How Artificial Intelligence Is Revolutionizing Online Learning

AI has dominated headlines in the first five months of 2023. Thanks in no small part to ChatGPT, the AI narrative has shifted from a story about human obsolescence to something a lot more exciting: how AI helps us complete tasks faster and, in many cases, better. Deloitte found that more than 50% of companies will utilize AI and/or automation technologies in 2023. Meanwhile, workers across industries are embracing generative AI. When one Fortune 500 firm paired employees with AI tools, those workers reported more job satisfaction.

It’s difficult to name an industry that won’t be enhanced by AI. That includes e-learning. However, the real innovation is in pairing AI with behavioral science. By doing so, we can understand what truly motivates online learners, build courses optimized for the digital realm and, ultimately, crack the code on the “completion rate problem”—raising the percentage of learners who finish a course from just 3.1% to 65% or more.

That completion rate boost means more ROI for creators, who in 2022 spent $320 billion on courses that 97 of 100 students never finished. Better completion also improves learning outcomes and opens the door to the transformative experiences that students deserve. Read on for six ways that AI and behavioral science are powering the world’s most effective online learning programs.

Using AI and behavioral science to unlock higher engagement and real ROI

Like the online learning market itself, the e-learning AI space is on a tear. Today, AI tools for online learning represent $1 billion in value; by 2030, that number will eclipse $80 billion. But, don’t let that hockey-stick growth fool you: A decade of research has gone into this boom. I should know, because my colleagues and I have been at the forefront.

More than 10 years ago, we began researching a critical question: Why aren’t more learners completing online courses? That journey led us to develop proprietary behavioral science models that identify what motivates e-learners, and it’s not the same as what motivates them in the classroom. These models have been highly amplified through leading-edge AI technology. Why the need for behavioral science? Because AI alone isn’t enough to help us get to the bottom of what motivates someone to purchase and complete an online course. The most successful people building AI businesses will leverage the open large language models (LLMs) similar to the ones you find with OpenAI. This is the foundation; the next step is building vertical solutions on top. The more highly advanced LLMs have been trained on aspects such as sentiment analysis and empathy categories that, when layered on top of AI, achieves a vertically integrated solution.

Through the pairing of AI and behavioral science, courses are being highly optimized for completion, delivering real ROI for creators and unlocking unlimited intellectual potential. Here’s how you can leverage this innovation right now to build the world’s best online learning program.

Reduce your risk by aligning with your audience

With completion rates stuck at just 3.1%, brands are seeing incredibly low ROI—that is, if they’re lucky enough to see any at all. This missed potential stems from investing in the wrong curriculum. By leveraging AI and behavioral science, creators can learn what to build before spending a single dollar on course development.

  1. Understand what motivates your audience: Whether it’s a student body, a segment of a workforce or a customer base in need of training, it’s critical to understand your audience before creating your course. Today’s AI insight engines help creators take a deep dive into who their learners are as people. The insights go well beyond surface-level demographics. By pairing leading-edge AI with behavioral models, the most effective tools can pinpoint an audience’s ambitions, goals, motivational factors and other forces that impact their likelihood of sticking with a course.
  2.  Know what to build: Armed with AI and behavioral science insights about their audience’s motivations, creators can design a program aligned with what their end user really wants. The most technically sophisticated platform will identify which business models work best in each creator’s industry, category and segment—allowing you to invest in what will deliver real ROI.

Structure your course for completion

Along with alignment, the other component of high-performing online courses is ascension, or a structure that allows students to reach the desired end result. This is another area in which AI and behavioral science are transforming e-learning outcomes.

  1. Build an optimally-structured course: A decade of research has taught us that what works in person doesn’t necessarily work online. Thanks to AI, there’s no more guesswork—and no more replicating classroom curriculum with the hopes that it’ll deliver the same experience in the digital arena. AI technology can be applied to a course builder scenarios to identify the precise structure that will boost completion and engagement rates by up to 17X.

Optimize completion and course performance

A major benefit of online learning is the ability to continually improve and optimize curriculum. With AI, creators can not only identify friction points but also generate optimized content that quickly boosts performance.

Analyze performance in real-time: The most effective AI tools combine behavioral science models with performance data from your LMS. Using this real-time data, AI can identify friction and drop-off points—and identify key enhancements to boost completion.

  1.  Optimize content using generative AI: Creating content can be incredibly time-consuming, and more course creators than ever lack an education background. Luckily, generative AI has stepped in to automate content creation. Generative AI tools are now capable of rewriting scripts, editing content and implementing suggestions so that underperforming content can be quickly overhauled and optimized.
  2.  Prevent learners from heading to Google: Our research has shown that learners often turn to search engines to find answers rather than waiting or revisiting previous sections of a course. To curb drop-off, ChatGPT-like tools can give learners real-time answers based exclusively on an organization’s training data. Learning and Development Departments can now create custom LLMs that consist solely of the creator’s existing content library, training materials and data sets. AI and machine learning tools can be used to organize the data, which allows chatbots to provide real-time answers to learners straight from the organization’s content library.

As recently as a few months ago, a course completion rate of 65% was unheard of. So was reaping real ROI from online learning programs. But, with advanced AI tools, these goals aren’t just possible; they’re fully replicable. Through a combination of advanced AI and proprietary behavioral science, these emerging technologies are helping creators build the world’s most powerful e-learning programs—the kind that generate real ROI, increase engagement and transform learners by teaching them life-changing skills.

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