Whether your objective is to provide degree-standard education to an entire generation of undergraduates, or skills training for a small group in an office or workshop setting, the simple fact remains that, internally, no two individuals will take exactly the same path to that goal.
Everyone is different. But it’s possible to use this to your advantage and ensure that your learning objectives will be met more effectively and rewardingly – by taking steps to make each learner’s journey through the eLearning course a unique and personal one. Here are some suggestions on how to do this:
Learn About Them Beforehand
The essence of personalisation is that the course materials presented, the style of instruction, and the learning environment should suit the requirements and learning styles of individual trainees. Learners should be afforded some level of choice in what they learn, and in when and how they learn it.
Helpful to ensuring this is a process known as “pre-learning“, in which course designers and administrators can gain an overview of their intended student body, and also drill down to more detailed knowledge concerning their individual backgrounds, level of experience and education, skills, and preferred methods of communicating.
This can be achieved through several methods, including short tests conducted on core subject issues, informal discussions, questionnaires, a study of past performance, and knowledge gained from learners during the registration process for the course.
Learners should be given options as to how their course material is displayed. At an “in story” level, this might involve a selection of visual themes, or virtual assistants / avatars to guide them through the course.
In terms of the format of the content itself, there should be some accommodation for those who prefer a short video clip or audio track to reading through a block of text, and allowances for downloading content for offline consumption, such as PDF files or podcasts. And there should also be some level of control as material is being delivered – e.g., volume and brightness adjustments, or changing the screen fonts.
Their Choice of Devices
Learners will typically have a set preference for how they consume digital content – be it a particular screen size, or operating environment. So course materials need to be designed for display and delivery across a range of devices, including desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. And any mobile applications should be compatible with all the major operating systems.
Short and Sweet
Engagement and knowledge retention are typically increased when material is presented in brief and self-contained modules, exploring a particular topic or aspect of an overall subject. Attention spans and memory capacity will vary from person to person, but shorter is generally better.
Address Them Personally
A core aspect of the personal learning experience is that the learner should feel like a real person. So taking the opportunity to address them by name as the training scenario unfolds is a big step in personalising the journey.
Individual learner names and preferred methods of address may be gleaned from the information they provide during registration or pre-learning exchanges, and customisable fields (in on-screen page headings, internal messaging and chat systems etc.) may be used to engage with learners by name, at occasional intervals within the course.
Stream Content for Needs and Roles
With a digital learning platform, course facilitators have the potential for a rapid turnover of data gained from each learner’s activities in the training exercises, their performance in quizzes and assessments, and feedback from communication and discussion channels. Monitoring and analysing this information may be achieved rapidly enough for interventions to be made, in response to individual needs.
If a learner is observed to be struggling with some aspects of the training and very strong in others, content may be streamed to them specifically to help address their problem issues, or (with real-time or near real-time responses) to give task-specific information during a particular exercise.
Speak Plainly and Encourage a Dialogue
With some knowledge of the personal history and demographics of each participant, course designers can present material in a language and tone that the learner will easily understand and respond to.
Content should encourage learners to relate the knowledge they’ve gained directly to their working or personal lives, and allow them opportunities for individual reflection, and outlets for discussion or queries such as chat rooms or internal messaging systems.
Adaptive Learning and Automation
If your learning management system (LMS) has facilities for adaptive learning, this technique may be used to chart computer-designed courses through an eLearning module. The process starts before the course formally begins, with a pre-test that establishes each learner’s unique skill-set and levels of competency.
Based on these results, an automated system then generates a personalised journey for each learner, which includes only those aspects of the course in which the learner may be lacking, and typically gives recommendations on how each exercise should be approached, for maximum benefit.
Self-Directed Learning and Feedback
At the human level, the ultimate personalised learning experience is one in which the learner assumes control of their own education, deciding which parts of a course to take, and the conditions under which they’ll be consumed.
Allowing learners this amount of freedom may not be possible in all cases, but where applicable, the process may be assisted by an assessment of each learner’s performance in tests charting their progress through the course. These results will not only provide the course administrators with a record of their learners’ activities, but will also give valuable feedback to the learners themselves.