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Why adaptive learning is the future of corporate training

People have unique learning needs. Not everyone has the same level of prior experience, nor do they make progress at the same pace. That’s where adaptive learning can help. We’ll explore what adaptive learning is and how it can help future-proof corporate training.

By Alexandra Hemmer on May 7th


What is adaptive learning?

For many years, classrooms around the world have taught in a way that assumes all learners are equally inexperienced and need the same level of guidance. Research, however, has often proven that people have different learning styles and needs, which makes a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching ineffective. This is where adaptive learning can help.

How can we define adaptive learning?

Adaptive learning refers to customized learning activities tailored to individual learners’ needs. When it comes to corporate learning, this could mean providing custom learning paths based on your employees’ varying skills, work experience, and learning paces. When training methods are adjusted to individual needs, learners are more likely to receive accurate and — therefore — effective professional guidance.

For example, imagine being an experienced paid marketer who wanted to pick up organic marketing skills. While a training program may help, it would be ineffective if the first few sessions were spent diving into the basic principles of marketing — something you probably already know and aren’t interested in learning all over again. Instead, you’re more likely to be engaged if the program accounted for your existing marketing experience and adapted the learning path accordingly.

The example mentioned above can be credited to Malcolm Knowles’ theory of andragogy, which assumes that adult learners learn better when they can make clear connections to their prior experience and when the knowledge is immediately applicable.

Adaptive vs. personalized learning

At this point, it may be easy to confuse adaptive learning for personalized learning. And understandably so. Both aim to cater to individual learning needs by providing a customized experience. But there is an important difference. While a personalized learning path is exclusively designed to meet learners’ needs, adaptive learning makes use of technology to make the necessary adjustments.

Using algorithms, adaptive learning technology constantly measures a learner’s engagement and performance to identify patterns and trends, which then allows it to adjust the type of content it pushes out. A Learning Experience Platform (LXP), for instance, usually generates adaptive learning paths based on an algorithm. This is particularly useful because learners don’t always know what subjects they need more training in.

For example, you could be convinced that you spent two hours less on your iPhone this week than you did last week, but your iPhone’s weekly Screen Time report might reveal that you, in fact, spent more time. Similarly, while a learner may feel confident about a certain skill or ability they have, adaptive learning technology can help clarify their actual level of competency. The use of an algorithm, therefore, makes adaptive learning a more precise way to customize learning paths.

Adaptive learning strategies

Implementing an adaptive learning strategy for the first time can be a lot to plan for. To help you get started, we’ve put together a few steps you can take:

1. Create the right environment for adaptive learning

To facilitate adaptive learning accurately, you’ll need a digital platform powered by an algorithm that can monitor learner engagement. As mentioned earlier, an LXP is an example of a learning platform that generates learning paths based on algorithms. LXPs are also known for their powerful search functions, which also monitor users’ search histories with the goal of providing custom experiences. Some Learning Management Systems (LMS) are beginning to incorporate learning paths and algorithm-based search functions.

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2. Ensure content is accessible across devices

Apart from having an algorithm to work with, make sure learning content is accessible across various devices. That means content should be mobile- and tablet-friendly, and not just designed for a desktop experience. This ensures learners get to access training materials in the way that’s most convenient to them, which paints a more accurate picture of their experience and, therefore, how exactly it should be adapted.

3. Use analytics and reporting features to monitor learner progress

And, of course, as your learners engage with their training content, monitor their progress by leveraging the platform’s analytics and reporting features. Data on what kind of content users search for the most or how many times someone got a question wrong before getting it right can clarify your learners’ strengths and weaknesses. You can also generate reports based on the data provided, which can help visualize key takeaways about your learners’ progress more clearly.

Benefits of adaptive learning in corporate training

The personalized nature of adaptive learning can add lots of value to corporate training. Here are a few key benefits of adaptive learning:

1. It enables personalized feedback

Adaptive learning allows for more personalization, but not just in learning paths. By measuring learners’ progress, an algorithm can also provide personalized feedback by suggesting relevant follow-up courses or materials. This enables the feeling of one-on-one instruction, even if learning happens asynchronously.

2. It presents learners’ needs more accurately over time

As mentioned, learners don’t always know what they don’t know. Adaptive learning technology makes it easier to identify skill gaps and push out the relevant content accordingly. But an algorithm doesn’t adapt to a learner’s behavior at the moment. As it collects more user data, it gets better at identifying the learner’s needs and will make more accurate recommendations over time. This not only helps identify skill gaps but also makes the learning materials needed to close them readily available.

3. It saves learners time

Ultimately, not having to engage in irrelevant learning materials means learners can close skill gaps in a fraction of the time they would have otherwise spent. Within corporate training, this means employees can access the information they need to be professionally successful much sooner.

Incorporate adaptive learning into your company

As the Covid-19 pandemic has shown us, online learning is here to stay. That means we’ll likely continue to rely on algorithms and learner analytics to manage corporate learning needs remotely. To help ensure your organization is technologically prepared to cater to individual learners, Easygenerator has included detailed learner insights as a key feature. Once you’ve created an online course using our authoring tool, you’ll be able to dive into your learners’ needs by monitoring their individual progress and activity.

Ultimately, the reason to incorporate adaptive learning in corporate training is to acknowledge that we all have unique learning needs. So, when done well, an adaptive learning strategy makes room for employees to gain relevant skills at a comfortable pace, which can lead to a more efficient workforce in the long run.

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About the author

Alexandra Hemmer is a copywriter at Easygenerator. Originally from Singapore, she spent her higher education years in the U.S. where she kickstarted a career in content marketing and journalism. She currently resides in the Netherlands, embracing her Dutch-Indonesian roots.

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