5 Ways AI can be used in L&D

When OpenAI’s generative chatbot, ChatGPT, launched in late 2022, it took the world by storm. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been quietly developing for years, but suddenly the public was paying more attention, and every industry seemed to be asking how AI could be applied to their field.

Learning and Development (L&D) is no exception. The last few months has seen a flurry of think pieces about the applications of AI in L&D. While AI does have the potential to change the future of learning, the truth of the matter is this: AI has been playing a role in L&D for years.

AI for L&D is already here

Most of the buzz around AI has been about generative AI — a type of AI that learns from data and creates new content based on that information. However, there are other types of AI that have been used to improve L&D.

Specifically, learning professionals have been using analytical AI — AI that analyzes existing data to make predictions, suggestions, or to automate manual processes. According to a 2022 interview with AI and learning expert Dr. Stella Lee, AI is built into many learning technology platforms already.

“It’s implicit that we are always using a piece of AI or machine learning technology in learning and in analytics,” said Lee. AI is mostly used to aggregate large sets of data, and to automate processes that might take up a lot of a human worker’s time.

One example, Lee said, is personalized learning paths. In the past an L&D professional would review a learner’s progress in courses as well as their seniority and expertise, and handpick the content the learner should consume next. This can be time-consuming, especially if the company has a lot of learning content or a lot of learners. AI is able to do this quickly, and at scale, sorting through massive amounts of data to tailor a learning path for each learner.

5 uses for AI in L&D

While L&D is already using AI to parse data, there are many other uses for AI in learning, especially now that generative AI has entered the chat. While any discussion of generative AI usually comes with fears that the technology will take the jobs of human L&D professionals, it’s important to remember that like all technology, AI is a tool designed to make the jobs of human workers easier.

  1. Improving LMS searchability

The better a learning platform’s search function is, the more quickly learners can find the content they need. AI can improve searchability, recommending content for learners based on previous searches, their progress on courses in the past, or just helping them get answers faster.

  1. Content creation

This is the one that makes instructional designers nervous, and understandably so. However, rather than developing an entire module or course, generative AI can be used by course authors to create courses more quickly. For example, AI can be used to generate a list of ideas for learning, or to synthesize information or a document into course ideas. It can be used to outline a section, help create a quiz from a lesson, or summarize a long document into a series of salient points. The instructional designer can then use those tools to create content more quickly, because they didn’t have to come up with the ideas or synthesize the data themselves.

  1. Interactive simulations

While simulations are a great training tool, they’re not as effective if they don’t adapt to the learner’s actions. AI will be able to create interactive simulations that respond to the learner, just as the real situation would.

  1. Tailored assessments

Rather than giving all learners one quiz at the end of a lesson, AI can create quizzes at different levels of difficulty. AI can also pinpoint areas where a learner is struggling and use that information to help the learner grasp difficult concepts.

  1. Chatbots as tutors

Chatbots have a lot of potential when it comes to learning. An AI-powered chatbot can allow a learner to practice conversations as part of a course. For example, a customer service representative who regularly engages with customers via chat can use a chatbot to hone their skills. Chatbots can also be used as part of soft skills training, sales training, or leadership training — any type of training where specific conversations may need to be practiced.

AI is a natural fit for learning

“(AI) is a learning technology. It learns. For a learning professional not to use it would be churlish,” says author and learning expert Donald Clark in an interview.

AI allows learning professionals to do their jobs more easily and get back to the reasons they got into L&D in the first place: helping people learn new skills. Rather than getting bogged down in the manual details of course creation, L&D pros can work to differentiate learning, create more engaging content, and come up with ideas that will help learners be happier and more effective.