Artificial intelligence (AI) has made a big splash in the training industry. From automating certain administrative tasks to enabling adaptive learning platforms that provide truly personalized learning, the applications have been numerous – and exciting.

In October, Docebo debuted Docebo 7.5, the first version of its learning platform to use AI – specifically machine learning, deep learning and natural language processing. “We approach the artificial intelligence conversation not only from the learning perspective, which is where a lot of vendors are currently pitching their AI content suggestion system,” says Claudio Erba, founder and CEO of Docebo. “For us, AI is different and much more expansive, we want to automate the learning process completely, and categorizing the content and enhancing discoverability is the first step towards a much more ambitious journey.” To that end, the platform can identify skills gaps and trigger automated learning enrollment accordingly.

Meanwhile, IBM launched IBM Talent & Transformation, a new business to help organizations change their talent functions “help organizations and their human resource departments empower their people to flourish in the era of AI and automation,” according to Tina Marron-Partridge, global leader for talent and engagement at IBM. It will draw on IBM’s experience integrating AI into human resources, from how the company attracts job candidates to how it retains and develops employees.

Busting AI Myths

All AIs Are Created Equal.

“As in all things,” says Nick Howe, chief learning officer of Area9 Lyceum, “there are significant differences in effectiveness.” Just because a training program uses AI doesn’t mean it’s any better than another training program – or any worse.

AI Is Just a Content Recommendation Tool.

“The industry thinks about AI strictly as a tool to suggest content,” says Erba, “but to succeed, AI must cannibalize the full legacy product and transform large parts of it.” In other words, while AI is a great way to provide content recommendations (Netflix, anyone?), it’s also a great way to do a lot of other important, exciting things. For example, Marron-Partridge says that AI can provide “transparent and personalized career advice” and career paths to employees based on their skills, alert managers of “potential flight risks” and then provide them with personalized interventions, and support digital badge programs.

AI Is Easy.

“AI suffers from the GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) problem,” says Howe. It’s only as good as the data it uses. L&D data is complex (because humans are complex), and so the AI that uses it is also going to be complex. Marron-Partridge adds that implementing AI is not so much a technological challenge but a challenge “of skills, culture and change management.” Leaders must make the organization ready for AI in order for it to be successful.

AI Will Replace People.

“Contrary to popular belief,” says Ben Eubanks (author of “Artificial Intelligence for HR”), “AI isn’t broadly replacing humans any time soon.” People still want and benefit from interaction with each other, so ILT will still be an important part of training. AI certainly will replace some jobs, says Howe, but its true benefit comes in complementing and augmenting people, not replacing them. Similarly, says Marron-Partridge, “Instead of replacing humans in the workforce, AI will complement people skills and redefine the specific tasks that comprise most occupations, increasing opportunity and output for nearly every industry and profession.”

I Can Build it Myself.

“While anyone can experiment” with AI, Howe says, “to deliver reliable, scalable, performance solutions requires thousands of hours of work and tens of millions of dollars of investment.” Is it worth it? Only time will tell – but so far, all signs are pointing to a reasonably good ROI.

What’s Next?

“We’ve only just scratched the surface,” Howe says. One challenge now, especially for learning leaders, is to sift through the many, many companies offering AI solutions to identify the ones that will make an impact on their business. This discernment will also require identifying the problems they are trying to solve and comparing them with the capabilities of each vendor.

Eubanks says AI innovations in L&D include using chatbots “to help manage organizational knowledge and rapidly respond to questions” and using virtual coaches (not just online coaches, but truly virtual, non-human coaches). In fact, Erba says that in 2019, Docebo will offer virtual coaches.

“What I ultimately envision,” says Eubanks, “is a self-developing workforce that is guided by AI and other technologies to fill in critical skills gaps and develop key capabilities based on the needs of the business, enabling greater organizational performance.”

Marron-Partridge says that AI’s true potential is partnering with humans to improve work and, hopefully, life overall. “While some are focused on doomsday scenarios that most experts deem unlikely,” organizations should prioritize understanding AI and developing the skills they need to make that partnership beneficial for employees and the business.

As for Erba, in 2020, he predicts “learning mind uploading.” Well, maybe not … “But eventually, it’s looking possible!”