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Howspace’s built-in AI helps people listen to each other better and achieve a shared understanding.

How facilitators can use AI to develop work and learning: 4 research-backed tips

By Anniina Turunen on Nov 30, 2021 4:21:29 PM , updated on Aug 16, 2022

Howspace’s built-in AI helps people listen to each other better and achieve a shared understanding. The benefits of using AI to develop work and learning is now backed up by research. 

The “AI as a tool to support work development” research project (translated from Finnish) funded by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, examines the opportunities and restrictions of different AI programs. As part of this project, developers and researchers Anna-Leena Kurki, Inka Koskela, and Kirsi Yli-Kaitala collected material from three training and development processes run on the Howspace platform

We spoke with Anna-Leena, Inka, and Kirsi about the results from this research project. Keep reading to learn their best tips on how to use AI as a facilitator. 

1) What was the research about and how was it conducted?

Howspace’s AI was examined through three development processes. Out of those three processes, two were analyzed more in depth.

The first process involved information professionals trying to develop a new, community-based way of working. The second process consisted of trade union members trying to come up with solutions for better time management at work.

Each process had a coach, and their methods were examined through the assignments they gave out, their use of AI elements, and other guiding activities. The participants' actions were examined through their comments on the assignments, conversations that arose from the comments, and their “likes.” 

Additionally, platform developers, coaches who use Howspace in their work, and project participants were interviewed. The project also included a survey for the Howspace-community that was answered by approximately 100 professionals who use Howspace in their work. 

2) How was AI used in the research development processes?

The most common way of using Howspace’s AI elements was for coaches to summarize and analyze participant conversations. First, the coach presented an assignment that focused on a certain theme. Participants then gave feedback by commenting on the assignment and they started conversations on the platform. After this, the coach presented a summary of the conversation and comments made by AI and used that as a base for a follow-up assignment. 

The first team of information professionals had their coach use the AI elements as a prompt for follow-up conversations. The participants were asked whether they had anything to add to the AI’s summary or if they had any comments on the ways of working.

With the second team of union members, the coach added their own thoughts on the theme to the AI summary. After this, participants were asked to reflect on their own actions. The assignment was for the participants to think about how they would change their everyday life to improve their time management.

3) What were the implications of using AI? How did it affect the process?

In the processes we examined, the conversations and comments that occurred after presenting the AI summaries varied quite a bit. In some cases, AI narrowed down certain themes, and in other cases, it expanded the conversations that took place before the summary was presented to the participants. At times, there was a thematic change and its connection shifted from the original process.

When the coach asked participants to point out things that the AI summary didn’t pick up, there weren’t a lot of comments. On the other hand, when the AI summary was used as a tool for reflecting on everything learned and when participants were asked to think of things that needed to be changed, the conversation was rich and meaningful. 

To sum it up, it seems that the way the AI summaries were used is actually more relevant than the content of the summary itself.

4) What should a facilitator keep in mind when using AI?

A skilled facilitator first sets a clear goal for a training program, and ensures that all the work involved serves this goal. AI tools work great for facilitating training programs, but they can’t be used in isolation. Such tools work best when there is already a rich conversation going on. 

The use of AI should be taken into account already in the planning part of the training.

Tips for facilitators:

  • Strengthen the dialogue. Trust helps to build an open conversation. Encourage participants to share something about themselves—familiarity helps with building trust. You can also ask the participants to suggest ways for the group to communicate more openly.
  • Plan the assignments to be AI-friendly. Use questions that guide participants towards reflection and build assignments to support the use of AI. The AI produces the best analysis and summary when there is only one question in each assignment. 
  • Choose an AI element that serves your goal. Do you want to sum up the conversation? Encourage participants to have a follow-up discussion on the themes that sparked the most opinions and comments? Or do you want to uncover all the worries that are connected to a change initiative? Different AI elements serve different purposes, so you’ll want to choose the AI elements that serve your goals. 
  • Plan your working process. Think ahead about how you want to use the AI summary so that it supports your pedagogical goals. Sometimes you’d need to sum up a conversation without any follow-up assignment. And sometimes it’s beneficial for the participants to reflect on the AI’s analysis and, for example, think of solutions to the problems that came up in conversation. You should always keep the goal of the training and assignments crystal clear. 

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