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Harness Familiar Tools, Techniques to Personalize Learning

by Pamela Hogle

October 19, 2017

Spotlight

by Pamela Hogle

October 19, 2017

“In addition to personalizing learning, technology can also help L&D create assessments that are targeted to individual learners. One way to personalize assessments is to ask learners to prepare short videos explaining a concept.”

Learning and development professionals can no longer avoid the truth—“one size” never did fit all learners. While rapid development tools that spit out eLearning aimed at large groups of employees are tempting (and easy) to use, modern learners need more; efforts to personalize learning are taking on new urgency.

The good news is that most eLearning developers—and the learners they serve—are already using tools and technologies that can personalize eLearning. Here are a few suggestions.

“Plus-one” thinking offers personal choice

Designing content for learners who have different preferences and who access and use learning at different times and places is a first step toward personalizing eLearning.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) aims to create learning environments where all individuals can thrive and learn. In “Design for Access to Enhance Accessibility—and Engagement,” Learning Solutions Magazine describes the UDL-inspired concept of “plus-one” thinking: For every element of instructional content, add one additional format. Giving learners choices about whether to read a text entry or watch a short video, for example, or whether to play a game or study an infographic, allows learners to access learning materials when and how they choose, a key element of personalized learning.

Content curation furthers personalization—and fosters collaboration

As learners increasingly seek personalized learning—and turn to online resources to find specific information they need—content curation is a natural strategy for personalizing eLearning and training. Providing learners with a variety of high-quality content and offering them choices about which resources to use allows them to forge a personal learning path. The curated content should, of course, include resources in different formats—text, video, games, infographics, and more—to reinforce the plus-one approach to personalizing learning.

L&D doesn’t have to do all of the work here, either. Encouraging employees to curate content and share with colleagues can enhance learning and performance across a team or department while also fostering collaboration among employees.

Providing resources that are useful in the workflow aids learning personalization—and boosts performance—by providing all employees with context-specific tools and content that are available during each individual’s moments of need.

Chatbots drill learners on weak areas

Chatbots are taking on a growing role in drilling learners on information, teaching facts, and supporting learners in remembering training and applying it on the job. “Chatbots are actually great for personalized learning because the user experience of chatting feels very personal,” said Vincent Han, the CEO of Mobile Coach.

Using chatbots can enhance personalization at both the learner end and the instructional end:

  • A chatbot can be personalized according to the learner’s preferences as to when to send content and reminders. The chatbot can also “be designed to be programmatic, meaning they can push content, reminders, learning exercises to the learner via chat,” according to Han. “Thus, they can be programmed with multiple tracks, with each track catering to a learner type or a personal objective or topic the learner selects.”
  • Today’s chatbots are versatile and intelligent; they can “learn” from an individual employee’s responses, creating adaptive learning. “Chatbots can be designed to adapt to a learner’s level of proficiency. For example, if a learner answers several quiz questions incorrectly, the chatbot can adapt to the appropriate level of difficulty,” Han said via email.

A learner can take advantage of both the “push” and “pull” aspects of learning individualization with a chatbot to prepare for, say, an important sales meeting. The learner can choose the timing of content delivery—pull—and the topic area for review; the chatbot will target—push—content based on where that individual has shown gaps in knowledge.

Assessments are ripe for personalization

In addition to personalizing learning, technology can also help L&D create assessments that are targeted to individual learners. One way to personalize assessments is to ask learners to prepare short videos explaining a concept, as explained in “Video Offers a New Twist on Learner Assessment.” Each learner can take a unique approach to answering the question. Content developers can take individualization even further by targeting the questions or concepts that learners are asked to demonstrate to their individual needs or job roles.

Video assessments can replace formal assessment in other ways: Prosell Learning developed training for Comcast that personalized learning and assessment using mobile tools, including video. New hires and experienced service engineers alike demonstrated their mastery of skills using photos and video of themselves applying the skills. They also responded to personalized prompts, delivered via mobile devices, that asked each trainee to reflect on learning and apply it to his or her own daily work responsibilities. Read more in “Comcast Uses Mobile to Deepen Learning and Verify Skills.”

What are others doing?

The eLearning Guild will share more ideas for how to personalize learning, as well as several case studies showcasing personalized learning successes, at the Learning Personalization Summit, November 8 – 9, 2017. Register now!

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