The Road Ahead – Trends for Learning in 2018 – Personalization

It’s a big word and a big topic and it seems to be everywhere. It goes hand in hand with some other topics we’re hearing and seeing lots about, such as UI/UX, the learner journey, data and data analytics, next gen LMSs and Learner Experience Platforms (LXPs).

Learner = Consumer

Personalization shows up in every aspect of our lives, and especially in our online activity. What we see and what we do is becoming more and more personalized – the content pushed to us, the ads we see, the continuous tailoring of our online world to what we have indicated via our online activity – what we like, what we are interested in, and what we may need.

Behind personalization in a learning context lie the philosophies of ‘learner experience’ and ‘learner as consumer1’, pushing a drive towards learning solutions that meet the needs of an increasingly discerning, tech savvy, self-directed and time-pressured learner audience. This cohort has high expectations for both ease of access and engagement and, most significantly, the expectation of a personalized experience, to provide ‘me’ as a user with the best experience and content for my particular, individual needs.

In reality, though, when it comes to choosing how and to what extent to incorporate personalization elements in learning solutions, it may be a case of a little going a long way.  Much of the personalization in learning so far is limited to small personalization features that might be described as ‘baby steps’, but small steps in the area of personalization can nonetheless contribute significantly to a sense of an individualized targeted ‘made for me’ experience.

Personalization by Degrees

The bottom line is that with the levels of personalization people are experiencing on their many devices in their everyday lives, bringing personalization into learning is a must. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated, however. It’s a question of starting with the data you have now, or have access to now, considering what type and level of personalization will add most value for you and your learners, and building from there:

  • Choices on how content is accessed – device or format (e.g. watch a video, read a PDF)
  • Using learner first names – a small thing, but it matters
  • Language selection
  • Tailored learning paths and curated content according to role – job-focused personalization, for relevance and efficiency.
  • Diagnostic assessments that result in targeted learning recommendations – promoting learning efficiency
  • In-course personalization – such as personalized feedback or paths that shift the content experience in response to learner interactions
  • Recommendations (for content in all formats) based on history, what others of similar profiles are viewing – a ‘Netflix’ type experience that reflects consumer experience and expectations.

Adaptive Learning

Adaptive learning is where the learning content, path and/or experience is adapted or modified to the learner’s individual needs, based on their interaction. Arguably, this is one of the most effective routes to high-impact personalization: tailoring the learning path to make the optimum use of the learner’s time, providing diagnostics allowing them to test what they already know, and potentially tailoring the nature of the learning activities, e.g. more practice for those who need it, less focus on the fundamentals for those who are past that stage, and learning transfer opportunities for those who are ready.

Adaptive learning can align learning experiences to the learner’s needs and level, gradually building towards the desired level of competency and independence, with verifiable evidence that they have met or accomplished prior learning needs at each stage.

The New

Nowhere is the drive towards personalization more evident than in the explosion of User Experience Platforms (UXPs) or Learner Experience Platforms (LXPs).

While LXPs potentially bring together features from many technological and product advances – including curated public and private content, tracking, analytics, and social collaboration tools – the promise of a ‘made for me’, learner-led, learner-centric experience is the big attraction. The growth of LXPs sees a shift away from a more traditional model where everything resides within the LMS, to a more dashboard-type experience drawing in content from multiple sources. A dashboard type UI, as often seen in UXPs/LXPs or learning portals, can be populated with channels and sources that are of interest to the individual user and that they can access in the flow of their work. The ease of access to relevant sources, regularly updated, can also help encourage the learner to form a habit of accessing and using the platform every day.

We believe:

Personalization is an area that we can expect to expand and develop, both in pursuit of the optimum user experience and as organizations strive to reap the benefits that targeted learning can provide both them and their employees. This growth will be fueled with development of the data analytics space.

In the UXP/LXP space, whoever the winners and losers turn out to be, the current excitement around these platforms highlights the promise of a new model of learning and information access. A powerful user-centered experience that is simultaneously aligned with organizational needs, providing learners with what they require from the learning ecosystem; maximizing the efficiency of delivering on the need, from whatever source, and minimizing the time to learn. And whether, if or when LXPs or next-generation LMSs deliver on all of this, they clearly signal a growing appetite for tailored, dynamic, ‘made for me’ learning solutions, accessible in the flow of work.

Underpinning the many choices we have in learning today, including personalization, adaptive learning, experience based learning, etc., all our options need to be considered in light of how best to facilitate learning for our particular audience, at their particular moment and need in time and place.  And as more data becomes available through analytics and constant feedback systems, we must rigorously monitor how well our chosen avenues work. No matter the technology, it is always still about fulfilling the promise of learning.

And whether your approach to personalization is data-focused, platform driven, or simply taking the first small steps to making the learner feel more like you understand the individual they are, one thing is clear: it’s time to get personal.

Intuition’s series The Road Ahead: Trends for Learning 2018 looks at the changing face of learning and, against that backdrop, examines what we see as the most significant emerging digital learning trends. 

Part 1: Preview

Part 2: Microlearning

Part 3: Video

If you would like to discuss any of the insights in this piece with our consultants, email


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