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ATD Blog

AI in E-Learning: Too Early, Too Much, or Just Right?

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Integrating artificial intelligence (AI) into e-learning modules is nothing short of revolutionary. It presents a world of opportunities, transforming many a learning designer’s dreams into reality. Features once considered impossible are now within our grasp, and in ways we've only just begun to explore. By enabling live, interactive experiences and delivering more relevant, personalized content at much greater scale, AI is poised to reshape the landscape of training as we know it today. Yet, it raises the question—is it too early, too much, or just right for your organization? Let’s put on our Goldilocks hats and find out!

To truly appreciate the impact of AI integration in e-learning, we must first understand the breadth and depth of its potential applications. Imagine having the capability to seamlessly weave GPT-3, a generative AI, into your e-learning module. This integration would equip learners with instant access to AI-generated content, paving the way for a real-time, adaptive learning environment. The power of AI to provide context and controlled access is what could bring such learning modules to life.

For instance, with AI, we can significantly enhance traditional multiple-choice questions. They can become flexible tools that promote critical thinking and adaptive learning. Ask an Expert functionality is another possibility, providing learners with real-time access to expert knowledge and guidance. AI can provide meaningful feedback on open-text answers, fostering deeper understanding and engagement. It can also help design immersive role-play scenarios within a given context, offering learners a unique opportunity to practice and develop essential skills. It can even compare learner responses against pre-defined parameters, like company policies or expert answers, and assess user progress throughout a course by monitoring changes in pre- and post-learning responses.

However, we must consider the question: Is it too early to integrate AI into our learning modules? Many learning designers and strategists are asking this as they cautiously observe the rapid evolution of AI from the sidelines. Companies at large, as well as legal, HR, and IT departments are grappling with policy decisions surrounding this transformative technology. Should the learning and development (L&D) sector plunge headfirst into this new era? For certain industries and topics, it may indeed be premature.

But let’s consider the potential benefits of being an early adopter. Integrating AI into your current learning management system (LMS) and authoring tools is not a significant investment, yet the potential payoff could be considerable. By launching a pilot program, we can ignite meaningful conversation and engage both business partners and learners in this exciting journey. AI will continue to evolve and improve. The sooner we embrace it, the less ground we’ll need to fully integrate it into our practices.


On the other hand, may AI integration be a bit too much? Over the past few months, discussions around AI and workplace learning have indeed oscillated between two extremes—fear and boundless hope. It’s not uncommon for some in the L&D sector, acting out of fear, to view AI as overkill—an overly sophisticated technology that brings more complexity than benefits to their work. While still finding its footing, this powerful technology can seem unsettling and imperfect. But remember, it’s in this realm of uncertainty and instability that innovation flourishes.

Being able to harness and experiment with AI, while maintaining a level-headed understanding of its evolving nature, is the key. It’s about balance. Think of AI as a versatile ingredient in an e-learning recipe. We can add as much or as little as we like, tailoring AI elements to specific needs and preferences. A simple modification, such as transforming a standard Q&A slide into an AI-enhanced interactive, could be a great way to initiate the AI integration journey.


Is AI integration right for your organization?

Ultimately, the answer depends on each organization’s unique situation, their implementation strategy, and most importantly, their learners. As enticing as it may be to chase after AI, it’s crucial to avoid making hasty platform or tool changes without considering learner needs and overall user experience. Instead, take the time to ponder how and where leveraging generative AI will enhance and personalize learning. The goal is to deploy AI for the specific environment, so that employees feel empowered and engaged, rather than overwhelmed or threatened. This is where the true potential of AI in e-learning lies.

For more information about AI, check out ATD's AI resource page.

About the Author

Garima Gupta is the founder and CEO of Artha Learning, a full-service award-winning learning design firm. She brings more than 15 years of experience in L&D, training, digital marketing, content creation, education, and software engineering. Garima is passionate about the effective use of technology in educational spaces and speaks regularly at national and international conferences. She holds an MEd in adult education and a CTDP designation.

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I love the idea of being an early adopter of AI. The cost is very little but the reward would be ten fold! A great idea. Additionally, I would consider the fact that many students are also using AI to complete their work. If one is not learning how to successfully use AI now, they are simply falling behind.
Very true Jeremy. The reward to risk ratio of implementing AI in our work is huge.
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