Why AI Won’t Mean the End of Peer-to-Peer Learning

An innovator in artificial intelligence articulates a way forward.

GUEST COLUMN | by Nikolas Kairinos

In the current climate, traditional learning incentives appear to be under siege. As organizations have shifted to digital training and online platforms to deliver learning and development (L&D) opportunities throughout the pandemic, some educators might be anxious about the changing landscape of corporate education.

In a world where digital transformation efforts are being accelerated and artificial intelligence (AI) adoption is becoming more ubiquitous than ever before, the age-old concern that robots might one day replace the role of learning leaders looms large. And this is no baseless concern: research has revealed that a staggering 25% of roles in the US are already experiencing high levels of disruption due to AI and machine learning.

Clearly, new technologies seem poised to shake up the jobs market. However, this doesn’t have to mean the days of human learning leaders and peer-to-peer (P2P) methods are numbered. Despite any trepidation about the effects of automation on the jobs market, modelling actually suggests that automation will create more jobs than it will replace.

‘…human teachers provide qualities and skills that are difficult to replicate in their robot counterparts…’

In essence, this is simply because human teachers provide qualities and skills that are difficult to replicate in their robot counterparts: emotional intelligence and charisma, as well as an innate ability to connect with learners. By harnessing the capabilities of each party, I envision a future where man and machine will work hand-in-hand to build employee skills and fuel their careers.

Why is P2P learning so effective?

It has long been known that individuals learn more effectively when they are able to engage and collaborate with their peers. Historically, this method of knowledge transfer has been lauded as one of the most valuable within educational settings, as it enables students to benefit from discursive learning without the stress or pressure of receiving such incentives formally from HR and training professionals.

Indeed, people don’t only build knowledge and skills during structured, one-off training sessions: they grow every day through new experiences and interactions. This understanding sits at the heart of P2P learning, which encourages a culture of learning that blends both formal and informal development.

A ‘hybrid’ model of working will likely become the norm in the post-pandemic environment, and this method will remain important in the new landscape. With many employees now missing the days of the office, recent research from Soffos has also uncovered that 42% of full-time workers have found it difficult to engage adequately with learning materials and training courses delivered online throughout the pandemic. As such, in-house P2P incentives will no doubt remain popular as we transition to different business models.

How tech will bolster the roles of learning leaders

The findings of this research should not negate the great benefits that can bring to the table. When put to good use by corporate trainers, solutions powered by AI will make pre-existing P2P incentives better than ever – proving that man and machine truly do make the perfect partnership.

Formal and structured training is still a valuable part of how professionals learn and, if used wisely, virtual learning can elevate the experience and support data-driven results. Indeed, by harnessing unique data analytics in real-time as employees progress through online courses, technology can unmask potential blind spots in an employee’s knowledge. In turn, corporate trainers will be able to adapt their training materials and instruction accordingly.

What’s more, sophisticated edtech solutions can almost instantaneously determine how employees take in knowledge best – for instance, whether they are auditory or kinesthetic learners. As such, learning leaders will be able to take note and put these insights into action by adapting their techniques on the fly, avoiding the common fate of providing blanket training schemes that don’t take individual differences into account.

‘…state-of-the-art edtech will also allow educators to thrive in the aspect of their role that matters most – teaching.’

Meanwhile, state-of-the-art edtech will also allow educators to thrive in the aspect of their role that matters most – teaching. The “Socratic” method of learning, which encourages students to consolidate their knowledge by engaging in open-ended Q&As, is considered one of the most effective. Yet all too often, corporate trainers will be encumbered with long hours spent drafting up new learning programs and compiling materials, with only a fraction of their time actually spent on encouraging active learning in the form of discussions and debates. E-learning platforms will remove much of this hard labor, so that trainers can focus on creating ample opportunities and scenarios for workers to put their new-found knowledge to the test.

Importantly, AI-bolstered learning solutions have the potential to resolve one of the biggest issues in the corporate learning space: the difficulty of “teaching the teachers”. Surprisingly, although we are living in a time where we are constantly exposed to new knowledge and information, training incentives can often lag behind. Cutting edge tech will constantly keep educators in the loop even as new trends and developments emerge, allowing them to access a constantly up-to-date archive of learning materials and new training techniques. Not only does this mean that employees will receive a better education, but training managers themselves will also be able to progress on their own learning journey.

Emerging edtech platforms have already proven their worth in the era of remote working, yet this is only the tip of the iceberg. Crucially, it is safe to say that the uptake in these technologies will not detract from the efforts of skilled educators. As technology advances, learning leaders will still be called upon for their unique skill-set, and they will be better-equipped than ever to support the evolving workforce.

Nikolas Kairinos is the CEO and founder of Soffos, possibly the world’s first AI-powered KnowledgeBot. The platform streamlines corporate learning and development (L&D) to deliver seamless professional training for employees. Connect with him on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter.


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