The future of corporate training is… talking to virtual humans

Wait, how would I know what the future of training is? Well, in the offline world people already learn by talking and listening to teachers and mentors. Now the technology is finally ripe to make this happen using Artificial Intelligence. Here’s a taste of what we already see happening.

By Dina Shatner, Trenario

Why corporate training is about to change dramatically

You probably know how challenging corporate training and eLearning are. Engagement, effectiveness and ROI are only some of the parameters you have to consider. Yet here is the main challenge:

People’s brains are “designed” to learn from other people. We look at real world examples, we interact with others, we seek mentorship, we ask questions. That’s the best way for us to learn new things, remember what we learn and change our behavior if necessary. Still, most online training is not leveraging on this psychological “feature” of human learning, and is lacking the “secret ingredient” of interacting with a human.

Recently there’s been a breakthrough in technology. And we, at Trenario, are happy to be part of it. Technology — mainly Artificial Intelligence — allows us to finally let humanlike characters lead online training. The effect is amazing. Did you see that sci-fi movie where a person got attached to his robot? We already see it happening. In this article I will share some insights of how the change will look like.

1. People will get emotionally attached to their humanlike trainers

Imagine that your online training is led by a humanlike mentor. You will also interact with humanlike clients and coworkers. They will look, talk and react like humans. They’ll be part of your initial onboarding process, continuously sharpen your skills and help you follow new procedures and regulations.

Without even noticing it, you’ll start to have feelings towards these characters, because they’re almost human. For training’s sake it doesn’t matter if you like or hate them. The brain’s mechanics are quite simple — strong emotions induce stronger memories. Training will become much more effective.

We already see this phenomenon with our users. Surprisingly, being emotionally attached makes some of them feel “obliged” to respond to the character. In other words, high engagement.

2. Examples, not rules, will become the main route for training

A “show, don’t tell” approach is a good starting point for training. In the real world we usually learn from examples. We go through certain scenarios again and again, we follow the behavior of our role models, we get feedback and adjust our understanding and behavior accordingly. It is difficult to mimic this approach in most offline and online training platforms. You cannot give more than a general example or a related story.

Back to the future — with Artificial Intelligence content can be created in a semi-automated manner. This will allow you to create as many examples and real world scenarios as you like, and customize them to the specific learner.

Why is that important? Well, when you’re only “telling” and not “showing”, you’re actually asking the learner to run another process in her brain. She must translate the theoretical material into practical examples, analyze these “internal examples” and integrate them into her memory “database”. That’s a lot to process, and many learners are not that good in doing the translation.

3. People’s span of attention will become even shorter

In the smartphone age you are surrounded with lots of stimuli. Our ability to concentrate on just one thing has dropped significantly. At Trenario, we ran a series of studies to investigate users’ attention in the context of online training. It turned out, for example, that the maximum number of words a learner can hear before being distracted is around 60. That’s all the attention you can get.

Online training will be (painfully) adjusted to the new smartphone psychology. Of course you’ll be able to force a person to do a long training session, but you will lose on engagement and effectiveness. We therefore believe training will become much closer to how people talk and interact with each other.

4. Training will move much closer to real-world experience

That’s the main point here: With emerging technologies, online training will look and feel like real world experience — much more intense and highly integrated with other activities. In some cases the learner may not know that she’s doing training.

These four predictions are already becoming a reality. Sure, it may take some time for them to totally disrupt online training. Still, as corporate training needs are becoming more complex and painful, the transition could be quite rapid. Either way, this is an exciting time for this industry.

Dina Shatner is CEO at Trenario.

Trenario is introducing virtual mentors to corporate training. Using Artificial Intelligence we offer a whole new experience of eLearning. www.trenario.com