Future Friday: The future of learning is continuous learning and specific training

by Michael Haberman on April 6, 2018 · 1 comment

The future of learning will still have a large human component.

With advances in artificial intelligence, we are seeing changes in the way training is delivered. In Are Robo-Instructors The Future Of Corporate Training? author Josh Davis makes the statement:

L&D professionals are rightly wondering whether they’ll soon be automated out of existence. After all, Google and YouTube are the de facto training departments for many employees: they’re ubiquitous, free, and packed with seemingly limitless content. But more sophisticated technology is on the rise, too. For example, AI can determine what someone needs to learn based on their performance data and career stage, then push content to them as they need it.

A dismal prospect for Learning and Development professionals for sure, however, Davis does offer some good news in his article.

Good news for humans

I have written several times about the retention of human skills in order to remain relevant in the workplace. One such post is Future Friday: Will “Human skills” be enough in the future? Davis, in his article, offers some hope for humans as instructors

and teachers. He says: “One area where the L&D professionals still have an advantage is in bridging the learning-doing gap. The science of learning suggests that the art of teaching is still very much a human endeavor.” According to Davis, however, there are three steps that must be taken to ensure that this human endeavor is not automated.

Three Steps

The first step necessary is to personalize the instruction to the learner’s goals. Mass instruction will not be workable. As Davis puts it: “One crucial new role for L&D professionals is to draw out those individualized connections, acting like coaches to guide people through training programs that keep them each personally motivated.”

The second step involves the concept of deliberate practice. The new behavior learned cannot be retained without engaging in the behavior, a lesson I learned the hard way. Multiple parts of the brain are involved in learning and “Bridging the learning-doing gap requires flexing each of these brain systems simultaneously to make sure the desired habit actually sticks.” The concept of deliberate practice is not new, as indicated in Why “Deliberate Practice” Is The Only Way To Keep Getting Better. It is just becoming more widely recognized as an important component.

The third step requires accessing the learned material or skill at least three times. Most of us just don’t learn something in one take. We have to think about it, sleep on it, and do it again. So those one time bouts of learning, unless something significant happens, are not going to stick. We have all experienced that with cramming for an exam, then one week later we cannot recall a damn thing we studied.


Davis concludes his piece with a rosy picture for teachers and instructors, that also provides us with a challenge. He says:

The fact is that in order to adapt to the future of work, we’ll all have a lot to learn–not just once but continuously. And access to great content from robo-instructors won’t be enough. We’ll need to know how to close the gap between learning and doing. So far, the science of learning suggests that the ones best suited to help us solve that problem aren’t algorithms but other people.”

This will require work on the part of learning and development specialists, but it is work, that so far cannot be done effectively by automation.

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