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Professor Siri? Chatbots and the New Way to Learn

Americans collectively check their phones eight billion times a day according to a 2015 study by Deloitte. With that kind of ubiquitous use of technology, it’s no wonder that educators are looking at ways to leverage the technology we already use in order to develop effective learning tools. Like the use of technology that provides career and education advising and pathing, the use of chatbots—virtual assistants that can interact with users, answer questions and provide guidance—is becoming increasingly common at many organizations.

Initially used by businesses to respond to questions from customers, advancing technology is now allowing for more intelligent chatbots that are capable of a far greater range of correspondence with users. As a result, chatbot technology is now being employed as a learning tool that functions on par with real humans, its spread reaching academia and industry alike.      

As Chief Learning Officer shows, the number of potential applications in which chatbots can engage with learners is vast, and that number is growing. Virtual coaching that can share information from your organization’s knowledgebase; a platform to simulate interactions between employee and clients; an on-demand voice of support for new employees; these are just a few of the roles chatbots are taking on in organizations.    

When you consider the realities of today’s learners, the advantages of chatbots as learning tools become clear. These advantages include:

  • Chatbots are available on-demand 24/7, fitting employees’ busy schedules.
  • As previously discussed, it’s crucial to promote learning during the onboarding process. Chatbots are an excellent way to achieve this best practice at less expense.
  • Chatbots free up employees who would otherwise need to devote time to answering common questions. Customizable by nature, chatbots can be designed to dispense basic information, such as company policies or standards, while directing employees to representatives for questions that require a human response.
  • Chatbots can learn, too, providing insight into frequently asked questions and pertinent data that can be used to better meet employees’ needs and to inform future employee communication tactics.
  • Chatbots can provide an environment for learning that can be conducive for employee questions that employees might not feel comfortable asking face-to-face.
  • Some chatbots are designed to use existing commonly accessed technology like Facebook Messenger or even a phone’s basic texting feature, providing learners with access to an interface with which they’re likely to already be well familiar and comfortable using. Consequently, employers and employees alike save time and energy by not having to become acquainted with new technology.

As is often the case with new, disruptive technology, some might be leery of the value and efficacy of chatbots. But coaches, cohorts and educators shouldn’t fret about losing their role to a robot—chatbots and other up-and-coming technology are best employed in tandem with experienced, properly motivated flesh-and-blood employees.


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