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Rosie Scott

Senior Learning DesignerAnalyst

Learning Pool

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

learners want.

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

LMS.

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