Nikolas Kairinos, CEO, Soffos.ai

As signs of a gradual return to the workplace begin to appear, the media headlines are awash with speculations about the #FutureOfWork. 

Yet one area that has largely been overlooked, is the challenge of encouraging employee progression in the likely scenario that businesses embrace a ‘hybrid’ model of working.

Technology has been the great enabler of distance learning, allowing businesses to continue providing professional development opportunities and skills training to their employees.

Indeed, in a recent survey commissioned by Soffos, two in five respondents (40%) said that their employer had offered distance learning tools and resources over the course of the pandemic, with similar numbers (41%) saying that their business had delivered virtual training to staff.

The question now is, to what extent will such solutions become a mainstay of the workplace when the office paradigm shifts again?

Opening the doors to an enriched learning experience

While obstacles have naturally arisen during the unprecedented shift to digital, the past twelve months have laid the groundwork to unleash the true potential of education technology (EdTech). Videoconferencing tools and online courses have been a stopgap solution throughout this period, but we cannot deny that many aspects of online learning have proved extremely successful. Among other benefits, scattered workforces have been given the freedom to engage in skills training and professional development at times that suit them best.

As technology advances and we become accustomed to new ways of working, I have no doubt that EdTech will continue to elevate the learning experience. And the foremost technology that is revolutionizing this space is artificial intelligence (AI), which will serve to enrich the practice of distance learning by delivering hyper-personalized instruction, tailored to the needs of each individual.

The days of generic training incentives will soon be behind us, as businesses leverage the power of AI-driven EdTech. Through powerful data insights and predictive analytics, these tools will play a growing role in evaluating and elevating employee performance.

Unlike human training leaders that often lack the resources and capacity to cater to each learner individually, digital platforms augmented with AI can accurately predict, monitor and evaluate user performance. From their preferred style of learning, to how they extract and retain new information, such platforms offer an advantage above and beyond what we are accustomed to. They will help users to understand themselves better and improve how they learn. Most importantly, each individual will be taken on their own learning journey, opening to the doors to a truly personalized education.

There are huge benefits on offer to organizations too, which will cement the important role of EdTech in the corporate learning space. As the volume of available data grows, these tools will offer actionable insights: an in-depth analysis of the skill sets of current employees, for instance, will determine where gaps exist within an organization. In turn, this will enable learning leaders to make data-driven decisions to keep pace with the rapidly changing jobs market.

The rise of virtual reality

One major concern surrounding the shift to a permanent flexible working culture is whether it is capable of facilitating an engaging and productive office environment. Indeed, how can employees learn effectively from their peers and mentors when they are working from different bases?

No doubt, videoconferencing platforms have played a critical role in maintaining the collaborative element of the workplace, but they are unable to offer a replacement for in-person, peer-to-peer (P2P) learning in their current format. That’s why in the future, training professionals will look to technology that can enrich the virtual learning experience.

Although augmented education is still in the nascent stages of adoption, immersive technologies like virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) have the power to engage learners, increase retention of knowledge and improve understanding. In time, they will be positioned as unique learning aids to drive professional development.

Virtual, augmented and mixed reality experiences are an effective way of truly involving users in all aspects of the learning experiences. Though not yet widespread, state-of-the-art VR headsets will be able to replicate this office setting in “super resolution” to provide the illusion that employees are receiving real-world P2P learning. Indeed, this format of learning is considered one of the most effective methods of knowledge transfer, due to the element of experience sharing. It is built on the foundation of positive feedback loops, as co-workers share their knowledge and receive constructive feedback from their peers.

More than half (55%) of learners prefer this mode of learning, which suggests that technologies that can accommodate this demand will re-define the future of EdTech. Indeed, the value of AR and VR is predicted to surpass $5.3 billion by 2023, with immersive technology blending with real-world learning to provide a space for shared experiences with peers and mentors.

On the whole, EdTech solutions will accelerate the pace of understanding and deliver meaningful experiences to both employees and the wider business landscape. I look forward to seeing how business leaders deploy these emerging innovations to support their employees and lay the foundation for strong professional growth.

Nikolas Kairinos, CEO, Soffos.ai

Nikolas Kairinos is the chief executive officer and founder of Soffos, the world’s first AI-powered KnowledgeBot. The platform streamlines corporate learning and development (L&D) to deliver seamless professional training for employees.

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