In 21st century we have the globalized economy of ideas, where creativity is much more important than an ability to rivet precisely or tighten the screws fast. Creativity is a skill that can be developed through training, but this training should be tailored to the learner’s individual comprehension type, learning pace and patterns. In other words, this training must be personalized. This is why personalized learning is the approach all forward-thinking companies apply for developing talents and providing leadership training for their employees.
Personalized learning is the paradigm of online instruction, where timeframes and learning paths can vary, and the only constant is providing the needed knowledge. Here are the characteristics of personalized learning:
- leveraging modern technology to accomplish the training goals,
- treating teachers like coaches and assistants, not instructors,
- allowing learners enjoy flexibility in terms of learning space, timeframes and instructional approaches.
Personalized learning is impossible without smart eLearning management systems, providing the means to track and manage each learner’s progress individually and ensuring the learner engagement and training gamification are in place.
How does it work? Think of a standard learning approach: learners must listen to several hours of lectures, complete several practical tasks and pass an exam to assure they mastered the intended skills and achieved the planned learning outcomes. This method resembles a straight line, where all students have one starting point and have to finish in the same point at the same time, regardless of their preferred learning methods and pace. The ones that cope with the task better get better grades, the ones who lag are left behind, receiving nothing but bad marks and frustration.
This linear approach does not take into account the type of learner’s comprehension (audial, visual, kinesthetic or numeric), pre-training levels of knowledge and preferred learning pace. This oftentimes results in the situation when the “fishes are evaluated by their ability to climb trees”, according to Albert Einstein’s quote. But receiving the grades is not the goal of corporate training, right? The personnel should receive skills, not fancy certificates.
Forward thinking means designing backwards
Think of learning as the wheel or cobweb instead. The center can be reached in several ways and from many starting points. When the education is designed this way, all learners can achieve the goal, regardless of their starting levels of knowledge and preferred ways of studying. How can this be done?
- Make achieving the goal the starting point of planning your instruction, not the finish line. The learners must obtain a certain set of skills and a certain volume of knowledge. The timeframes might vary, the training delivery methods might vary as only the result matters.
- Design the eLearning content using instructional design best practices. Infuse it with interactive pauses, quizzes and even jokes — everything works to keep the learners engaged as this bolsters the knowledge comprehension.
- Provide pre-course academical testing of the participants to determine their perception types (audial, visual, kinesthetic or numeric) and individual paces of learning.
- Split all the course participants into different groups and compose said groups of learners with the same perception type, so the fishes will swim and the birds will fly.
- Provide all students with access to course materials through digital medium like mobile devices and desktop PC’s, so they can access new knowledge and practice skills at their convenience. Plan the classroom time rather as the time for communication and problem solving, not listening to the lectures.
- The learning process should not be built around a strict curriculum. Instead, the learning must happen in project-based, experiential, collaborative and highly competitive environment, where different groups of learners will strive to achieve the same goal following different learning paths in accordance with their personal learning patterns.
- The teacher must not be merely the instructor, but must act as an assistant and coach, analyzing the learners’ progress and providing help and advice when needed.
- The training process must not be a tedious exercise to endure. Quite contrary, it must offer varying challenges and require using problem-solving skills to ignite the spark of creativity.
- To ensure the training sticks, concentrate effort on practical tasks, so that 10% of course time is devoted to theory, 50% to practice, 20% to repetition and 20% to result evaluation. Such approach harnesses the power of science — you use the forgetting curve to enhance the training efficiency.
Employee training provided following the principles listed above allows every learner receive the skills and knowledge they need by working on interesting projects along with the people that think alike, benefiting from the latest technology and friendly support from instructor. This paradigm ensures the learning goals are met and the skills obtained will be put to a good use, improving the employee’s performance and efficiency, which is the main goal of the corporate training.
We fully understand that designing a variety of personalized learning paths inside the instructional content is a costly, time and effort-consuming endeavor. However, think of it this way: from the perspective of instructor’s convenience and grading efficiency it’s better to create a single course with multiple personalised learning paths inside it than a bunch of courses tailored for individual student needs.