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Personalised learning: the secret to engagement in online courses

SW
Sophia Wichtowska
Aug 22, 2019

Cast your mind back to the classroom at school. The teacher begins explaining how to solve a problem you already understand, and you start looking out the window, whispering to a friend or throwing screwed-up pieces of paper at your classmates. 

Fast forward twenty years to a face-to-face training course you are attending for work, and you find yourself in exactly the same situation. Hopefully not disrupting the rest of the group as you have, of course, matured slightly since then, but perhaps doodling or thinking about what will be included in the free lunch. 

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Having to listen to a familiar concept being taught in great detail is neither engaging or useful. When the average employee has only 24 minutes per week to learn, even slightly irrelevant content is a waste of precious time. 

Similarly, when learners find themselves completely lost in a session, they are just as likely to drift off or subconsciously focus their attention on something else.

Personalising learning is the difference between content being engaging or boring. Content needs to address an individual’s learning needs as accurately as possible, and advancing technology is helping to simplify this process.

The shifting eLearning landscape

Over time, eLearning content providers and LMS platforms have developed systems to make the learning process increasingly personalised. 

Improved tools for diagnostic assessment have given both instructors and learners the opportunity to understand how well the learning is going, and if there are any topic areas which are particularly difficult for a group to grasp. 

Globally renowned industry analyser and research analyst, Josh Bersin, describes a new paradigm emerging in corporate training. He labels this, ‘learning in the flow of work’, which means presenting employees with opportunities to learn through platforms they are already using to work.

Bersin uses the following example to explain the concept:

“In the application of safety and operational training (an enormous market in most heavy industries), there are now adaptive learning solutions that deliver small 2-3 minute videos each day when an operator checks into work. The learning is carefully curated, spaced, and designed to deliver an outcome – and the employee answers questions (including questions about their confidence in the answers) to give the system enough information to decide what should come next.  This is happening now.”

As technology advances, we are better able to tailor an individual’s learning experience and embed learning into pre-existing tasks or routines. 

What can you do to personalise the eLearning experience?

In addition to using the latest advances in technology, it is also possible for learning and development professionals to create a more personalised learning experience for employees. 

If you aren’t sure where to begin, the following steps are a good place to start:

1. Develop a culture of learning in your workplace  

When organisations prioritise learning and development, employees can become more agile and adaptive, meaning they have an improved ability to cope with and respond to the rapid rates of change expected of them in the digital age.  

This will provide a foundation for a more personalised learning process, with both employees and those in leadership positions valuing learning equally. 

2. Encourage employees to take ownership of their learning

It is also important for employees to take responsibility for their learning. The best learning and development strategy, course content and HR professionals can only take employees so far. When your employees understand what they need to learn next and when they need to learn it, they will be able to make progress at their own pace. 

3. Work with assessment data 

The LMS dashboard, both for instructors and learners can help to make the learning process more personalised. If you have access to diagnostic assessment data, you will be able to see if there are any general gaps in employee knowledge, and be able to address these as they pop up.  

Learners can also use diagnostic data to understand if there are any topics they need to learn more about. They can do further independent research if necessary, or perhaps complete an additional online course.

4. Ask employees for feedback and respond

Finding out what your employees think of the eLearning process in your organisation is crucial to their ongoing engagement. If a particular course was too easy or too difficult, it is unlikely that they will take an interest in the rest of the content. 

It can also be helpful to find out what they thought of the eLearning system. Were the courses easy to follow? Was the content presented in an interesting way?

If learners can see that you value their opinions and they are taking part in the ongoing development of the learning process, they are far more likely to be engaged and invested. 

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