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      Chatbots to try out

      Eliza – the original chatbot built in the 1960s, a computer therapist
      ELIZA emulates a Rogerian psychotherapist. This was one of the earliest natural language processing Apps.

      Mobile coach - A virtual coach that can be programme with your content
      This type of chatbot has a potential application to support L&D with programme roll out.

      Duolingo bots - learn a language with chatbots

      Facebook chatbots

      Chat bots were added to Facebook Messenger late last year.  From this site, you can choose to add to your main Facebook messenger list. For example, I added a bot called Real deal English.

      What’s interesting about the Facebook chat bots is they are more than just chat – many of them are learning tools. The Real deal English chat bot asks you various questions about the type of English you want to study, then directs you to a lesson. The lesson is short and sweet – there’s a podcast which has a real business conversation (if you choose business English), then once you finish the podcast, you are returned to the chat bot for drill and practice. The chatbot actually talks to you in the same way as the conversation flowed in the podcast – helping you to practice that type of English.


      Here is a screenshot of the conversation



      Some Facebook messenger bots to try out

      To find these - click each link and follow the instructions to add them to Facebook messenger. 

      Woebot - a counselling bot (based on cognitive-behavioural therapy)

      Sanaca - a bot to help you build new habits and reach goals - ask all your health queries

      Cleo - an intelligent assistant to help you budget and manage your money better

      More on artificial intelligence and chatbots

      There is no doubt that chatbots will get better and better – as our AI and NLP capabilities progress. There is a lot of research going on right now, so here’s a few more articles to keep you learning.

      Chatbot trends in 2019

      Chatbots Point of View - Deloitte

      Forbes Magazine – chatbots will be your new best friend

      25 chabot start ups you should know

      A complete beginners guide to chatbots

      What does the future of learning hold for you?

      What is your organisation doing to prepare for the future of learning? We'd love to hear from you. Tell us about your experiences or the challenges you are facing with the future of eLearning.

      For us, it is about having a set of products and services that make the most of the latest developments, but are practical to use and make an impact on your business. Percipio - our intelligent learning platform is a great place to start. And if you develop your own content, our Content development services are aimed to solve the problems of eLearning in the past - from running more efficient projects to providing you with a perfect mix of digital design options.


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