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What is conversational learning, and why is it so important?

27. February 2019

If you put learners in control of their own learning, they will be more engaged and retain more information. Conversational learning is a concept that can connect with learners in a unique way and give them more power over their educational journeys.

Conversational Learning: The Basics

You might assume that “Conversational Learning” is already embedded in the fabric of every training strategy. It seems only natural that we would learn by regularly conversing with others. But this is not always the case. Constraints on time and resources often mean that training is delivered to learners through one-size-fits-all guides, or one single lengthy classroom session. Ebbinghaus forgetting curve states that we forget 50% of information within one hour and 70% within 24 hours.

Applying the concept of conversational learning can make training more compelling to learners and increase the amount of information that they retain. In the context of e-learning, conversational learning refers to the presentation of content as a two-way chat conversation. A conversational learning strategy can be an excellent solution to save time and money, while creating training that is relevant and interesting for learners. To implement this strategy in the digital world, chatbots are used to create training sessions that simulate ordinary conversations, like one you might have with a friend or colleague - personal, fun and to-the-point.

Most of us are familiar with communicating with customer support chatbots. A similar technology can be applied to continuous learning to execute what we call “conversational learning.” Chatbots are automated systems that run within messaging apps. They can be built around or sit on top of an eLearning course. Chatbots create a learning experience similar to one-on-one teaching, making social and interactive e-learning “in dialogue” possible. Learners determine the course of the conversation by posing and responding to questions.  An effective conversational learning “chatbot” session can turn an hour-long presentation into a 10 minute microlearning session.

Getting to the heart of the conversation

From technical compliance training to emotional-intelligence based sales training – the most diverse topics can be taught with personality and animation using the conversational learning technique. Chatbots deliver training in bitesize chunks and can provide information to the learner at the exact moment of need. They put the learner in control of his or her own learning pathway, and so the learner is more invested in a successful training outcome.

Sophisticated chatbots go well beyond being simple Q&A regurgitators. They can be programmed to involve the learner in compelling stories, prompting them to continue learning new information. As the learner identifies with the “protagonists” and weaves the story into his or her own workflow (by consulting the chatbot at moments of need), the learner is better able to remember and apply key concepts.

As the learner asks questions of the chatbot, the chatbot can offer increasingly targeted information and suggestions. This helps the employee deliberately develop their knowledge and role-specific expertise.  Depending on learner responses, the entire learning scenario can change. The chatbot will provide suggested questions, guide the learner to relevant content, and can even be programmed to give live updates on subject matter. This is all done without instructional designers having to invest a lot of time in courseware updates.

This chatbot “conversation” can be enriched still more to foster learning. Emojis are used to enhance the conversation with emotion, making it more memorable and catering to the learner’s natural communication habits. Simple and accommodating language is deliberately used, as opposed to the formal style of traditional web-based training. The simplified conversation breaks down complex topics and minimises learner fatigue. For topics where the trainee will require further explanation, links are inserted into the conversation to additional content, like videos, 3D models, PDF’s or quizzes.

In short, through conversational learning employees select their own learning pathways, learn at their own pace, on their own schedule, and adapt and refine their learning topics. They see instant and tangible learning outcomes within the flow of a stimulating dialogue. They can navigate a wealth of content without barriers or an imposed structure. If you want to give your learners more freedom, control and self-motivation throughout the training process, then conversational learning is an important strategy to consider.


Watch the webinar

To learn more about conversational learning and how it can solve many of your learning challenges!

Title: Conversational learning: Tell me, I forget, show me, I remember, involve me, I understand

Speaker: Nick Petch, Digital Learning Production Lead, IMC

Do you have any questions?