Exploring AI to enhance usability and learning outcomes
In February 2020, HowToo launched a cloud-based digital learning solution giving everyone the ability to transform their knowledge into eye-catching and engaging online courses using the best learning science frameworks. Learning sciences is an interdisciplinary field that draws from numerous fields to better understand the foundations of how humans learn.
Their business took off after workers shifted to working from home, with an increased demand for the creation of eLearning content. However, a lot of organisations lacked the right skills and resources to translate content into effective online training programs. This was further compounded by a greater need for people to upskill to meet skill shortages in the technology sector. The timing couldn't have been better.
With this surge in demand, HowToo engaged the Entrepreneurs' Programme Innovation Connections service, an Australian Government initiative which is funded and supported by the Australian Government, to explore opportunities to enhance their platform using artificial intelligence (AI), combined with the best instructional design, cognitive science and eLearning best practice. This would enable users of all backgrounds to create online training content easily without compromising content quality or end user learning outcomes.
AI incorporates natural language processing into software
Innovation Connections Facilitator James Robinson connected HowToo to the right research expertise at the University of Technology Sydney's (UTS) School of Computer Science. HowToo were also granted funding to support an Innovation Connections Researcher Placement and Business Researcher Placement to fast-track ways of integrating artificial intelligence (AI) into their software. Towards the end of the project a graduate from the University of New South Wales was also supported through a placement to help implement and refine aspects of the newly developed functionality.
Through close collaboration between HowToo's instructional design and software engineering staff alongside UTS' data science and AI research expertise, HowToo developed advanced software functionality based on semantic search and natural language processing (similar to how targeted messaging works in advertising).
This included user support offering:
- assistance in selecting appropriate authoring templates by specifying a learning outcome; and
- identification of key online training attributes alongside learning science best practice to make the content as engaging and user friendly as possible.
In other words, the software is able to recognise keywords as the user builds their online resource and makes suggestions along the way pulling from learning science theory to ensure it can be displayed in the most engaging way possible, while also delivering on key learning outcomes.
Users of all backgrounds can now create online training content quickly and easily
Following the research collaboration, the HowToo platform enables users to quickly create an engaging online training resource with little expertise in learning science.
HowToo essentially cuts out the need for someone to engage a learning scientist if a company doesn't have the time or the resources, but still deliver impactful online training resources.
The business has gone from strength to strength since the platform was launched, with some clients reporting 100 per cent completion rates of online training programs created by the platform among their staff.
HowToo has now doubled its team, signed up 13,500 users and recently expanded to the US. They were also recently ranked in the world's top 15 eLearning authoring tools by the trusted eLearning Industry digital network.
They've also been able to secure further funding and investment from Moelis Financial Group, Jelix Ventures and ALIAVIA Ventures in April 2021.
And thanks to their growth they've been able to retain their graduate researcher and learning scientist through to full-time employment as they further enhance the HowToo platform by implementing and expanding the logic developed in collaboration with UTS.
The research and funding support from the Entrepreneurs' Programme was a pivotal moment for us. By incorporating AI into our software, we were able to take our platform to the next level. We could create a product that delivered not only an easy experience for the user creating an online learning resource but also a more engaging experience for the learner.
—Lisa Vincent, HowToo Co-founder & CEO