Learning & development (L&D) is having a love affair with shiny new technologies from chatbots and AI to Virtual Reality. What used to be a dream has now become a reality as these new technologies have finally made inroads into learning & development programs at organizations. Udemy for Business exhibited at ATDTechKnowledge in West Palm Beach, Florida last week and I had the opportunity to hear how these new learning technologies are being put into practice at organizations.

Here are some of the L&D technologies, ideas, and best practices I fell in love with last week.

1. Personalization at the moment of need

Personalization was a common theme throughout the conference. L&D has been throwing around this word for several years, but finally, with the advent of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), we actually can make it happen in a meaningful and scalable way. Back in the day, personalization meant segmenting training content by team or demographic. Then L&D designed learning paths, but doing this manually required a lot of heavy lifting. Today, with machine learning and AI, we can be so much more targeted by recommending courses to an individual based on their past behavior and what others consumed next. See how Udemy for Business can help you personalize learning at scale.

Personalization technologies also enable L&D to adapt and deliver learning based on what the learner does or does not do. New technologies allow us to not only adapt to the learner (“one-size-fits-one“), but can also help learners solve a problem in the moment of need. For example, mobile learning in the aisle at Home Depot for retail sales staff enabled learning to get closer to the moment of need on the job.

2. Tracking virtual reality training with xAPIs

Virtual reality used to be a cool pipe dream for L&D, but today it’s being implemented in all kinds of interesting ways at organizations.

Immersive learning is powerful because it reinforces “learning by doing” through replicating real-life scenarios. VR training is stickier and enjoys a knowledge retention rate of 80% compared to 20% for traditional learning, according to John Blackmon, CTO of Trivantis, who spoke at ATDTechKnowledge. And best of all, VR creates a safe environment for employees to fail and learn from their mistakes. John shared case examples of using VR for training food processing facility inspectors, allowing nurses to learn expensive medical equipment virtually, and enabling fast food employees to practice difficult conversations with customers.

What’s more, xAPIs enable you to capture high-quality data in real time during your VR training. xAPIs allow you to collect digital data and standardize this data—enabling you to unify the learner experience across all platforms (online learning, VR, LMS etc.) With VR training, xAPIs capture multi-dimensional data on all the micro-activities that occur within the virtual environment like learner decision paths, reactions to environmental changes, and biometric data on learner stress levels, explained Brit Keller, COO of Yet Analytics, during her ATDTechKnowledge session. For example, in a VR pilot training, you could track how the pilot responded to a storm as well as their stress levels. In short, said Brit, xAPIs for VR training provides a high resolution of learner behavior and performance. It’s essentially a 360 degree view of the learning experience. How cool is that!

3. Augmented Reality is taking off

Unlike VR, simple augmented reality (AR) experiences are a lot easier for L&D teams to create themselves. AR enables on-the-job learning by overlaying digital content on top of the real world. Many organizations are already implementing their own AR learning experiences. Shelley Osborne, our Head of L&D at Udemy, presented at ATDTechKnowledge and shared how she built an AR onboarding experience to familiarize new hires with our company. She didn’t hire an expensive vendor or purchase new software, but simply downloaded many of the free AR apps out there (like Zappar) to create her own experience. Shelley gamified her AR mobile learning experience to motivate employees to learn about Udemy by tapping into their desire to be social, achieve, compete, and explore. Watch Shelley’s on-demand webinar to find out more about her gamified AR experience.

You can also catch Shelley speaking at the People Matters TechHR in Singapore February 28 on “Learning at the Speed of Business” and at Learning Solutions in Orlando March 27 on “The Business Case for Learning: Driving Employee Engagement.”

4. Automating L&D analytics for actionable insights

New technologies are also automating learner data collection and analysis. The next generation of learning analytics is not just about reporting the metrics, but using technology to analyze the data for actionable insights. The C-Suite is now expecting L&D leaders to act on these insights to continuously improve. For example, if post-training, your manager turnover dropped from 7% to 4%, then C-Suite leaders might want you to drive it down further to 2%.

In order to create actionable insights based on business outcomes, you’ll need to collect data from other areas of the business such as sales revenue or employee retention rates. Jeffrey Berk, COO of Performitiv, advised in his session: L&D leaders can rely on APIs to auto-pull the data, but you’ll have to ensure this data is timely, clean, and approved. If not, your data will be challenged when you try to have a conversation with business leaders. Make sure the owner of the specific data has signed off and then pull the data for your analysis.

Moreover, AI and algorithms enable you to analyze trends over time as well. For example, after your training, manager turnover may have dropped, but six months later, it might start going back up. You want to spot these trends early to see how your organization can intervene.

5. Chatbots: the next frontier of knowledge retention

Finally, everyone was talking about chatbots at the conference. It reminded me of VR a few years ago. While there is a lot of buzz around chatbots, few L&D teams have actually implemented it. However, the possibilities for the L&D space are exciting and I’m sure over the next few years, organizations will start experimenting with chatbots.

Chatbots are powerful because they have the potential to aid knowledge retention through quizzes and role-playing sessions. When people interact with an artificial bot, the brain responds in the same way as conversing with a human, according to Margie Meacham, Chief Freedom Officer of Learningtogo, who spoke at a session on chatbots. This communication back and forth helps engage the learner and creates stronger mental pathways in the brain to retain new information.

Chatbots can reinforce knowledge post-training by asking questions and by practicing unlimited role-playing scenarios with learners such as having difficult conversations or giving a sales pitch. Chatbots can also help employees with problems that arise on the job and quickly search vast content libraries to deliver learning in the moment of need. At ATDTech Knowledge, some of the sessions demonstrated how L&D pros can create their own chatbot using Google DialogFlow. Programming chatbots and mapping out conversation flows will be the next skill for L&D teams to master. Read this chatbot blog and check out this online chatbot course on Udemy to learn how to build your own chatbot using Google Dialogflow.

Hopefully, these conference takeaways have gotten your creative juices flowing. We look forward to perhaps seeing you at the next conference at People Matters TechHR on February 28 in Singapore (you’ll find us at Udemy for Business booth 5G) or at Learning Solutions March 26-28 in Orlando, Florida (stop by our Udemy for Business booth #415)!

To get more ideas on how Delta Air Lines and Udemy are applying VR, AR, AI and mobile learning to L&D, watch our on-demand webinar: How Digital Transformation is Disrupting L&D.

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