With AI dominating the business technology space, it’s no surprise that learning systems vendors are making bold moves. That’s exactly what Graham Glass is doing. As CEO and Founder of CYPHER Learning, Graham and his team are raising the innovation bar yet again.
The last time Graham joined me on the podcast, he suggested the LMS of the future might behave like an intelligent companion that proactively guides people through their learning journey. Today, that “AI-as-copilot” vision is already coming to life – not yet for learners, but for instructional designers who want faster, more flexible ways to develop better courses.
As a former instructor himself, Graham isn’t afraid to roll up his sleeves to be sure his tools hit the mark. That’s what he’s done throughout the development of his company’s new AI-driven tool, CYPHER Copilot. I’ve seen it up close, and I can tell you, it’s exciting. So join us as we explore this groundbreaking authoring companion and discuss the product roadmap.
LEARNING CONTENT COPILOT – KEY TAKEAWAYS
Artificial intelligence has attracted a massive amount of hype lately. After ChatGPT launched last November, learning tech vendors have been scrambling to innovate or fall behind.
Content creation is an obvious use case for learning systems AI. CYPHER’s new “copilot” AI authoring raises the bar by automating instructional design and content sourcing and assembly.
Eliminating the need for third-party authoring tools and drastically reducing the time to create and maintain content, intra-LMS authoring has become a critical differentiator for LMS buyers.
LEARNING CONTENT COPILOT – Q&A HIGHLIGHTS
Welcome back, Graham. For those who haven’t yet crossed paths with CYPHER Learning, could you give us a snapshot?
My pleasure, John. We provide a very modern cloud-hosted learning platform that is used by businesses, universities and school districts around the world. About half of our revenue comes from businesses and half from academia. So we’re deeply involved with both markets. Because of that, we have an interesting perspective — not just on learning technology in general, but also on how AI can make a big impact.
And this is a very exciting time for us because we’re doing some really big things with AI for both the academic side and the business side.
Great. Because content creation is vital for teachers, I know you built authoring tools into your LMS before other solutions did. And now you’re taking it to a whole new level. What’s new on that front?
Well, we’re not just focused on authoring with AI, even though we’re releasing that capability first. But we know AI can do more. It can improve the instructor experience, the administrator experience, the manager experience, and the learner experience.
So basically, we’re saying AI can apply to more than one particular learning-related use case. We call this holistic approach 360 AI, and we plan to make it a reality by the end of this year with a tool we’re calling CYPHER Copilot. Why? Because the term is already commonly understood. Also, copilot emphasizes the fact that it’s not replacing your job — it’s helping you. If it was designed to replace your job, we would call it autopilot. But it’s not. It’s Copilot.
Overall, our philosophy is that AI is really good at getting to 80% of your goal, whatever that happens to be. But you are the subject matter expert. So it’s best for you to drive the remaining 20% of the effort. If you like, you can think of it as an 80/20 rule.
Mmhmm. Could you walk us through an example of the content authoring flow?
Certainly. As you mentioned, learning content is not easy to build. I once taught college-level computer science, and my first job was to teach Unix and C programming. That covers a lot of ground. So it’s not easy to teach.
Right. So it took me a long time to build my course. But with Copilot, it takes only about 5 minutes to create a really good 80% version of that course.
The process is simple. You ask Copilot to help you build a course, and it asks you a series of key questions. For example:
What’s the course topic? C programming in Unix
What’s the audience? (dropdown menu) Adults
What tone of voice? Academic
Do you want to include competencies? Yes
How many modules? 10
How many pages in each module? 3
Assessment? Freeform essay with a rubric
Question bank? Yes, automated with 50 questions and gamification
This initial setup is just check, check, dropdown, check, check, check. In less than a minute, you can fill in the blanks.
Then just tell Copilot to go. And about 5 minutes later you’ll have a version that you can customize, personalize and finalize very quickly. So it can save you hundreds of hours, no question.
Yes. Pretty amazing. But in the early stages of Copilot’s development, I wasn’t really sure how good it would be. After all, this is leading-edge stuff. But when we started seeing what it produced, it was jaw-dropping. And now, I’m a bit addicted to it.
I imagine. So, for those who aren’t familiar with the latest tech advances, where exactly does AI fit into Copilot?
First, it’s important to know that this is not just ChatGPT. We rely on multiple services, and one of them happens to be ChatGPT. But that may change if a better option becomes available.
Regardless, users have no idea what AI or services are working behind the scenes. All they see is CYPHER Copilot. And it’s a curated, restricted experience. It’s not like a ChatGPT window opens and I can enter whatever I want. Instead, Copilot asks if you want to build a course, and then it presents a set of parameters. You fill them in and say, “Go.”
Then behind the scenes, hundreds of calls to different services are orchestrated by the CYPHER Learning backend. It just zooms along and does its job. And when it’s done, “Ta-da!” Here it is.
The instructional designer in me is wondering how Copilot works with learning objectives. How do you train it to support many variations?
Well, typically if you build a course from scratch, it may take two months to create one version. So you don’t have the luxury of time to start over. But when AI can help you create courses this fast, you can try tons of variations very quickly.
One best practice is to crank out maybe six variations of your course at 80%. Then find the one that resonates best with your objectives and build it out. You can archive other variations because they may have some cool stuff you can use later.
Another option is to generate the competencies, themselves, in Copilot. Competencies are like the backbone of a course because they specify what you’re going to teach. So you could generate 10 variations of the competencies without building out the whole course. Then, pick the best one and generate six courses based on that.
The speed of this tool gives you much more flexibility as a designer.
So tell me, where does the Copilot content come from? And how do you capture organizational knowledge that may be in, say, SharePoint or internal videos or other resources?…
John Leh is Founder, CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning and the Talented Learning Center. John is a fiercely independent consultant, blogger, podcaster, speaker and educator who helps organizations select and implement learning technology strategies, primarily for extended enterprise applications. His advice is based upon more than 25+years of learning-tech industry experience, serving as a trusted LMS selection and sales adviser to hundreds of learning organizations with a total technology spend of more than $100+ million and growing. John would love to connect with you on Twitter or on LinkedIn.