How AI Can Take E-Learning to the Next Level
I don’t have a lot of experience with employee or customer training. But I do have experience with service and support organizations—so please bear with me and read on. These technicians and support agents work for companies that manufacture equipment and then sell the equipment to their own customers all over the globe. Service techs and support agents are responsible for keeping this equipment up and running. It involves problem solving under pressure; in many cases, the fact that their machine is down is costing someone thousands of dollars an hour or more.
Their job is to take a machine that’s in an undesirable state (not working) and change it to a desirable state.
I recently spoke with a director of Global Training Operations for a Fortune 500 company, and he told me that everything about training is remote and virtual as we continue to endure the COVID-19 pandemic. And that the days of putting students in a brick-and-mortar classroom with an instructor are far off, if they will ever even happen again. More and more programs will make e-learning a bigger part of their strategy, he believes.
I also learned that, thanks to COVID-19, the clinicians who operate medical ventilators are being forced to treat patients using unfamiliar equipment. In the past, hospitals usually standardized on a brand and model of equipment and then had their clinicians trained on that model. With COVID-19 and the demand for ventilators, hospitals now are taking whatever machines they can get. Now the respiratory therapist who’s been trained on, say, a Puritan-Bennett ventilator, might be forced to treat a patient using a Draeger ventilator. They obviously understand respiratory therapy, but each different ventilator has its own nuances. In many cases, to get the unfamiliar vent set up, they have to consult a manual right there in the ICU. Some of these manuals are hundreds of pages long.
A machine that needs to be set up in order to be used is in an undesirable state. Moving it to a desired state—i.e., ready to be used—is in many ways similar to what service techs have to do when a machine is down.
AI for Training
Service organizations also have had to adapt to our new COVID-19 world. They are doing more things remotely, encouraging their customers to try and solve some problems themselves. They also are looking at different technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI) to help customers and technicians solve problems faster and more efficiently. The faster they get the machine to a desired state, the better for all involved.
What about AI for training? Instead of respiratory therapists having to browse through manuals in order to figure out how to set up an unfamiliar ventilator, what if they had access to AI that could tell them what to do and help them if they make a mistake? AI is available today that can help anyone set up and, if necessary, troubleshoot virtually any type of machine—it’s not limited to ventilators.
AI could have its use in other types of training, as well. Moving forward, instructors will conduct training via one of the multiple video/audio conferencing platforms available out there, where they will have to share their screen or show trainees how to do things via video or live demo. What about giving the trainees simultaneous access to AI, where they could walk through something using, say, an AI app that already knows what to do and can guide them along with the instructor?
The benefits of using AI are more than just helping a user set up or troubleshoot a machine. AI keeps a record of what is done and can serve as a compliance tool, verifying that the set-up has been performed correctly. It can keep track of problems encountered and solved as part of the device history record. If the user has to get a help desk agent involved because he or she is really stuck, that help desk agent can access a history in the AI of what the user has done so the agent essentially hits the ground running and doesn’t have to ask a bunch of questions before getting started.
Some AI can learn through essentially crowdsourcing its knowledge. Let’s say an instructor discovers a better way to set up a machine or perform a procedure. He or she can teach the AI that better way and instantly anyone else using that AI will have access to that improvement. Your trainer in Singapore improves a step(s), and your trainer in London will benefit from it—as well as everyone else using the AI.
As the training and education world develops strategies for teaching in the new normal, AI can become an important tool to facilitate learning and help overcome the challenge of not being able to teach in person in the classroom.