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ATD Blog

Talk to Me: Using Chat Bots for Learning

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Online chat has become a key method of communicating with customers over the last few years and is starting to permeate L&D. As a marketer, I used to ensure our call center reps knew the right messages to impart; nowadays, I would need to ensure our chat bot could communicate the key messages to customers!

As texting and online messaging have become the norm, our learners have also become more accustomed to communicating via written message. Basic online chat tools require a human to operate them, and this generally requires almost as much people-resources as operating a traditional call center. However, advances in AI chat technology have seen the use of chat bots becoming more and more widespread. These advances and the increasing frequency of chat bots will mean more chat bots in L&D in the years to come.

Chat Bot Examples

Most people are familiar with and have been using chat bots for years, but until recently only large companies with resources to invest in the technology have provided chat bots. Two of the best examples are Siri and Alexa, from Apple and Amazon respectively. They are virtual assistants designed to provide information on any topic. Siri and Alexa are both sophisticated examples, using chat bot machine learning and advanced artificial intelligence to replicate natural human conversation. People are already using these chat bots for informal learning to obtain just-in-time answers.

The average chat bot for learning needs to provide information on only one subject area, meaning machine learning technology is not required and, unlike Siri and Alexa, these chat bots for learning would provide only written answers to written questions (which is more cost-effective than programming voice assistants). This, combined with the fact the technology has become cheaper and more readily available, means more organizations are considering chat bots to provide a different learning experience.

Chat Bots for Learning

As online marketers are using chat bots to provide better experiences for their customers, so can learning teams use them to provide better experiences for their participants.


Chat bots can differ widely in complexity and sophistication, especially for learning and development. While all chat bots employ AI in the broad definition, sometimes this is as simple as pre-programming a list of responses to a limited range of inputs. Even chat bots as simple as this can be effective for training. For example, a chat bot could be pre-programmed to give post-learning information for learners to retrieve, such as prompting learners to recall the key points of a concept using set questions and expected responses. Flow XO is an example of a platform that provides basic but effective chat bots, and requires no coding skills to set up. There are also various providers with easy-to-implement solutions.

In addition to using chat bots for retrieval practice, bots can be effective learning tools when used to answer learners’ questions. Learners are likely to find chat a more natural and intuitive way of finding information compared with more dry and traditional research methods.


Benefits of Chat Bots

  • 24/7 availability. As they don’t require any human input to answer questions, chat bots are available around the clock and are especially effective for a distributed workforce.
  • Personalization. Chat bots can be integrated with the learner data you have on file, such as name, location, and course history, to provide an engaging and personalized experience.
  • Cost efficiency. Once a chat bot has been programmed and integrated, there are low operating costs.
  • Natural language processing. Increasingly sophisticated AI means chat bots use and understanding of language is becoming more and more natural.

The Future of Chat Bots

As AI and machine learning technology becomes more sophisticated, chat bots will become more advanced in their ability to provide natural human conversation. As they become more advanced, their usefulness will extend beyond providing learners with answers to actually analyzing complicated information and providing insights and opinions. It remains to be seen how these advances will be integrated into learning and development, but the opportunities will surely increase as the technology progresses.

Want to learn more? Join me at ATD TechKnowledge 2019 for the session, Apply What Works: Using Marketing's AI, AR, and Personalization for L&D to see successful examples of chat bots that can make your learning solutions effective.

About the Author

Danielle Wallace is the chief learning strategist at Beyond the Sky, a provider of custom learning solutions. She combines proven marketing techniques with adult learning principles to create learning that sticks. Previously, as a marketing executive with Procter & Gamble and PepsiCo, she learned strategic marketing and advertising principles, which she applies to learning and development to create compelling breakthrough solutions. Danielle is also a certified training and development professional (CTDP).

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Great article Danielle! What chatbot programs would you recommend using for enterprise software systems training? Do you have a list of general chatbot programs you can share as well?
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I'd like to list a few benefits of using chatbots like Engati ( for Education and Learning: Essay scoring functionality. Student Feedback And Professor Assessment. Answers hundreds of commonly asked questions. Assist with the filing of applications, accept tuition payments and assign course schedules. Service and test ride scheduling and booking. Helping students find the right program of study. Schedule meetings or phone calls when human intervention is required
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