No, it’s not a badly written subject line, it’s true. After a small road tour with our 3D simulation environment that has an “A.I. coach,” designed in, we discovered a real enthusiasm for this kind of technology. Allow me to explain why I think that is.

The vast majority of eLearning lacks something. Learners can become hopelessly lost, embroiled in a nuanced misunderstanding of the task at hand, and many other situations that show just how dumb our current crop of tools are. The choice between a “next” button to move on or some poorly thought out help pages are not really the answer.

We promise today’s learners an engaging, interesting learning experience free from the constrictions of paper-based or class-based learning and then promptly reveal the key weakness of this new medium to them. It’s anyone’s guess how their training will progress.

So then why artificial intelligence? It’s the subject of both hyperbole and opprobrium mixed with a nagging fear of Godzilla sized robots tearing up the parking lot. If you can get past the natural concerns about something new and uncertain it can provide an interesting solution to the missing link in current eLearning.

HAL: I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.

Imagine a friendly coach watching your progress throughout a simulation. It’s always there. Whenever it senses you need help it offers that help in an understated way that gives the learner the choice of using it or continuing to try to succeed on their own.

For example in a simulation an A.I. coach can:

  • Check if the learner is taking much longer than other students and offer help
  • Warn if the chosen behavior is so counterproductive as to make the simulated problem likely unsolvable
  • Track the learner’s route through a 3D environment and provide help to complete the task if the user’s path is being repeated more than x times
  • Respond when asked for help with a video explanation of the goal of the next or remaining elements of the simulation
  • Provide help based on natural language requests
  • Encourage the learner with a statistical analysis of their performance compared with the average
  • Provide a “debrief” about the optimal way to solve the simulation compared to their solution
  • Recommend area for improvement

Coach – I don’t understand what’s next, can you help?

Before you say it, this is a lot of work for a course designer. However, it can be added incrementally as the simulation is run and behaviors observed.

The pay off is large. A much better experience for learners who are struggling. A fun and engaging additional element to simulations. The coach can have a personality, be funny or serious depending on the simulation.

If you agree eLearning is basically self-paced classroom training without the teacher, then this can be the next generation. By effectively putting a teacher/coach back into the learning experience.

Now that’s intelligent.