Digital learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and adaptive learning systems (ALS) are touching our lives every day and in many ways.  Take for example self-driving cars, virtual personal assistants, video games, online customer support, security and news generation.  Global investments and intelligent technologies jump 300% in 2017 as compared with 2016.  Immediate questions spring to mind.  When will Artificial Intelligence exceed human intelligence?  Is Digital Learning Tried and Tested?  Could my job be replaced by Artificial Intelligence?  How can we prepare future generations to work alongside artificial intelligence?  What is the role of ethics?  These are the thought provoking questions that I want to research and share my learning with you.  This blog addresses the first two questions.  Other questions will be addressed in upcoming blogs.

The Learning Trek is dedicated to exploring credible debates and research in Digital Learning that includes Artificial Intelligence and Adaptive Learning Systems.  The technologies can help educators better teach their students, help employees better perform their jobs, and help companies provide better professional development opportunities.  Read about important insights from the Harvard Business Review and Bersin by Deloitte.

Digital Learning in Education

Digital learning means ‘bringing learning where employees are’.  The definition implies that instruction must be relevant to a specific workplace problem; and access is required anytime and anywhere.

Many people agree with Josh Bersin and Deloitte that digital learning is disrupting the education sector.  This disruption is immense given the size of the corporate L&D industry (over $140 billion worldwide) and the education industry ($300 billion worldwide).  Considerable effort is being allocated to reinventing instructional material for access to digital learning.  The stakes for CEOs and HR leaders are naturally high too.  The 2017 Deloitte Human Capital Trends research discovered that 83% of companies rate this issue important and 54% rate it urgent up 11% from 2016.

Is Digital Learning Tried and Tested?

Digital learning is indeed tried and tested.  My first experience with digital learning was over 30 years ago while consulting with a manufacturer in North Carolina, USA.  Welders kept burning holes in air conditioner cabinets.  So our learning solution entailed video demonstrations of properly setting-up an oxyacetylene flame on welding torches.  With great pride, we distributed the video on CD-ROM.  Ancient distribution by today’s standards but the learning method has stood the test of time.  Why? Because we adopted an employee-centric design principle in our digital learning product.

Consider how quickly corporate training has evolved.  Bersin by Deloitte tracked the speed of evolution from the early days of e-learning nearly 20 years ago to the coming age of intelligent learning.  Bersin by Deloitte anticipate an evolution not only in the conversion of instructional materials for access to digital learning, interestingly they also anticipate an evolution in the role of learning managment systems (LMS): “the learning architecture of today [is] like digital marketing: it embraces many types of content, it collects data on interactions and activities, it uses intelligent systems to promote content and monitor employee usage, and it is personalized for everyone.”.

Digital Learning, artificial intelligence, adaptive learning systems

What does Intelligence Mean?

Let’s first define intelligence.  I prefer to define it as the ability to think about (conceptualise) what we need to do to achieve our goals.  Computer scientists define artificial intelligence almost the same way: any device that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximise the chance of success at some goal.  The important point about intelligence is that humans, some animals and smart devices can respond to information they retrieve from memory.

Image a world where artificial intelligence in devices can teach us, keep us safe, entertain us and socialise with us.  We already see the beginnings of it!

  • Intelligent tutoring systems can customise instructions or feedback when students need it – irrespective of when instructors are available.
  • Adaptive learning systems can assist instructors to repeat, space and reinforce learning materials based on ‘real-time’ student progress.
  • Augmented reality can provide detailed instructions on how to do something when somebody is doing something, for instance in hospitals or construction sites.
  • Virtual reality can provide a cost-effective means for businesses to develop new products and guide virtual tours of operations.
  • Virtual apps can improve the engagement and retention of adult learners by fitting course delivery with their online habits, as discussed in another blog at The Learning Trek.

In summary, smart devices assist humans in all manner of daily living in most walks of life.

Will Artificial Intelligence Exceed Human Intelligence?

Aside from the benefits of smart devices, the replacement of humans with ‘robots’ in the future workforce is a concern.  Is it inevitable as the world embraces smart devices?  The Harvard Business Review suggests a different way to reframe this question.  What are the qualities that differentiate human workers from smart devices?

Human workers possess the creativity, adaptability, and interpersonal skills that cannot yet be taken over by AI.  The people who create AI technologies must be able to build teams, work in teams, and integrate solutions created by other teams.

In other words, imagination and originality sets human intelligence apart from artificial intelligence.  The most relevant point for adult education is the fact that technology creators must learn how to work in project teams. Educators and employers alike need to recognise the importance of project managing the human creative process.

View the original article at

Adaptive Learning Systems

Central in the digital learning space is adaptive learning systems (ALS), a leader in the evolution of education technology.  Here the story is now complete with the link established to artificial intelligence discussed above.  The very real potential exists to deliver learners content about specific problems that they can quickly read about, watch or action in 10 minutes or less; and serve it up to them at just the right time.  Traditional coaching, mentoring and observation potentially have a boost with ALS.

View the original article at


Most exciting for me are the opportunities for career growth.  The importance for L&D will continue for the traditional skills in training and instructional design.  Future importance will be placed on L&D skills in experience design, design thinking, employee journey mapping, and integration of smart devices.  Please stay with The Learning Trek as we continue exploring the future of EdTech (education technology) in learning-centred education.