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David Perring

Fosway Group

Chief Insights Officer

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AI in learning: Where are we now and where should we be going?

In this interview, David Perring, Chief Insights Officer of Fosway, shares his candid views on L&D’s current approach to artificial intelligence, and what a utopia (or utopias) looks like for corporate learning.
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Fosway’s digital learning realities research shows 30% of L&D functions are already feeling the impact of AI. But how are we leveraging this technology, what influence is it having and where are we missing out?

TrainingZone’s Managing Editor, Becky Norman, recently spoke to David Perring, Chief Insights Officer of Fosway, to find out. 

What impact is AI having on those within L&D already deploying it?

Early adopters are already reporting impact on both their external providers and their internal learning teams, mainly through it being faster and cheaper to generate learning design and content.

Whilst it's hard at the moment to quantify exactly the scale of advantage they are achieving, our research participants are calling out greater L&D operating efficiency and productivity as an immediate impact. And linked to that is an ability to be more responsive to learning needs.  

Where in particular are L&D teams focusing their AI attention right now? 

L&D teams have typically been on the leaner side of resourcing, and it’s only natural that they are embracing AI to help them scale and accelerate. It’s no coincidence that the top five areas that have been adopted for AI include:

  • Translation (40% already using)
  • Media generation (36%)
  • Learning design and content authoring (25%).

How is AI influencing the learning experience itself?

AI is influencing the learning experience, especially in its support for personalisation. The third highest rated application of AI in learning (in that top 5) is learning recommendations and AI-enabled learning systems. This impacts what learning is targeted to individuals and the nature of that learning in the future.

The biggest thing L&D might get wrong with AI is what they get wrong with learning.

And how about performance?

Already we hear L&D practitioners rethinking their ability to provide performance support, through chatbots – what the bandwagon would call ‘learning in the flow of work’. But in reality most L&D teams are still focusing on enhancing what they have always done, rather than fully embracing the art of the now possible.  Only 7% have adopted AI enabled performance support… and in reality that is where, in the longer term, the most significant impact of AI may come. 

What about this shift towards skills-powered organisations, how does AI fit into this?

The more significant movement that is happening outside of L&D in HR people strategy, which is SKILLS. Skills-powered organisations as a people strategy is being super-powered by AI. This movement is changing strategic resourcing, internal careers and talent mobility, inclusion and so much more. But only 12% of our survey respondents have implemented AI to help link skills to learning. That’s a huge miss.

From your research findings, what do you think L&D might be getting wrong about AI?

From my perspective, the biggest thing L&D might get wrong with AI is what they get wrong with learning – before AI even appeared. The obsession with learning as content, rather than learning as a process.

We have long talked about learning cycles, and my hope is that learning-cycle thinking will start to be empowered more by AI. The learning experience only really begins with consuming learning, it’s how we support the application of learning and sustaining high performance that really matters.

For over a decade we have been nudging people to think about continuous learning, and think about a PLASMA Learning Cycle approach. What becomes clear in that  PLASMA world is how AI could be applied to each step of learning, rather than just content. Reflection of real world application of learning is not just motivating, but where skills are built. And AI has a role to play there, helping us stay on track – as much as generating content.

In your eyes, what will a fully-fledged AI-enhanced L&D function look like in the near future? Paint us the utopian picture.

I’m not sure if there is a single utopian view. We need to be driven by our audiences and their context. 

This is going to be an evolution and what evolves is still up for grabs.  

The best questions L&D professionals can ask themselves are: how can we use AI to solve our biggest challenges, or do the new things we could never do before?  Focus on the audience(s) and important groups, and prioritise measurable business gains. We need to chase value, rather than chasing shiny new toys.  

It’s difficult not to see L&D teams being more influential than ever before. And that is an L&D utopia.

Ultimately, in the AI world – maybe we get to create many smaller utopias at a more human level – than the sheep-dipping of the past – at a speed and scale that’s just not possible today. And perhaps those unique, nudging, personal, energising and smaller utopias are the ultimate utopia. 

On a pragmatic level, we know that Learning functions have a broad brief. If AI can help us do any of these with greater intelligence, better decision making, speed and effectiveness – then it’s difficult not to see L&D teams being more influential than ever before. And that is an L&D utopia.

Finally, share just one takeaway from your AI research that you'd like L&D professionals to have in mind when focusing on AI strategy in 2024.

  • Connect.  Connect to your HR team – know what they are doing.
  • Connect. Connect to IT – know how you can help them and how they can help you.
  • Connect.  Connect to your providers – know what they are doing with AI and how they want to support you.
  • Connect. Connect to your L&D peers and learn from each other… even within your organisation… but outside too.
  • Connect. Connect to your stakeholders to understand how their expectations are changing.  Your business is most likely on the verge of an AI business leap and they probably need you to support that project or they are sceptical… you need to understand who are your ‘willing partners’ to embrace innovation.
  • And Experiment…  in safe ways…  (you have to fail, and correct quickly) to succeed in today’s world.

Interested in this topic? Read Why managers must consider ethics when upskilling with AI

Author Profile Picture
David Perring

Chief Insights Officer

Read more from David Perring

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