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Published on: 13/05/2024

In collaboration, IRC and WASHNote embarked on an endeavour to revolutionise training in WASH systems strengthening. Leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI), the partners introduced a transformative tool—the Learning Companion. It aims to transcend the limitations of traditional learning management systems by providing scalable, contextualised support to users of the WASH Systems Academy, irrespective of their geographical location or device.

The Learning Companion, initially launched on Telegram, improves accessibility and responsiveness. With plans for integration into WhatsApp, Moodle Messaging, and potentially a self-hosted chat, its reach can extend even further. Designed to surpass the availability and responsiveness of IRC experts, the Learning Companion initiates new WASH mode of training. 

Testing and Results

The Learning Companion marked the commencement of a rigorous testing phase from October 2023 to April 2024 involving close to 20 IRC experts from multiple country offices. Across the Netherlands, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Rwanda, participants immersed themselves in interaction with the tool, evaluating its functionality and validating the accuracy of information provided. Feedback was positive, highlighting the tool's potential to elevate the learning journey of professionals in the field of WASH systems strengthening. Key statistics from the evaluation include:

  1. 56% of users acknowledged the chatbot's precision in delivering pertinent information.
  2. 66% of users noted the chatbot's consistent focus on relevant topics.
  3. 60% of users rated the chatbot as helpful and practical in providing tailored information.

Martin Watsisi, Regional WASH Advisor from the Uganda office, underscored the credibility and accuracy of information delivered by the Learning Companion. He remarked, "We are not just getting any information; we are getting information verified by experts." This endorsement emphasised the depth of detail and precision embedded within the tool and its capability to maintain engaging and informative interactions. Drawing exclusively from a curated knowledge base, the Learning Companion ensured the dissemination of accurate information, further enhancing its credibility. 

The testing phase not only yielded commendations but also sparked a wave of innovative suggestions for enhancing the Learning Companion's functionality. Testers proposed various enhancements, including the integration of learning hacks to augment efficiency in content comprehension and the use of the learning companion as a stand-alone tool. These suggestions serve as catalysts for the future development of the second version of the Learning Companion. The project encountered constraints, including time limitations and financial constraints, impacting its full potential realisation. 

During the development and usage of the Learning Companion, we learned some important lessons about how AI can be used effectively in training. One of the most important things we found is that personalisation is key to making learning experiences effective. AI algorithms can be used to tailor the content and support to suit individual needs, which can help people learn better according to their preferences and learning styles. Also, we realised that it's essential to have experts validate the accuracy of AI-generated information to build trust among learners. Furthermore, we learned that it's important to listen to our users' feedback and suggestions to improve the Learning Companion continuously. Overall, we believe that AI has the potential to democratise access to knowledge and enhance learning experiences across different contexts. 

Future Directions

Participants envision the Learning Companion as a standalone learning tool, capable of easing the efforts required to learn comprehensively. The successful experiment of the AI tool garnered enthusiasm from learning officers and WASH experts across the Netherlands, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Rwanda IRC country offices. 

The integration of AI into training methodologies represents an opportunity. Through the innovative design and testing of the Learning Companion, IRC and WASHNote have forged a path towards accessible, responsive, and credible low-cost training solutions. The future of AI-powered training holds boundless promise in shaping a more sustainable and knowledgeable world. 


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