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ATD Blog

How Can I Incorporate AI Into My Learning Programs?

Friday, January 8, 2021
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In this week’s Ask a Trainer guest post, Margie Meacham, author of AI n Talent Development: Capitalize on the AI Revolution to Transform the Way You Work, Learn, and Live, shares her advice for how talent development professionals can become more comfortable with artificial intelligence.

Dear Margie,

There has been some buzz lately about using AI in talent development. I’m interested in using AI because it sounds cool and has so much potential for helping people learn. However, I’m not sure where to start. There’s so much information out there, some AI tools are expensive, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. What’s your advice on a good starting point for incorporating AI into my learning programs?


It’s important to ground yourself in a basic understanding of AI. You don’t have to become a data scientist or a programmer, but you do need to understand what AI is and what it isn’t. In talent development, you’re going to get what is called “narrow AI,” or limited AI—targeted solutions that take tons of data and analyze it and take actions based on that data without human intervention. In that sense, AI is self-learning.

One of the first things to do is just recognize that in your daily life, you probably interact with websites that are powered at least in part by AI. You are engaging with chatbots that are not human beings but are perfectly capable of carrying on a conversation with you and creating that illusion that you are engaging with another person.

A lot of us watch television on streaming services. They all use intelligence to recommend shows to you, and they can become specific. The more you use the service and the more you give them feedback, which is how an AI learns, then the better these recommendations get. So, there are already great examples that we can learn from and carry into our work.

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With AI, it’s helpful to get just a bit educated. Read my book about AI or someone else’s book. Start paying attention. You’ll instantly start seeing examples of AI in your own life. Then you can start thinking, how could I do something like that for our learnings? That’s where it gets more exciting. The holy grail for a lot of us in the field has been how to customize learning to individuals. That’s where AI comes in. No army of humans would have the time to customize learning for every individual under their care, but a properly built and trained AI can deliver a customized experience.

There are a lot of simple things you can do to get started. For example, one of the simplest AI formats that you can begin with is a chatbot. At the ATD virtual conference at the end of October, I led a workshop about the interactive agents. In two hours, we built an educational chatbot intended to teach people. We loaded in some specific questions and information related to a particular topic. The neat thing about the program we used is that it added additional questions we had not written; it learned from the content that we gave it. As you continue to play with the chatbot, it gets better at how it sorts through the data and gives the information that you want it to give.

You can use a chatbot in many ways. It can be a completely different way to deliver learning. Instead of building, say, a branching scenario, you can have a practice chat bot for salespeople or customer service people. They practice asking questions and giving and taking questions from the bot, and the bot responds based on how the learner does. If a salesperson gets too pushy, the bot has been programmed to push back, to resist and object. If the salesperson is more consultative, the conversation flows along. That’s the type of learning application for AI that I’ve been having a lot of fun with.



Learn more from Margie Meacham about how to use AI in talent development on the ATD Accidental Trainer podcast. Her episode aired on January 6.

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If you have a question for Ask a Trainer, send it to [email protected]. You can find answers to previous questions by visiting the Ask a Trainer hub.



We welcome your comments and engagement on these posts. All posts are reviewed to ensure appropriateness based on ATD’s requirements for postings in our online communities.

Please note: Content shared in this column is provided by the author and may not reflect the perspectives of ATD.


About the Author

Margie Meacham, “The Brain Lady,” is a scholar-practitioner in the field of education and learning and president of LearningToGo. She specializes in practical applications for neuroscience to enhance learning and performance. Meacham’s clients include businesses, schools, and universities. She writes a popular blog for the Association of Talent Development and has published two books, Brain Matters: How to Help Anyone Learn Anything Using Neuroscience and The Genius Button: Using Neuroscience to Bring Out Your Inner Genius.

She first became interested in the brain when she went with undiagnosed dyslexia as a child. Although she struggled in the early grades, she eventually taught herself how to overcome the challenge of a slight learning disability and became her high school valedictorian, graduated magna cum laude from Centenary University, and earned her master’s degree in education from Capella University with a 4.0.

Meacham started her professional career in high-tech sales, and when she was promoted to director of training, she discovered her passion for teaching and helping people learn. She became one of the first corporate trainers to use video conferencing and e-learning and started her own consulting company from there. Today she consults for many organizations, helping them design learning experiences that will form new neural connections and marry neuroscience theory with practice.

“I believe we are on the verge of so many wonderful discoveries about how we learn. Understanding what happens in the brain is making us better leaders, teachers, parents, and employees. We have no limits to what we can accomplish with our wonderful brains— the best survival machines ever built.”
—Margie Meacham

1 Comment
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I'm excited about the possibilities that AI offers and I hope you'll join me in this discussion. In researching my book, I found many use cases across all sorts of industries, but relatively few in L&D. With a few simple steps, we can start to change that!
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