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reflections of the team

Chatbots and Learning

I’d heard about chatbots the first time on a conference. It immediately caught my attention: What possibilities and pitfalls could there be for learning? 

Jonathan Simcoe - Unsplash

Jonathan Simcoe - Unsplash

What are chatbots?

“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 chatbot, depending on the service it is attached to, can then transform your typing into commands that can be executed.”

An example:

Think about a chatbot that would be created for newcomers in the organization, welcoming the users and asking them about their function, previous experience in other jobs, previous education or company training,... Answers could be preset by the bot: for ex. ‘I have x-years of experience in a similar function”, or “I just graduated” etc. guiding the user to specific company information, to get to know colleagues with similar experience, but also guiding them to specific (compliance related) training items. How cool would that be?!

You might be thinking now: “Hey, we are doing this for a while now: we have curricula at our organization and we create adaptive (compliance) training,… no need for these chatbots, thank you."

You might be on to something there. Why change a winning horse? Think about this, though: the most expensive words in business are “We’ve always done it this way”.
Think of a e-Learning module that has access to all personnel information, that can suggest useful connections with colleagues or practical company information, while providing specific (compliance) training, tailored to your current needs as well as organizational needs. Do your curricula do all that? Moreover, most e-Learning modules end in the typical company wiki page, where the learner would still need to navigate him- or herself to appropriate information. Wouldn’t it be cool, if your e-Learning module would do all this for the learner?

So what are the possibilities for learning?

  •        A chatbot would be able to bring the information to you, creating a nice intuitive learning experience.
  •        The 24/7 availability,
  •        Common Q&A can be automated, freeing up time for others,
  •        Giving users an environment that will answer all kinds of questions without judgement.

And what about the pitfalls?

  •        This is a big one: trust. Do you trust your employees to provide correct answers? Learners sometimes estimate their own competencies wrongly, though not by choice. Putting the responsibility with the employee also means giving away your control. Are you ready for that? 

Let me quote Jane Bozarth on this one:

Alex Knight - Unsplash

Alex Knight - Unsplash

“Recognize that, for whatever reason, motivated adults can do fine at setting learning goals, choosing resources, and evaluating their outcomes. As ever, building in time and space for employees to occasionally pursue their own learning can serve as a great motivator and benefit.”

Will chatbots replace the L&D team?

I agree that chatbots can make quite the nice surplus for employees, becoming the most customer centric learning concierge ever. Its offer can sit comfortably next to the L&D team, but never replacing it. As Jane Hart puts it, the L&D department should shift to “Learning Partners”, being a visible and reliable coach that guides employees to their necessary (compliance) training. Chatbots can never replace this human interaction of linking people within the organization as a group with a common goal. Chatbots can however, support the existing system in more efficient ways.

I am curious to see what these chatbots will bring in the future!

Karen Philips