Senior Learning DesignerAnalyst
Bot's not to like?
I'm not one for being on the cusp of
technology. I'm not against it, I just tend to sit
on my hands (and crucially, my purse) until it
seems inevitable that something's going to
catch on. I didn't get an iPod until I was
leaving home and didn't want to carry CDs
with me. I didn't get Facebook until I noticed I
wasn't being invited to parties. I was probably
the last adult I know to get a smartphone -
apart from my dad.
It is therefore unusual that I have chosen as
my subject today…chatbots.
Chatbots are the big news in e-learning
technology at the moment. They will soon be
onboarding your new starters, answering
questions, providing learners with ongoing
support and practice, replacing your learning
management system (LMS), replacing elearning courses, replacing you.
But it's hard
to tell, amongst all the chatter, what chatbots
are actually going to do for learners.
So, coming at this from the point of view of
somebody who, had I been an ancient
Mesopotamian, would have given the wheel a
shot, but only after they stopped
manufacturing chariots without them, how
should I be feeling about chatbots right now?
My first answer is...confused. Chatbots are
supposed to solve a lot of different 'problems',
but the challenge is to find out how, on a
basic level, the learner's life will be improved
when they start using them for the first time.
Chatbots have been used in marketing for a
couple of years already, and studies have
shown that once they begin using them,
users don't necessarily continue to do so. A
study showed that 40% of users never got
past the first message, with another 25%
dropping off after the second.
And, crucially, learners need to use the bots
for them to helpful. The more the bot is used
the more helpful it will be. If we're going to
realise the dream of the helpful robot workfriend who knows about everything and can
tailor itself to your needs, there's some work
to be done first. We also need to do that work
before we can find out if that's even what
My second answer to how I should be feeling,
however, is optimistic. Chatbots have so
much potential for e-learning, and there is one
aspect in particular that it seems almost
certain learners will appreciate: the invisible