Early in 2024 is an opportune time to reflect on the dramatic evolution of artificial intelligence (AI) in learning and development (L&D). Last year, I shared insights on the potential of AI to revolutionize our field. Today, we assess these predictions and peek into what 2024 holds.

AI-assisted design & development work: A dramatic shift

This prediction was right. There has been a seismic shift in instructional design, and the role is evolving toward content curation, editing, and resource orchestration. Critical thinking skills are becoming more important than ever to make sure that the final learning asset is accurate. All of this is happening thanks to AI tools like:

  • Adobe Firefly, which makes it possible to generate and manipulate images, change backgrounds, and perform an array of creative tasks that were previously impossible—or took a long time. Simple actions that used to take hours now take minutes (some examples here). 
  • ChatGPT can be used to generate or refine learning objectives, assessments, and course content based on raw documents that can be uploaded to the platform.
    By the way, ChatGPT says that it doesn’t use your data to feed the model; whatever you share with it is meant to stay private. However, before using this tool, make sure that your company’s cybersecurity policies allow its use. I have completed successful tests with publicly available information or made-up raw content, and the results have been satisfactory, with reasonably well written course material that requires some edits and fact checking to bring it up to standards.
  • Another tool, one that isn’t usually part of the L&D ecosystem, is Microsoft’s Azure AI Services. My team is using it to create text-to-voice files that allow us to add voiceovers to assets like web-based trainings (WBTs) and videos, as well as generate synthetic podcasts—all created using written scripts. We are also leveraging Microsoft’s Copilot Studio to create Virtual Assistants (VAs) to answer our learners’ questions, without having to script all the questions and answers. It works similarly to ChatGPT.

Early estimates indicate these improvements save between 30 percent and 60 percent of development time.

Meta-learning: Significant progress

While exact growth figures for the meta-learning market are elusive, indications suggest a healthy evolution. As a reminder, meta-learning, in this context, refers to tools that serve up experiences to learners based on their preferences, needs, and goals. It is the superstructure behind the content assets (e.g., programs, courses, articles, videos, etc.) that assembles everything into a coherent, and purposeful, body of knowledge for the users.

There is some indication that this industry will become a growth area in 2024: According to HRTECHSERIES, the firm Redthread Research, in their 2023 report, “Learning Technology Provider Landscape,” identified skills as a top trend in the learning tech space—based on a survey conducted with more than 650 L&D vendors. This trend is fueling the development of Learning Experience Platforms (LXPs), which are the backbone of meta-learning.

Ultra-personalized learning: Partially there

This prediction has partly materialized. Some vendors have already pre-production environments that use generative AI to understand the learners’ (and the organization’s) development goals in the form of virtual assistants powered by Large Language Models (LLM).

Though none of them went to market in 2023, some are close. An example is Degreed’s Assistant, presented in their Vision 2023 event. The Assistant is scheduled to launch in early 2024, and it will help users to curate their skill development paths through a conversation window (and a voice-activated interface on mobile devices) that will answer learners’ questions on content that may be relevant to their skill development. The Assistant will also help managers understand the skills available and the learning progress of their team members. Additionally, it will advise platform administrators on the creation of programs and curricula for their organizations.

In addition to the sort of personalization the Assistant might provide, I anticipated a more deeply personal advance in technology, and on this, I was too optimistic: I predicted the development of ultra-personalized learning in the form of AI-powered wearables that would understand the learner’s biology—“knowing” when they are at their optimal for learning, creative work, and focused activities—a  “Fitbit of learning.” This piece isn’t happening yet. At all!

The road ahead for 2024

Enough looking backward! What does 2024 have in store for us? I predict:

  • The evolution of the ID role will accelerate. Common L&D authoring tools will fully operationalize generative AI. An example is Articulate AI, which will enable designers to input raw content to generate learning objectives, interactions, videos, knowledge checks, and assessments. This encompasses what I described above, which ChatGPT can already do—but it will soon be fully embedded in a familiar and widely used L&D authoring tool.
  • LXPs will deploy virtual assistants. I expect LXPs vendors to deploy these in the first quarter of 2024.
  • In fact, ALL virtual assistants will ‘explode.’ L&D departments will start deploying their own internal learning assistants. Microsoft Azure AI, Microsoft Copilot Studio, plus the AI services provided by Google and Amazon are likely to be the infrastructure for those solutions.
  • 2024 will be a big year for accessibility. Generative features like voice-to-text, text-to-voice, and AI accessibility checkers will make content more available to more people, ensuring access to those with all sorts of learning needs.
  • Content will be much easier to manage. With LLM capabilities, finding the right information and setting it up in the right way to fit your learning assets will be an easier process.
  • AI-powered coaches will become ubiquitous. Virtual coaches will proliferate, helping us practice our skills in realistic scenarios. This will be similar to what Duolingo Max is already doing for language learning. 

The journey with AI in L&D is far from over. The generative AI game has just started, and it is empowering L&D leaders and professionals to do more, more effectively and more efficiently. AI technologies are boosting our creativity, content agility, and productivity.

Delve into AI at the AI Symposium!

Explore AI in L&D and HR at “Embracing the AI Evolution in Tomorrow’s Workplace,” a full-day symposium co-located with the Learning & HR Tech Solutions Conference. The symposium is on April 22, and the Conference is April 23–25, 2024 in Orlando, Florida. Learn about core AI principles and applications and dig into the ways you and your L&D and HR peers will implement AI to transform employee development and performance management!