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December 06, 2018
Flexible, responsive learning is the future
By: Venkatesh Subramanian and Nisha Ramachandra

Intelligent systems can significantly increase engagement and retention, educate people at scale and push the boundaries of learning.

The World Economic Forum estimates that more than 5.1 million jobs will be lost due to disrupted labor markets, with populations that are vulnerable or marginalized today potentially facing a "double disadvantage" in the future due to lack of awareness, agility or means to navigate the change ahead. Massive-open-online-courses like Coursera and edX reflect the high demand for learning as we face this changing employment landscape: They offer more than 4,000 courses, with 81 million registered users.i  Yet despite this enthusiasm, only 15 percent of users who sign up see a course to completion.ii

Adaptive learning and teaching methods offer an opportunity to deliver personalized educational experiences, providing a path to navigate the uncertain waters ahead. At Accenture, we are making investments in adaptive learning technology both internally and with our non-profit clients, to reduce learning barriers globally and provide more efficient and productive learning experiences, especially for those most in need.

Adaptive learning enables students to adjust their learning experience in line with their personal goals, for content that is relevant to them. At Accenture Labs, we’ve been experimenting with adaptive learning models to upskill our workforce in emerging technology.

WHAT WE’VE LEARNED SO FAR

For a pilot program, we chose the learning topic of Blockchain technology. We created two teams of 15 engineers, with each team having learners of varied levels of experience and proficiency. One team used our “TutorBot” adaptive learning solution to learn about Blockchain, and another team used a traditional online learning method.

TutorBot is an Artificial Intelligence-driven platform, which provides personalized content recommendations to keep learners motivated

TutorBot is an Artificial Intelligence-driven platform, which provides personalized content recommendations to keep learners motivated. It asks questions to gauge both interest and baseline levels of knowledge and prompts for check-ins to keep learners engaged as they progress.

After two weeks, participants who used the TutorBot solution reported a 90 percent reduction in time for identifying relevant learning content compared to the traditional search online. More than 60 percent of the users indicated a high level of engagement using TutorBot’s content recommendation system; however, learners did report that they wanted more fine-grained nuggets of learning versus the coarse-grained learning content that is currently recommended.

THE ROAD AHEAD: SURGING INVESTMENTS IN THE EDUCATION TECHNOLOGY SPACE

Gartner recently predicted that adaptive learning platforms would have a major impact on the future of education.iii  Already, learning analytics is a priority for many academic institutions under pressure to improve student outcomes, and large players such as Blackboard, Pearson Education, Desire2Learn and Oracle are responding to this need. We’re also seeing a surge in EdTech startup investments, which some analysts believe will reach a total industry investment of US $275 billion by 2022.iv,v

What's powering adaptive learning systems?  Natural language processing (NLP), conversational interfaces and machine learning algorithms.

Investments in EdTech, combined with blended learning models and adaptive learning technologies, stand to transform how we access and engage with content, learn and prepare for the future of work. Stay tuned to hear more as we continue to explore the possibilities at Accenture Labs!

The authors would like to acknowledge Dana Koch of the learning team for his comments and guidance.

For more information about our adaptive learning efforts or to learn more about our Software Engineering R&D group, visit our website or contact Neville Dubash.

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