Personalization in eLearning: A Guide
Personalization and differentiation have become standards in the industry today. Whether we take a look at marketing, wealth management, or even healthcare, organizations big and small recognize the value of providing tailored services to their users. Which begs the question: why should learning be any different?
Of the emerging trends in online learning, the idea of providing tailored learning experiences has become increasingly popular. The concept behind the idea is simple: every individual has a unique approach to learning and in order to meet their learning needs, it is imperative that the curriculum be designed to reflect these differences.
Employing a rigid, one-size-fits-all approach to learning ignores the fact that individuals come with different temperaments, attention spans, and learning styles. This is where personalization comes into play. In this article, we will discuss the ways in which learning platforms can incorporate personalization and explore the benefits that it brings to eLearning.
What is Personalized Learning?
The concept of personalization in learning has been around for quite some time. By the 1960s, instructors had begun to place emphasis on ‘individualized instruction’. In an online setting, however, the adoption of personalization remains relatively new.
According to the US National Education Technology Plan, personalized learning involves optimizing the pace of learning and the instructional approach as per the learner’s needs. Additionally, learning objectives, as well as the sequencing of content can vary depending on the learner. Finally, learning activities are driven by learners’ own interests and are meaningful to them.
In summary, personalization puts learners in charge of their own learning experience and this control makes way for a more purpose-driven and invested audience.
Elements of Personalization
Personalization can be incorporated in online courses in a variety of ways, ranging from simple customization of the interface to designing custom learning paths.
At its simplest, personalization can be incorporated into Learning Management Systems by offering users to select themes, fonts, backgrounds, and more. Users can choose between light and dark modes, set up preferred timezones, and rearrange icons for ease of use.
Additionally, pages and tools that are most frequently accessed can be added as widgets.
This helps organizations take ownership of their platform and gives the platform a more official look. Visually appealing and relevant interfaces are known to enhance user experience which, in turn, can boost engagement. Additionally, allowing users on the platform to create or upload their own avatars adds another touch of personalization and keeps them invested in the platform.
Personalization of Content Delivery
Learners can personalize the way in which content is delivered to them that best suits their needs. Many LMS platforms allow users to choose between videos, podcasts, and interactive lessons or content.
This means of personalization could be useful to learners for a variety of reasons. Some learners perform better with visual aids to help with their lessons, while others might prefer a voice-over in a different language than the one used in learning materials like presentations and notes. Moreover, users from around the world may experience bandwidth issues that could be avoided with audio instead of video lessons.
Additionally, some users prefer to learn in a more interactive way so a one-sided learning approach like video lectures might cause them to lose interest and feel alienated. To address this, many platforms offer alternatives that involve input from the users. Allowing learners personalization options that work well for them ensures that they have the best means of learning at their disposal.
At the highest level of personalization, learning paths can help users customize their learning journey to create a highly tailored learning experience. Learning paths refer to the route a learner takes as they make their way through a series of eLearning activities, making way for a steady build-up of skills and knowledge. The way a learning path is structured depends on a number of factors, the primary of which is the individual’s own preference.
Learning paths can be implemented in a variety of ways. In some instances, tools like surveys and pre-assessments can be used to gauge learners’ competence and knowledge in a particular subject, and based on the knowledge gaps, they could be assigned specific learning paths.
Another way of implementing learning paths is by giving learners the control to personalize their own learning journey. This can mean the learner is selecting the content and/or the order of the content presented in the course. They can start with the content they are most interested in or skip content that is not relevant to them. This would still involve the implementation of certain checks and balances by the admin so as to make sure all essential objectives are covered.
To understand learning paths in greater detail, let’s break them down based on varying levels of user input:
- Successive Learning Paths: Successive learning paths employ a series of learning interventions that must be completed in a linear sequence. Each course must be completed in order to get access to the next and this sequence is usually determined by the admin.
- Alternative Learning Paths: These learning paths give more control to users by allowing them to choose between courses based on their preferences. These learning paths are useful for those wishing to pursue alternate learning journeys within the same subject. For example, learners can develop different areas of interest within a language specialist course: some may want to focus on the interpretation of the language, while others might be learning for instructional purposes. Consequently, their learning paths would diverge beyond a certain point, driven by their personal interests.
- Leveled Learning Paths: Leveled learning paths allow users to determine learning paths based on their competence level. Users can determine their own knowledge gaps and based on that, pick and choose the content and sequence of their learning. While this optimization is done by the instructors in a traditional classroom setting, in eLearning, learners themselves can best assess what they need to learn.
Benefits of Personalization
Allows Learners to Take Control
Perhaps the most important way in which personalization benefits learners is by putting them in charge of their own learning. Depending on the type of LMS platform, users have varying levels of control over their learning journey. From setting their own learning objectives to choosing a preferred learning path, interface, and more, the flexibility that personalization offers makes it essential for online learning.
Learners can also choose between different modes of instruction and vary the degree of interactivity, leverage gamification tools, and use microlearning to their benefit. Having the option to tailor their learning journey according to their own needs is what makes personalization essential to eLearning.
Purpose Driven Learning
Having given individuals control over their own learning ensures that they not only know what they would be learning but also why. Personalization makes way for learners to choose their own learning objectives, and also allows platforms to provide learning objectives at a micro-level, making sure that students know what outcome a particular lesson would aim to achieve. Having this kind of clarity keeps learners motivated, which is especially important to ensure in an online learning environment.
Personalization makes learning more inclusive. With an out-of-the-box learning solution, differently-abled students can feel alienated and may be unable to follow the lessons at the same pace as their peers. This is an even bigger concern for online learning platforms where it is often difficult to gauge what needs a particular student might have.
The easiest solution to that is to give individuals control over features such as the interface, colors, and fonts, as well as allowing the option to supplement reading materials with helpful tools like audio. Learners who struggle to focus could do better with interactive lessons as opposed to video lectures. Including these options makes way for a more user-friendly learning environment.
Allows Personalized Feedback
With tools like predictive analytics, individualized feedback, and discussion boards, it is possible for instructors to recognize shortcomings in a learner’s performance and address them promptly. Personalization makes it possible to take in input from the learners based on their activities and performance and provide targeted feedback to ensure that their learning stays on track. The social learning tools available on LMS platforms can also be leveraged to provide insightful peer feedback, which allows individuals to get a holistic view of their performance.
Measures Effectiveness of Learning Intervention
With the implementation of learning paths, instructors and learners alike can learn how effective the learning intervention has been. In a series of courses designed to follow a certain learning path, it is easy to follow student progress and isolate the point in their learning journey where they begin to veer off-course or start to perform poorly. Having such a granular view of student performance makes it easy to see where students are encountering problems, and take necessary steps to address these problems.
Manages the Cognitive Load
The great thing about individuals taking charge of their own learning is that they can manage the way they choose to take in new information. For many students, time is a precious commodity and not everyone can manage to sit through several hours of video or audio lectures or complete course material that they are ultimately not interested in. Not to mention those who do not have the temperament to focus for too long can struggle to take in information from these lectures.
Personalization offers students to break down the learning content into smaller chunks that are easily manageable. Presenting learners with bite-size nuggets of information avoids overwhelming them with too much content and at the same time, makes retention more likely. With microlearning techniques such as this, students can make the most of their time by scheduling learning around their daily tasks and learning on their own terms.
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Personalize eLearning with Edly
There is no doubt that personalization in eLearning is an avenue worth exploring for all organizations out there. What needs to be carefully considered though, is how to go about it. It is essential that the personalization be incorporated in such a way that allows a fair amount of control to the learners but at the same time, ensures that the learning objectives of the courses are being met.
Edly’s online learning solution keeps this fine balance into consideration when allowing personalization options to its vendors. If you want to know how Edly incorporates elements of personalization in its LMS, or if you want to take a look at all the solutions we offer, feel free to request a demo!