personalized learning environment

Creating a Personalized Learning Environment

Creating a personalized learning environment starts with outlining your goals and striking a balance between personal and company growth, as you want learning to payoff for everyone. Focusing on the learner through data analytics and responsive and adaptive design allows you to custom tailor a learning experience that’s effective and efficient.

Ensuring that employees can personalize their learning in an offline, office environment that safe and inclusive guarantees that you speak to every kind of learner, not alienating anyone based on how they learn or who they are.

Most people are accustomed to getting things just the way they like them. From ordering a burger – hold the onions – to queuing up a list of saved TV shows on their DVR, preferences essentially predict the outcome for choice after choice each day. And then, something happens with training: All learners are forced to experience the exact same module, regardless of their preferences. The lack of individualization creates an immediate disconnect between learner and material. Personalized learning in the workplace starts with creating an optimal personalized learning environment. Below, we tell you just how this is designed.

Striking a Balance between Individual and Company Growth

The goal here is that the employee benefits career-wise from the knowledge and the company benefits financially from having a knowledgeable salesperson or employee.

Here’s an example: Jake, a makeup artist, arrives at the counter and checks out his appointments for the day. He’s got half an hour before his first appointment, so he logs into the LMS from the work tablet kept behind the counter, scrolls through the modules for existing products, and finds the module for the new spring line. Each product is broken down into short, one minute videos, blog posts or slide shows. He settles on a video tutorial for the bronzer palette, as he feels like the on-site training he had a few days ago brought him pretty up to speed, but he just needs a quick refresher. He takes a short quiz, logs off, and experiments with the colors himself, using the techniques he learned from the module. When his appointment arrives, he points out the bronzer he’s wearing, and asks if she wants to try it out. He’s knowledgeable and confident about what he’s learned. The client is thrilled with the results and the tips that Jake’s passed on to her, so she buys the product and the brush applicator that Jake used. This is what personalized learning looks like in an ideal situation: perfectly balanced between individual and company growth.

Data Driven Personalized Learning Strategies

Next, you need a personalized learning strategy based on data analytics. Taking the time to set this up saves time and money in the long run, not to mention keeps employees excited and engaged.

Here’s an example: When Jake logs into the LMS and scrolls through the modules, clicking on the bronzer video tutorial, all of his interactions are logged and tracked in the system. Jake’s supervisor discovers that Jake was looking for specific bite sized content—a great example of microlearning. She also notes that he’s a visual learner, having chosen to watch the video over the other options. His supervisor marks that he took a quiz and scored high, but that only confirms that his chosen learning path works well for him. Cross-referencing the sales data for her store, she learns that bronzer and brush sales are up about 30% for the quarter. His personalized learning experience is a win-win for the company and himself. She adds a pre-paid link for an exciting webinar coming up next month to his dashboard with an encouraging message, as Jake’s logged into every optional webinar available for the past six months—he’s extremely self-motivated.

The data tracking built into the LMS helped Jake’s supervisor qualify make decisions about how to keep him engaged and excited about new learning opportunities. This formative data, that is, data based on how Jake successfully chooses his own learning path, is much more meaningful the summative data, or how well Jake scored on his quiz.

Personalized Learning in the Office

As we’ve written about in detail before, in office training can take on just about any form with blended learning techniques. Whether the training is face-to-face or online, you can personalize learning with blended learning.

Here’s an example: Jake’s mLearning experience, on the work tablet, was one instance of when personalized learning happens in the field. We mentioned that Jake had a corporate training a few days before he went to work. After watching an entertaining presentation streamed remotely from corporate headquarters in New York, the makeup artists participated in a hands-on learning lab with rotating stations for each product. In the lab, the artists chose which station they wanted to attend in the time given. The stations ranged from guest artists demonstrating the products to animated tutorials. Jake visited several stations, but felt information-overload by the end. He knew it was best to stop before he burned out. While the live-streamed presentation got everyone excited and on board with the new spring line, it wasn’t the bulk of learning. Jake was driving the learning experience, deciding where to go and when to stop when he felt like he had enough, knowing that he could go deeper within the LMS later. For Jake, the training was fun and informative without being tedious, as he was in control.

Personalized Learning Spaces

You bring your background and life experiences into every interaction, which is positive in that diversity makes life more meaningful, but can be negative when you unconsciously exclude others. Face-to-face trainings are an opportunity to create positive, team building social interaction, but with a caveat. Personalized learning spaces should be safe spaces, where each learner feels included. Studies show that creating an inclusive learning environment directly affects the success and productivity of the training. This is the train-the-trainer approach.

Here’s an example: Jake’s on-site training was fun and engaging due to the company culture, which nurtures an inclusive learning environment for every socio-economic background, race, sex or sexual preference. In fact, he applied for his job at that company exactly for this reason. While he was in the training, his personalized learning space felt open, non-judgmental and safe. That’s because each new employee is coached during the on-boarding process on how to interact with fellow employees: listen to the question or comment, pause, repeat the question or comment in your own words, then answer or thank that person for their input. They also learned how to avoid jargon that unwittingly alienates other people. When on-site trainings occur, supervisors and instructors model that behavior and set the respectful, positive tone. Since Jake knows what to expect should he contribute, and even the boundaries for what he says, his natural shyness and hesitancy evaporate. When he feels safe, his learning is more productive.

Responsive vs. Adaptive Design

When Jake logged into the LMS while in the field, his experience was responsive and adaptive. We should clarify exactly what those terms mean. Don’t make the mistake of using the terms responsive and adaptive interchangeably. While both can be used to create personalized learning, their applications make all the difference

Responsive design is device-based, meaning it causes the eLearning module to respond according to the type of device being used by the learner. Whether it’s pulling up the course on a computer screen or opening an application on a tablet or phone, responsive design responds to stuff like screen size and bandwidth to create a seamless experience across all devices.

While it’s true that you could create a separate program from each device, the process is expensive and results in tracking and metrics difficulties as you struggle to gather data from several different applications. Instead, if you know your learners will be accessing the course via different types of devices, it makes sense to build responsive design components from day one. In this case, Jake’s learning modules were designed for a company issued tablet, through which they also run sales, collect marketing data, and keep track of appointments.

Adaptive design is learner-driven. Instead of responding to the device, adaptive eLearning design receives learner information, from geographical location to language, startup preferences and even learning behaviors to create a more personal experience for each learner.

Consider a pharmaceutical sales rep: She travels from doctor’s office to doctor’s office and needs quick access to information. Good adaptive technology could utilize her location services to detect which office she’s visiting and switch out her mobile phone library based on a specific field, doctor or hospital. Similarly, an adaptive course could detect that Jake the makeup artist likes to scroll through modules, and would offer him a bullet-point page or the ability to test out of familiar subject matters. Both scenarios allow for individuals to dictate their preferences and enjoy a learning experienced tailored to fit exactly. (For more info on this topic, check out our post on mobile learning.)

Principles of Responsive and Adaptive Design

When implementing both responsive and adaptive design to personalize the learning experience (or trying to improve your current efforts), remember these two key tips:

  1. Focus on the Learner. Being learner-centric gives you the ability to view your module in the same way a learner would. Where would personalized components be the most appreciated? Success relies on how learners perceive the program, so think like a learner and adjust accordingly.
  2. Be content-specific. Responsive and adaptive learning isn’t ideal for every topic. If a certain topic requires a long-form explanation, a watered-down mobile version may be inappropriate. Before diving headlong into responsive design, ensure that the content can be manipulated while essentially still being absorbed the same among different learners and learning experiences.

Whether you want extra cheese on your burger or just for your eLearning module to remember you tend to login with your smartphone, responsive and adaptive design are about having it your way. By offering options for learners to tailor their experience, you create personalization options that truly engage and optimize.