Personalization – The next big thing in online learning?

Some people say the education system is broken. It’s not. It’s doing exactly what it’s designed to do. The problem is that what it’s designed to do isn’t good, and it’s less valuable than ever. Here is how. Remember when our mothers told us to keep away from the stove and that it would burn us? The listening learners heard their mother, believed the information and never touched the stove. The seeing learners watched the stove, watched their sibling touch it, and never touched it. The experience learners touched the stove, but only once! Each person is unique in the way they learn. But our education system tries to teach everyone in the same exact manner with the same content.

Agreed – the education/training system has come a long way. From one-way instructor led training to a more experiential way of learning where users can access information anytime, anywhere from any device. But the way of teaching still remains the same. Earlier we were listening to a trainer talking about a topic. Now we see a video or a presentation saying the same thing but at a time more convenient to the learner.

If everything is personalized, then why not online learning?

If Goodreads can recommend which book a user might like to read, and if Youtube can suggest what video a user would enjoy next based on that person’s past choices, so it is only fair that your online learning platform should identify and pitch content based on employees profile and caliber/learning curve.

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Does it not makes sense that a person weak in communications is pitched videos about that instead of multiple theories that he has already learnt by heart. Or, while going to close a sale, I should be able to pull out the video series on closing and go through them quickly. Then why are we not doing this?

This requires two things:

  • Corporate learning should predict individual learner requirement / path in order to be able to support personalized learning
  • Organizations need to curate all the content that the learner may seek / need and create a repository of the same. The information can then be delivered to the learner in the way that suits him best or let him access it through a search and find feature

We need to now respond to a generation of learners who want the ability to pull out information when and where they need them and which is directed towards their individual needs. This leads to a shift from “push” based approach to a “pull” based approach in online learning.

Moving away from traditional online learning systems

Every big organization now has an online learning management system installed. They are loads of them with unlimited features to customize and personalize it as per the enterprise requirements, but when you look closely they are more about customizing the management of learning and not the way you teach or learn.

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Every online learning system is about pushing information, courses, videos, assessments and presentations to the user. It tracks the learner registration, course completion and in some cases the score. This is good for supporting the L&D department and for them to achieve their targets, but not so good for the learner himself. Learning on-the-job happens while you are in a situation and you pull out the right information at that time and get work done – Not when it is being pushed down your throat randomly without context.

Some companies are emerging in response to the needs of personalized online learning – Letting you know what content and resources to provide to an individual at precisely the right time thus helping that individual get better at his/her job while they’re at it. Some of the companies working in this field are Knewton, Qustn Technologies, Easygenerator. They allow you to have customized learning paths for various types of learners with the focus on pulling out information rather than pushing.

Final Thoughts

I am sure you would agree that personalized learning is the next step in how organizations must provide online learning and performance support to staff. In this day and age, everyone today is getting immediate answers to and responses on their mobile device to quickly verify what they’re thinking, or to find the answer to something they don’t know.

Personalized online learning is going to become the norm, and in response learning organizations need to begin to prepare for it. The organizations need to collect intellectual property so that it’s available in tagged, micro-learning chunks that can be pulled out by user as and when required and is displayed basis the profile/calibre of the user. The future workplace must keep pace with the world we live in—which means identifying the right content for each individual and delivering it to them however they want it.

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