Individualized Learning Plans constitute a user-specific learning program or strategy that resembles a mapped academic plan, reflecting each learner’s unique set of strengths, weaknesses, goals, needs, abilities, preferences, and interests. It constitutes an educational technique, undoubtedly easier to implement in the field of eLearning.

By definition eLearning have a more personalized learning environment. What’s interesting is that students actually have to contribute to this process, becoming responsible participants in the educational development and planning. Be careful, learning styles has nothing to do with the concept of Individualized Learning Plans! I highly encourage you to read The Myth of Learning Styles for more information concerning the debunking of Learning Styles.

The Individualized Learning Plan educational technique follows a very specific structure, which is divided in 4 stages:

  1. Initially, the learner’s needs are identified and recorded, with the cooperation of parents, instructors, consultants, and ILP experts
  2. Subsequently, the curriculum undergoes the necessary adjustments, based on the above mentioned needs, while educational goals are set on an annual, long or short-term basis. 
  3. The third stage includes the completion and implementation of the Individualized Learning Plan, by determining what needs to be taught, the priorities that should be given and the appropriate methodology that should be followed. 
  4. The final stage includes the monitoring and evaluation of the individualized plan’s outcome, based on the initial goals, which includes the assessment of the program’s effectiveness, the creation of problem-solving strategies, and perhaps the development of new goals, activities or methods. 

We shouldn’t also forget that an Individualized Learning Plan should be:

  1. Flexible and oriented towards the learner’s future endeavors
  2. Focused on the learner’s potential and dynamics 
  3. Adjusted to the student’s age and learning profile
  4. Holistic, but at the same time relevant to the learner’s education and background 

The Value of Individualized Learning Plans

Based on the statistics provided by the US Department of Labor, the ILP movement started circa 1990s, with many states actually requiring their use, such as South Carolina, Washington and New Mexico. Students found great value in the self-evaluation section of the ILP that helps them determine their interests, while through this process they could also comprehend the connection between the courses they choose and their specific individual goals. According to the same statistics and research, learners were undoubtedly more focused and also linked their career choices with future salaries. Moreover, they were more flexible and open to alternative options and paths. 

There is no doubt that ILPs will always depend on a special and sometimes substantial funding, due to the number of people that should be involved in the process. However, since educational technology becomes more and more affordable, it will be a lot easier to promote customized learning and training on a wider spectrum of audience. Let’s not forget about the growing popularity of eLearning proving that distance and individualized learning will soon be a well established preferred practice.