Monday, April 02, 2018

AI-driven speech may revolutionise online learning

Over the last year or so we built the world’s first AI content creation service, WildFire, which creates online learning in minutes not months, at a much lower cost and with high retention. The reason for claiming it is high retention, is that we largely abandoned multiple-choice-questions for open-input, making the learner think, recall and actively input their thoughts. It is this ‘effortful’ learning that really matters in learning. This worked well and we have delivered online learning on factual knowledge, high-end academic content, processes, procedures and management content to a range of audiences in large organisations, from apprentices to high-end clinicians, in finance, healthcare, travel and manufacturing. Having seen how well open-input worked, we turned our attention to the use of AI to go several steps further and improve the interface. What if the learner could simply speak the answers? ... it was a revelation.
We learn to speak almost effortlessly, whereas, writing takes many years. So why not exploit what we do everyday in our lives - use speech input. It was thought that women spoke much more than men, a myth started in The Female Brain, by Louann Brizendine, who claimed that, whereas women spoke on average 20,000 words a day, it was only 6,000 for men. This proved to be nonsense. An actual study, at the University of Arizona by Mehl (2007), using an electronic recording device to sample everyday speech from 396 people found that we speak, on average, around 16,000 words a day, with no significant difference between men and women.
This is much greater than the average for writing. So it makes sense to use speech in learning. Consider also that if spelling is not part of the learning, you eliminate problems around misspelling, especially for those who are nervous on that score or who may have dyslexia. On top of this you do not have to make the physical effort to move a cursor around the screen into a field, then physically type.
However, it is interesting to compare different forms of input in terms of retention. So, you think of an answer, then:
   CHOOSE your answer from a list (multiple choice)
   TYPE your answer
   SPEAK your answer
It is clear that simply clicking on an already provided answer from a list is the least effective of the three. The answer is there in front of your eyes, you have a 25% chance of getting it right without knowing anything, questions are often designed so that you can guess and the distractors are often remembered rather then the correct answers. It makes you wonder why the online learning industry is so wedded to MCQs.
This has the advantage of making you recall the answer into your brain first (a powerful reinforcement event), then actively type in the answer, another reinforcement event, without having been given the answer or suffering from the drawbacks of simply choosing from a pre-written list. We have found this to be a much more powerful way of learning.
Things get interesting here, as you are communicating directly, without any of the artificiality of choosing from a list or typing. My initial impression (not based on any studies) is that this may be even better. Being hands free, your attention and cognitive focus is entirely on thinking and expressing your thoughts. None of your cognitive bandwidth is taken up by moving the cursor, typing and letter-by-letter spelling. You get a focus on meaning but there’s an additional advantage, as you get more of a flow and the learning is faster.
Using another form of AI, text to speech, we can also, automatically, create podcasts. This is built into the service. Simply tick a box and your online learning will create a podcast of the module or page by page speech. This is a useful supplement to the active learning.
In addition, as we have audio only learning, including navigation, using the words, NEXT, BACK, GO and SCROLL, so we can place the learning experience within VR, which we have done, instantly and cheaply. We know that context helps retention, so speech input allows a further level of retention to be achieved. This is getting interesting in say, training fror healthcare professionals in a hospital or cabin crew inside an aircraft.
Simultaneously, using different forms of AI, we hope to have increased the efficacy of online learning by the:
1. Superfast creation of content
2. Higher retention open-input
3. Higher retention speech input
4. Automatically created podcasts
5. Full 3D VR delivery
All at lower costs and far greater speed than traditional and expensive methods. If you are interested we can show you all of this by Skype. Contact us here.

Mehl M (2007). Are Women Really More Talkative Than Men? Science ,Vol. 317, Issue 5834, pp. 82

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