Last month we were joined by futurist, deep tech authority and international keynote speaker Maurice Conti for a webinar about what the future holds for training and education.
Maurice works with corporates, startups, governments and researchers to explore the things that will matter to us in the future and find the right tools to get us there. So we asked him to share his thoughts about how artificial intelligence, robotics and new technologies will shape the way we train apprentices and lifelong learners in the future.
What he came up with was a fascinating insight into the exciting possibilities that are out there and what we should expect. We invited industry experts to join us on a panel to discuss the implications of Conti’s predictions.
We asked, “What are the opportunities and challenges facing training providers in the short to medium term and what should they be doing to make sure they’re ahead of the game?” Here’s what they had to say.
Emergent technologies and the future of learning
Maurice Conti predicts that by the time many of our children are in work, the jobs they are doing will be unrecognisable from those we do today. The core skills required are predicted to shift from being hard skills to softer ones – empathy, collaboration, emotional intelligence, etc. So how can we as training providers and educators equip the next generation of learners when we don’t know what the future holds?
The pace of change is rapid. The capabilities of AI have advanced quickly over the last 50 years, developing reasoning and intuition that allow for a multitude of different uses. Conti talks of AI prototypes that are challenging even cognitive scientists’ abilities to assess humans. This is enabling one to one relationships on an infinite scale, something that would be incredibly valuable in a training setting.
AI is able to support content generation in a meaningful and customisable way using NLP, speech recognition and speech or text generation. It can even create a rich, engaging experience through interaction and conversation with synthetic humans or avatars – perhaps even historical or famous figures.
Ultimately AI may be able to understand humans better than we understand ourselves and deliver the exact content we need at the right moment. In the future, training is likely to be about creating virtual opportunities, and communicating and collaborating face to face in a VR setting. Conti is confident the technology is coming quickly, with the big players almost ready to bring it to the mass market.
What did our panel of experts have to say?
After the webinar, we spoke to three experts to get their views:
- Jason Holt CBE, CEO of the Holt’s Group, a family of social enterprises in education and immersive technology and a member of the Apprenticeship Ambassador Network.
- Ben Pike, CEO at MasterStart, a fast-growing EdTech business working to humanise the online learning experience.
- Chris Monk, Director of Business Operations at the highly respected Decoded Academy.
Bud’s Customer Success Director, Brad Tombling, oversaw the discussion and offered insightful questions and conversation starters.
AI for value add
All of our panel agreed that no matter what happens in the future, human interaction will remain key, with technology being an enabler. Pike explains: “In the medium term there are huge opportunities to automate processes, connections and basic learning support – those activities where humans are not adding value.”
Monk agrees: “Where we’re seeing good application of AI across business and the world is not where we try and use it to replace human beings but where we use it to augment human beings.”
Will AI replace assessment?
“One day not needing end-point assessment? That’s the holy grail,” says Holt. “Apprenticeship assessments have become more robust over the years but there are still plenty of people taking apprenticeships because they don’t get on so well with the academic elements like exams and assessments. If you could have AI constantly monitoring performance, it could offer a better alternative.”
Monk, too, was pleased by the idea that AI could help teachers and trainers to become more objective in their assessment and allow for mass automated moderation over vast data sets. “That’s probably the next step,” he says. “Increasingly useful tools to help teachers in the classroom.”
Can AI offer the human touch?
“There are elements of what we deliver in terms of the learning journey that are repeated and could even now be done in a more efficient way,” explains Pike.
“But on the other hand, there are a whole load of things that aren’t just about having a one to one interface. We think of the current generation as massive online learners but one of the biggest preferences in terms of learning style is to learn with others.”
Monk agrees: “without humans holding them to account, people wouldn’t study for long periods, they need those social interactions. This stuff will give us another amazing tool in the arsenal, it will allow us to super-charge blended learning, but without a human bond there’s nothing to make them do it.”
Is global scaling possible?
Yes, the big players are working to bring virtual reality and AI products to the mass markets and reduce prices to an affordable level. But it is not there yet.
Access to even current generation technologies – as well as bandwidth issues – can mean continents like Africa and Asia are unable to keep pace with other areas of the world. And strict data protection laws in some countries can prevent the necessary research and innovation from occurring in the first place.
“Access to technology is really key to unlocking this,” says Pike. “Countries need underpinning infrastructure to compete on a global scale. But I think it will happen quickly.
What should training providers be doing now?
“My advice is: don’t think about assessment, think about the learning journey,” said Pike. “How do we advance that journey to automate stuff on repeat while freeing up the human side of things?
“We need to be more proactive in intervention and support those who are struggling the most. Build some great immersive stuff for the repetitive types of learning but wrap around with human support and experience.”
According to Holt, training providers should be considering three things. “Firstly, they should be considering how to make materials really engaging using incredible immersive tools to create stimulating environments,” he says.
“They should also ensure someone within their organisation takes ownership of the data so it will be in a great position to leverage once the AI is ready. And they should think about how to improve personalisation of the learning experience through pre-assessment.”
Monk too agrees that learning to keep, store, manage and ultimately leverage data is a great place to start.
Ultimately, the trainer isn’t going anywhere for several decades at least, and there are many exciting things on the horizon. But there are also positives to take from the conversation about AI in the short to medium term.
The possibilities of individualising learning through data, for example, and creating an infinite classroom where repetitive teaching on a one to one basis can be scaled. Small businesses, too, could benefit from support in looking after and managing their apprentices in the same way that large businesses can. And AI can support line managers too, giving them the right tools to do the best possible job.
As Holt puts it succinctly: “The challenge for the vocational sector is to open our eyes to what is going on in the wider world and not just look at what is going on in this sector.”
If we can do that, the future is ours for the taking.
If you’d like to add to the conversation or have an idea for a future webinar you’d like to see, why not get in touch.
Want to see the full article PDF?
View it online and save it to share with your team.View PDF online