What Have We Learned About Personalized Learning?

What Have We Learned About Personalized Learning?

By Margaret Martinez, Ph.D.

In 2015, there is a much greater interest in personalization. The E-learning User Study 2014 mentions that interest in personalization of learning shifted from 4 percent in 2013 to 47 percent in 2014. In the March issue, John Bryson mentioned five training trends to watch this year. His No. 2 trend was “personalized experiences.” What does this mean to corporations and others who are thinking about offering more personalized learning? What strategies are useful for implementing more personalized learning?

1Successful Strategies That Individually Support Psychological Factors — such as emotions, will, persistence, expectations and social needs — are essential to personalized learning experiences. Up to now, the study of emotions and other factors has been difficult, since we previously did not have the technology to measure them more precisely. Now, many are discussing how emotions can trigger greater creativity and better learning in the brain. In contrast, advertisers and sport psychologists have long known about the impact of emotions and have been more innovative in tapping into emotions and other relevant factors to enhance sales and performance.

Our new personalization models and strategies need to consider the impact of relevant factors on learning similarly. Strategies are obsolete if they do not consider, for example, how to help students tap into emotional resources, master emotions, support the learning process, and desire to achieve true potential. We must eliminate models that encourage passivity, memorization, rule-based learning and one-size-fits-all learning.

In the future, a personalized approach will use emotion and other relevant psychological factors to fuel motivation, persistence, innovation, self-directed effort and goal-oriented achievement.

2Strategies That Progressively Nourish Innovation And Higher-Order Thinking Are Critical For Personalized Learning. Innovation underpins the growth of nations and depends on education that fosters the achievement of a talented workforce.

The Council on Competitiveness shows that we have dropped to sixth place in global innovation capability. The National Science Board reports a troubling decline in the number of U.S. citizens who are studying in fields that require higher-order thinking skills and innovation. Today’s challenge as a nation is to find solutions that encourage more active-thinking workers who want to make learning “a rewarding part of everyday life.” Unfortunately, if we are still using yesterday’s industrial-age education models, we will continue to create a passive workforce that lacks higher order thinking and decision-making abilities.

Corporations can use personalization to fit the needs of today’s constantly changing, information seeking world. They can and must collectively push for a major paradigm shift to meet the information and decision-making needs challenging today’s workforce. The lack of systemic change in education is creating a crisis that we urgently must solve. Personalized learning experiences focus on learning success and harness the psychological sources that drive individualized learning. This is in contrast to learning strategies that result in stress, dissatisfaction, attrition, retention problems and wasted time.

3Strategies That Create Personalized And Just-In-Time Learning And Performance Environments Can Help Learners Succeed. They can help learners assess needs and progress, sense, synthesize, create new knowledge and act upon decisions continuously; emotions can help fuel this iterative process.

To develop problem-solvers and thinkers who want to become lifelong learners, we need to show them how to tap into passions and actively involve them in the self-assessing, thinking, decision making and innovation processes. Rapid advances in adaptive learning technologies are how we can develop environments for more personalized learning experiences. Failure means that new technologies may create cognitive overload, attrition, stress and lack of product use. Build it, and many may not want to come.

4In Creating Strategies For Better Personalized Learning, We Must Deepen Our Knowledge About Individual Differences In Learning And How They Fit With LEARNING REQUIREMENTS. Personalization requires that we better understand why some individuals are more prepared to use their abilities to succeed and others cannot or will not.

A brain-based “learner profile” should recognize individual differences in learning and match what needs to be learned with personalized solutions that meet goals and work requirements. A well-designed learner profile can help develop more self-motivated, self-directed and autonomous learners if they are successfully learning and meeting requirements in ways that support them individually. High attrition or lack of retention rates demonstrate that profiles, requirements and environments are not working together successfully. For example, less sophisticated students will fail or drop out if needs are unmet, especially those who are more dependent on instructors and social interaction and are more resistant to change. Learner profiles can help collect data about learners, assess progress, and report achievements. Personalization strategies may also involve learner analytics. Portfolios may also be included in personalization strategies. Privacy issues may be a special concern with personalization strategies that include learner data collection.

5Successful Personalized Learning Experiences Need To Be Supported By Trained Facilitators Who Understand Reality: Many Learners Moving Online From Classrooms Are Simply Not Adequately Prepared For Learning With Technology.

Until the advent of online learning, it was enough to rely on the instructor to deliver the personal approach. As a result, too many online learners lack the self-motivation, confidence and learning management skills to stay online, finish the instruction, or learn and meet requirements. Motivation, interest and persistence is something that has to be intrinsically earned and maintained throughout the learning experience. Even in the classroom, keeping learners engaged is a tough challenge.

Corporations need to learn how to introduce more sophisticated technology and personalized solutions to sophisticated and unsophisticated learners who can benefit from using a learner profile that recognizes and adapts to individual differences in learning and suggests targeted remedies and support. Learners will also benefit greatly if they know more about their own learner profile and portfolios to understand how they learn best and succeed professionally.

Being More Sophisticated

In conclusion, as full-time instructors and classrooms disappear from the training landscape, we need to be more sophisticated in addressing the whole set of personal learning needs to meet work requirements.

The old methodologies relied on good instructors in the classroom who intuitively addressed emotions and intentions to learn and created social relationships with learners. Today, we know that emotion and other psychological factors are the triggers that drive the personalized learning experience and serve as the mortar that cements memories, interest and effort for more successful learning and performance.

Strategies that support innovation and higher thinking are also critical for corporate learning success. Fortunately, technology advances are making adaptive learning in personalized environments more available. Successful personalized learning strategies and trained facilitators recognize individual differences in learning and help develop learning profiles and use portfolios and analytics to support learning requirements and successful learners and performance.

Successful personalization encourages a more innovative, motivated workforce.

— Instructional psychologist Margaret Martinez, Ph.D., recently retired as CEO from The Training Place. She has worked on educational and measurement research, instructional design, learning and technology for 25 years. She was previously the worldwide director of Training & Certification at WordPerfect Corp. She is nationally recognized for her learning orientation research, publishes regularly, and presents at national conferences. She also developed the Learning Orientation Questionnaire (LOQ). For more about the Learning Orientation Research, visit www. trainingplace.com/source/research/index. html.

—Sources: Elearning! User Study 2014 (www.2elearning.com/research/item/ 55597-e-learning-use r-study-2014); “Reshaping Learning: Frontiers of Learning Technology in a Global Context” Chapter 6: Adapting for a Personalized Learning Experience (www.springer. com/education+%26+language/ learning+%26+instruction/book/978-3-642- 32300-3)  

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