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Mar 22, 2022 Jane Bozarth

Research Trends that can Inform L&D: Adaptive & Personalized Learning

In recent years I’ve been attached to a number of research projects, some data-collecting, some literature review. As we look forward into 2022 and beyond, several trends are likely to have an impact on L&D practitioners, their organizations, and our field on the whole.

Adaptive & Personalized Learning*

Areas perhaps stalled during the pandemic that are now picking up steam are adaptive and personalized learning and training. At the heart of adaptive learning is the idea that learners should have as personalized a learning experience as possible. This is important, as research shows that adaptive learning results in better retention, completing content faster, and more engagement. It reduces instructor workload and can save your organization resources. Strategies can be as simple as letting learners test out of material they already know, to more complex technical approaches like having an LMS suggest next-level content based on their score in an earlier module in a course. In addition to gaining understanding into virtual training via neuroscience, which deeply engages and studies the learner in the hybrid digital classroom.

Hybrid Virtual Learning is here to stay…  Click here to upskill your team

A key idea in thinking of ways to make material more adaptive is to keep in mind not so much making learning experiences harder but—as with letting people test out—making them faster. Making learning more efficient is the primary benefit of adaptive learning.

Good virtual facilitators working in the virtual and hybrid classroom already likely have skill at adapting instruction on the fly: accommodating individual learners in real time. 1/3 of the respondents to a recent Learning Guild survey indicated that they were employing this strategy.

Four Ways to Make Your Virtual Classroom Experiences More Adaptive 
  1. In addition to engaging as ‘instructor’, InSync’s Director of Services Karen Vieth asks us to remember our other roles of coach and mentor: “The finesse of going in and out of these roles is what will create a successful modern virtual facilitation classroom setting with the outcome of true learning transfer. Knowing when to provide direct instruction, guided instruction and individual practice throughout your two-hour live and online lesson is key to your success.”

  2. If the learning experience is blended, look at what other elements might be useful in making it more adaptive: materials organized by skill level, content tagged with specific items of interest, leveraging other technology like the LMS to offer content recommendations based on their performance in a course.

  3. Set up separate breakout room activities for learners in the virtual classroom to learn with tools at different levels (you don’t have to tell them why, by the way). Assigning people to room A, B, C doesn’t require you to say, “People who scored below a 70 go to room A.”

  4. Offer peer-to-peer feedback. Often there’s just not enough instructor to go around and provide in-depth feedback to individual learners. Julie Dirksen, author of Design for How People Learn, suggests that peers give one another feedback: “Users are given another learner’s response to provide feedback, usually with a checklist or rubric to guide them. Not only do more people get individualized feedback this way, but they also act with giving others feedback as an excellent learning experience for the peer evaluators, and putting them on a leadership track.” Is this something you might combine with the prior activity as people work in separate breakout rooms?

Editor's Note: Facilitating hybrid virtual learning pushes adaptive learning into high gear - virtual facilitators must adapt to learners being on different devices, from different cultures, and learning in different arrangements.  This makes facilitating adaptive learning a key competency for training professionals, so they can ensure no learner is left behind.

Apart from supporting retention and making experiences more efficient for learners and their organizations, thoughtful planning around providing adaptive online, virtual and hybrid training experiences can make your life easier and your work more enjoyable as well.

*Some content adapted from , Chad Udell & Jennifer Solberg Murphy, Adaptive and personalized learning experiences. Santa Rosa, CA: The Learning Guild, 2021.

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Published by Jane Bozarth March 22, 2022