Personalized learning

7 things you should know about … ™, Educause Learning Initiative, September 2015

1.      What is it?
Personalized learning is intended to provide a unique, highly focused learning path for each student. If a student receives individual attention from an instructor, the lessons, feedback, and assessments will necessarily be tailored to that student’s strengths and weaknesses. Such attention does not scale in traditional educational environments, and proponents of personalized learning maintain that IT systems and tools, along with rich data sets and analytics programs, can provide individualized learning pathways to large numbers of students. Discussion in higher education has yet to settle on the relationship between—or even the precise definitions of—personalized learning and concepts including differentiated instruction, adaptive learning, and individualized learning. Regardless, the goal is to improve learning by ensuring that students receive the particular kinds of learning experiences and support they need, when they need those resources, and in a form well suited to each learner. 

2 How does it work?
Personalized learning aims to build a “profile” of each student’s strengths, weaknesses, and pace of learning—similar to how learning analytics monitors student performance, looking for patterns likely to predict how students will fare— and customize educational experiences and support accordingly. Some contend that dividing students into several predetermined, fixed learning paths according to ability constitutes a simple form of personalized learning. More sophisticated programs tailor learning at the individual level and make continual adjustments to learning paths based on student performance and data from digital courseware. One finding from early pilots is that student choice and agency can play an important role in personalized learning. Because personalized learning meters the pace of learning, it can be a natural complement to competency-based education and programs that use prior-learning assessment. In addition, personalized learning can show instructors how individual students are doing, allowing them to focus their teaching in the most effective ways, and it can include planning advising services to help students navigate program and degree requirements. Key to personalized learning is integrating the tools and systems with appropriate curriculum design, ensuring that the goals and the means of pursuing them are considered in tandem.

In the text more questions about Personalized learning are answered:

3.      Who’s doing it?
4.      Why is it significant?
5.      What are the downsides?
6.      Where is it going?
7.      What are the implications for teaching and learning

The importance of teamwork is explained by  Kathleen Bastedo and Thomas Cavanagh, in their text on the Educause-website ‘Personalized Learning as a Team Sport: What IT Professionals Need to Know ‘, April 19, 2016.

Key Takeaways in the article:

·        Personalized learning is growing across higher education, promising enhanced student engagement, improved retention, quicker time to degrees, and increased student success.

·        The range of personalized learning systems available today cover various models for providing content and conducting assessments.

·        Successfully implementing personalized learning requires the broad participation of many groups across campus.

The term "personalized learning" is gaining currency throughout higher education. In fact, this issue of EDUCAUSE Review features articles about various aspects of personalized learning (see the end of this article for a list of related publications). As the concept and associated technologies expand, it will become increasingly important for the IT professionals tasked with supporting personalized learning to understand just what it is and how it works. Central to the development, implementation, and ongoing support of personalized learning is the recognition that it takes a team of professionals working together toward a common goal to be successful. To use an athletics analogy, personalized learning is more basketball than golf: definitely a team sport.

You can read more information about the implementation of Personalized learning in the Educause website