How Do We Define Personalized Learning?

Learning Technologies 2018, London: How Can We Define Personalized Learning?

Attending my first Learning Technologies in London, I wasn't really sure what to expect. I have been to several business conferences in the past, but nothing has compared to the size, energy, and excitement that surrounded LTUK18.

Immediately my attention was drawn to the several thousand of those in attendance, then to some of the incredible stands that had literally been built overnight and of course those who had found themselves fully immersed in a VR set as they attempted to climb a virtual ladder or land a  747 at Heathrow Terminal 5.

As an eLearning industry novice, I had several goals I wanted to reach while in attendance. First and foremost I wanted to be a successful ambassador for HT2. My colleagues are all veterans in the industry and have unparalleled product and industry knowledge. My initial fear was that I would not know what I was talking about when approached by a potential customer or an inquisitive attendee. Luckily with the right amount of confidence, a bit of thinking on my feet and my time spent learning our products and company background, I was able to answer most questions to the best of my knowledge and set up meaningful conversations with the rest of my team.

My second goal was to understand the term 'personalized learning' which I had heard rather frequently in the run-up to the show and clearly it had become a prominent theme at the two-day event.

My immediate thoughts when I hear the term personalized learning is one on one customized training or learning between a student and a teacher. Curating a lesson plan so that it fits the learning style of the student. But the reality is, it's a very broad term; and in order to learn more, I had to speak with industry leaders to understand their stance.

After navigating the perils of the exhibition floor, which included free massages to artisan coffee, I managed to cajole my new eLearning peers.

The Expert Insights

The first person I spoke with was David Kelly (EVP and Executive Director of the eLearning Guild), who had been hearing the term "personalized learning" for decades, but that "technology was finally catching up to the promise." He believes within the education market the term is still being defined, but in a consumer market we bear witness to it every day. This includes Google and Facebook who know so much about us and funnel us content that is appropriate (or sometimes not). But what really excites Kelly is "some of the algorithms out there that not only recognize what we like, but what we could be interested in" - that's where he believes growth will come from in personalized learning.

I also managed to make my way over to Fosway Group, where I had the chance to pick the brains of Content and Communications Manager Kate Graham. Graham admits that she comes from a marketing background (as do I), so she thinks about content that is "tailored to me." Previously, as she explained, "it isn't about the massification of content which eLearning used to be about." In the past, content was spun out and put in a format where you could access it at anytime, anywhere. In that scenario the content was never relevant, people didn't know what all of it meant or some already knew what certain content meant, there was a clear gap in the learning. The reality is that Graham believed personalized learning is something that is segmented to a person's context, their role, and skills similar to ways in which marketers try to reach an audience with the right content at the right time.

In order to dive even deeper into the meaning of personalized learning, I thought it necessary to not only gather responses from industry leaders on the floor of the Olympia Exhibition Center, but also through a MOOC I'm calling "Demystifying Personalize Learning!"

This four-week free course launches on Monday, February 19. In it, we will explore personalization in everyday applications like Netflix and Amazon to machine learning, chatbots, and much more!

Register Now

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