Will robots replace human training leaders?
As the age of AI approaches, the question as to whether robots will replace the need for human training leaders looms larger. Indeed, online learning solutions have become an essential part of the corporate toolbox, allowing organizations to deliver learning and development (L&D) to remote employees. In many cases, this has been a roaring success, which raises concerns about how corporate learning leaders will fit into this new, digitized landscape.
It would be difficult to dismiss that this has been the case in other industries – recent research suggests that more than 25% of jobs in the US are experiencing high levels of disruption as a result of automation. On a global scale, the World Economic Forum estimates that by 2022, automation will displace a staggering 75 million jobs. This might lead learning leaders to expect the worse – but the reality is much more complex.
The very same study from the World Economic Forum equally suggests that automation will generate an even more astonishing 133 million new roles worldwide by 2022. And while there’s no avoiding the fact that automation will affect virtually all occupational groups in the years to come, the effects will be varied. In fact, there are a whole host of studies suggesting new technology will bring new opportunities, particularly as man and machine learn to work together and utilize each other’s strong points.
AI will strengthen, rather than supersede, the role of corporate educators, and this is for one chief reason. Training leaders deliver one thing in particular that robots cannot – a human touch. And while this quality is difficult to pin down or replicate, it is one of the most vital to the delivery of knowledge.
Humans will still have a hand in P2P learning
To understand why the role of the educator will remain of the utmost importance, even as technology progresses, we must first recognize the significance of peer to peer (P2P) learning in the corporate learning space.
The benefits of P2P learning, which encourages students to learn by collaborating, has long been hailed as one of the most effective methods of knowledge-transfer. These benefits are compounded in the workplace, where learners are likely to share similar daily experiences, and a common understanding of the challenges and requirements of the workplace.
Built around the concept that individuals are better able to consolidate their knowledge when teaching others, workers might also be less intimidated to learn from their peers, rather than approaching a supervisor or training manager for help. Further to this, P2P learning can provide employees with a real sense of autonomy in their roles as they seek out information and knowledge when they need it, which in turn increases worker satisfaction and communication between colleagues.
Particularly as the large-scale remote working experiment continues, and individuals may be hankering for the days of the office, organizations have realized the true value of P2P learning. Although many new developments in EdTech have been effective, according to recent research from Soffos, a significant 43% of full-time workers have found it difficult to engage with online learning materials and training courses throughout the pandemic. And while this is not to discount the many benefits of incorporating such technologies into L&D strategy, it does pin-point the necessity of human input and oversight.
The main problem with businesses’ recent approach to virtual learning is the over-reliance on generic solutions. Live or pre-recorded webinars and web-based training programmes support a blanket approach to education, which rarely encourages positive learning experiences and outcomes. What is needed is a careful blend of tech-based learning, brought to life by human training leaders.
In the future, organizations should make way for man and machine to work together for effective L&D, and this will require some careful re-thinking of existing processes and strategies. First and foremost, businesses should be on the lookout for innovative EdTech platforms that go above and beyond what videoconferencing and online courses can offer: AI and virtual reality (VR) technologies, for instance, will come to the fore to deliver personalized and engaging training.
Notably, EdTech solutions that utilize VR will enable training leaders to deliver P2P training even in the remote work setting, allowing for a truly immersive experience. As technology advances and these platforms become more sophisticated, educators will be able to present training materials in “super resolution” – and even though employees might be working from their own homes, VR headsets will have the potential to make any environment indistinguishable from the office.
Likewise, another benefit to be gained from combining traditional P2P learning with next-gen EdTech solutions, is that the latter will equip learning leaders with unique data insights. These analytics, which will pin-point gaps in an individual’s knowledge, as well as determining which types of learning initiatives they respond best to, will enable educators to steer their P2P initiatives in whatever direction is required. In this way, they will spend less time on labor-intensive planning and administrative tasks, and more on the aspect of their job that really matters: teaching.
For example, after a student has completed a skill assessment and the AI has analysed the relevant data, a training manager might see that an employee struggles with a particular task in their role. With this information, they will then be able to pair this worker with an colleague who is particularly skilled in this area. Likewise, educators will be able to oversee and direct conversation in a way that best fills these knowledge gaps.
Teaching the teachers
What’s more, by relying more heavily on EdTech solutions, organizations will be equipped with the tools to overcome one of the greatest challenges in corporate education today – and that is ‘teaching the teachers’. State-of-the-art AI tools, for instance, will enable training leaders to bolster their own knowledge and higher order thinking skills that enable them to come up with innovative solutions to problems, and make more effective judgements.
Through AI-bolstered tech, learning leaders will be able to hone and refine their skills, which in turn, will mean that they will be better-equipped to deliver on effective L&D. Due to its ability to understand each learner’s level of understanding and comprehension, in the future, AI will be able to provide even the most knowledgeable of corporate trainers with new information. As well as its ability to provide the necessary personalized and differentiated discussions required to improve an educator’s skillset, AI will allow corporate trainers to access a constantly evolving archive of training resources and instructional techniques. With in-depth insights into the way employees are progressing through training programmes at their fingertips, educators will be able to apply this knowledge to their L&D strategies.
Ultimately, the need for EdTech solutions that deliver efficient training to employees will not go away even as the COVID-19 predicament comes to an end – and neither will the necessity of human educators. When all is said and done, valued training leaders will always deliver something extra, even as technology progresses. It is now down to organizations to ensure that learning leaders are well-equipped to adapt to their changing roles as technology progresses – and I have every confidence that many will do so with ease.
Nikolas Kairinos is the chief executive officer and founder of Soffos, the world’s first AI-powered KnowledgeBot. The platform streamlines corporate learning and development (L&D) to deliver seamless professional training for employees. You can follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.