Learning and development (L&D) professionals are keen to improve their methods and deliver better outcomes for employees. This industry has historically been more cautious than other industries when it comes to change, but L&D professionals cannot continue to use yesterday’s techniques to prepare their employees for the expectations of tomorrow. Fortunately, a digital revolution is disrupting the industry at an unprecedented rate.

Interactive technology, digital projectors, mobile devices and laptops are beginning to play a prominent role in delivering content to learners. Supporting these tools are new digital applications, libraries of rich media content, high-speed networks, cloud computing engines and advanced storage infrastructure. These technologies are capturing vast amounts of data, learning preferences and course progress. Sitting inside the data are vital insights that provide information on how learning should be delivered to align with learner needs, preferences and desired outcomes while making corporate learning more engaging, efficient and cost-effective.

Digital technologies have already begun to play a transformative role in two key areas: remote learning and learner-centric approaches. Businesses now have extended reach and can deliver content to office locations throughout the globe using remote delivery methodologies. Additionally, with a better understanding of how learners consume and retain information, organizations are delivering content in a way that is more learner-centric.

Data serves as the fundamental building block of effective learning programs. When a learner takes an assessment multiple times, what does it tell employers? How can organizations use that data – along with other critical information, such as time to complete courses or submit assignments, the type of device used to access training content, demographic information, and peer performance – to calibrate training delivery?

In other words, how can data and analytics help create proactive and prescriptive learning delivery methods to improve outcomes? Here are five emerging technologies that are enabling data to transform L&D.

1. Adaptive Learning

The challenge for L&D professionals has always been to provide one-on-one learning at scale to meet the needs of individual learners. Integrating machine learning into training processes helps achieve this elusive goal. Organizations can use machine learning to provide insights into the learning patterns of individual employees, including their strengths, weaknesses, interest levels and engagement patterns, to adapt training for each individual and offer personalized paths based on their skill level and job responsibilities.

2. Predictive Analytics

Employees fail to complete learning programs due to various reasons. Identifying the learners who are most likely not to complete a course is difficult. Organizations can address the challenge of learner retention by analyzing learner data and using it to predict which employees are most likely to not complete a course or training module. Then, they can intervene before the employee quits the program. Predictive analytics can also help L&D assess learning performance to identify learners who are struggling before their overall performance falls.

3. Real-Time Assessment

The gaps and variances among training, testing, formative assessments and feedback can often rob an employee of motivation and impede the training organization’s ability to create effective training. Traditional assessment practices are difficult to update frequently, as learning goals change. Artificial intelligence (AI)-powered bots can provide instant feedback on mobile devices and then log the results for later use and analysis. The key is to continuously update the automated assessment system with new and better assessment practices, adjusting them to the learning goals.

4. Conversational Assistants

It is almost impossible for managers and L&D professionals to be available all the time to answer employee questions. In such instances, AI-enabled conversational assistants can be helpful. These domain-specific applications, built on powerful speech AI such as natural language processing (NLP), provide the answers that learners are looking for in real time. In addition, these applications can work as assistants; organizations can train them to assess employees, give instant feedback and even provide virtual tutoring.

5. Virtual Reality

Experiential learning has always been a challenge due to the resources required. Virtual reality (VR) can change this problem by transforming learning through interactive, immersive and dynamic experiences that enable employers and employees to engage with each other through a wide spectrum of interactive resources. For example, one university uses VR in a law class to provide clues for students to solve a murder case. Instead of reading the case, learners can virtually visit the crime scene and discover evidence. Similarly, L&D professionals can use VR to encourage employees to apply what they’ve learned to real-life scenarios.

These are just a few areas where technology, backed by data, can enhance learning, empower both L&D professionals and employees, and optimize operations. New L&D techniques marry content with innovative delivery methods to ensure employees are adequately supported and encouraged to incorporate learning into their workday.