Personalization and Connected Learning

Thursday, July 26, 2012 | Category :

By Matthew Murray

Matt Murray Photo

When companies execute on strategic priorities, connecting with leaders and employees on a personal level is a critical success factor. It may come as a surprise that personalization is one of our four key principles of Connected Learning, since technology-enabled learning is often typecast as “impersonal.” We define personalization as “enabling an organization and program participants at all levels to tailor an experience to individual and team initiatives.” Therefore, it is a critical component to a successful Connected Learning program and also an enabler of strategy execution.

According to the traditional mantra, classroom-based training is warmer, more (inter-)personal, and allows participants to engage in a flexible, spontaneous way.  Technology-enabled learning is colder, automated, more distant, more solo, less …. personal.

There are some valid reasons why these stereotypes developed and are still alive and well. We’ve all had to sit through page-turner e-learning and off-the-shelf “shovelware” at some point in our careers.  This is online learning at its most depersonalized: information broadcast in rote format to a mass audience of aggregated learners. While it may appeal from cost and compliance perspectives, page-turner courseware has few merits in terms of impact on learner behaviors.

In response to this, technology-enabled learning has improved in delivery approach and style.  Its reputation and impact has grown thanks to the effective use of friendly virtual coaches, immersive simulation environments, avatars representing the learner, and more informal language and engaging tones of voice.

As a result, today effective Connected Learning feels less like something you have to do, and more like something you want to do. Cognitively, it works less like memorizing an instruction manual and more like undertaking a learning journey. Less directive and passive, more guided and active.  Less recall, more practice and application.

There are clear indications that common perceptions around the personal/impersonal distinction are shifting.  Technology is becoming warmer and closer, more tactile, liberating and familiar -- culturally and socially an expression of ourselves. We’re increasingly savvy with the notion of a virtual identity, online presence and social networking.  We’re more comfortable with technology playing a more integral part in our personal behaviors and how we engage.  For example, we are increasingly seeing clients demand the use of high touch tablet technology as a preferred delivery media. 

The most powerful way in which Connected Learning incorporates personalization is through design.  This has a huge impact not just on how participants engage with the content, but also on workplace behaviors, business results and alignment with organizational goals.  All of which are key elements of improved strategy execution.

There are a number of different ways this can be achieved, some of which are listed below:

  • Smart learning that adapts to individual decisions and assessment responses, creating unique paths and progress speeds
  • “Cloud-based” content deliveries, where you can access learning from multiple devices and switch devices as convenient
  • Modular designs, with more flexible user-driven navigation, which allow different learning styles and accessing “just enough” information “right place, right time”
  • A primary focus at BTS is our online Engage Maps, which incorporate personalized outputs and action plans based on individual user interactions and responses.  A combination of assessment, self-reflection opportunities and dynamically-generated context feeds into a downloadable, personal plan that can be shared with managers and peers.  This ensures that everyone going through the same course comes away with a unique, personalized guide for next steps that is focused on how you – in your role and with your skills -- can achieve the goals and business results of the organization. 

We’re also witnessing the classroom reinvent itself, away from the brick-and-mortar monopace and monospace of yesterday and towards a technology-enhanced and web-enabled “classroom of the future.”  This provides greater instructional opportunities for facilitators and also greater personalization opportunities for participants.  The dynamic, individualized, “smart” experiences of Connected Learning are helping to break down the distinctions of the past between classroom-technology and personal-impersonal. At the end of the day, connected Learning is about people, not technology.

About the Author: Matthew Murray is a Director at BTSinteractive.


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