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Adaptive learning - What is it and how can it improve your L&D programs?

Since the industrial revolution, organizations have been following a one-size-fits-all, lecture-based traditional learning mode, in which a few learners in any group excel, but many merely sail through without gaining mastery of crucial concepts.

In the present-day context, however, organizations irrespective of their nature and size need to shift from this traditional learning model and set higher bars for talent and leadership development. They are feeling the pressure to continually innovate, design and develop personalized learning experiences that meet each individual’s learning aptitudes, preferences and performance.

Enter adaptive learning

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Given the limitations of the traditional learning model, corporations are now leveraging the power of emerging technologies to maximize learning impact and bring learners to peak performance in the shortest possible time.

This objective is materializing through a concept called “adaptive learning,” which is primarily the delivery of personalized learning experiences that address learners’ strengths, weaknesses, objectives, and engagement patterns through real-time feedback, pathways, and resources.

According to the results derived from The L&D Global Sentiment Survey for 2017, adaptive delivery of learning content is peaking across global organizations. In essence, adaptive learning utilizes artificial intelligence to actively tune learning content to each individual’s needs. It effectuates diverse knowledge domains such as cognitive science, machine learning, predictive analytics, and educational theory to turn this learner-focused vision of corporate learning and development into a reality.

 

The credo of adaptive learning

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In the current business scenario, the power of technology to make learning and development concepts real and scalable, and in turn, deliver impressive learning outcomes, is what comes into play. Adaptive learning technology inexpensively increases the advantages of 1-on-1 mentorship, providing a personalized course to each individual that adjusts in real-time depending on their performance and engagement level.

Adaptive learning seeks to enable each learner to gain demonstrable proficiency as efficiently and effectively as possible. It emphasizes mastery rather than seat-time-- something that translates to higher skillfulness and engagement levels for all learners.

Here are a few basic tenets of this learning model:

  • Progression through a course of study should be centered on gaining proficiency rather than hours spent.
  • Learners must achieve proficiency to excel and finish the course.
  • Learners can spend as much time as they need to master concepts.

Take instructor-led training, for example. Given that many concepts and performance objectives are best conveyed through person-to-person interaction, it is highly unlikely that all organizations will fully adopt online training in the near future.

However, adaptive learning principles are applicable to traditional instructor-led sessions in progressive organizations without expending a hefty sum or without radically modernizing existing training delivery media. The process is all about making the best use of the portability and affordability of content delivery and connectivity and making a transition from traditional scholastic learning environments to more adaptive ones.

For achieving this objective, organizations have to shift from traditional learning methods such as instructor-led lectures and PowerPoint slides to a flexible and interactive system. Such an up-gradation requires them to make optimal use of electronic knowledge checkpoints, leader-led learning lessons, interactive e-books, leader board gaming, and Level 1 evaluations. Creating such an environment facilitates real-time examination of individuals and allows the insertion of interactive questions into the instruction resources.

Take the example of Google’s the Googler-to-Googler (G2G) program. The tech-giant takes a unique approach to ongoing learning and career development by encouraging employees to teach their peers new job skills. Volunteers (or "g2g'ers") come from different departments of the organization to teach courses, participate in 1:1 mentoring, and design learning models. The program focuses on negotiations, leadership, and role-related skills such as sales training, Android training, and Python coding.

As such, the philosophy of adaptive learning lies in creating and nurturing an environment that encourages curiosity and knowledge sharing-- something that promotes better business outcomes.

 

“Adaptive learning” from the vantage point of organizations

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Organizations often describe “adaptive learning” as a composition of their processes and products. But, in reality, they have different conclusions. From the viewpoint of organizations, the field of adaptive learning can be divided into the following:

  • Adaptive Content

Adaptive content is a form of learning where an individual learner responds to a question, with feedback based on their specific responses (for example, hints, review materials on the relevant skill,etc.) without changing the overall order of skills. It is much ahead of the practice of marking questions correct or incorrect without explaining the reasons behind it.

  • Adaptive Sequence

An adaptive sequence is a process of continuously collecting and analyzing learners’ data to automatically tweak what he or she sees next. It includes the sequence of skills a learner works on and the type of learning content they receive.

  • Adaptive Assessment

Adaptive assessment involves changing the questions a learner sees based on their response to the previous question. The difficulty of questions will increase as a learner answers them accurately, while they get easier if the learner struggles to answer them. This method is extremely valuable in benchmarking the understanding or progress of learners.

Adaptive learning technology can be dissected based on their capabilities as below:

  • Communication and collaboration features between instructors and learners.
  • Content model and customization features.
  • Sources of content

These schemes of classification help organizations to understand the different ways technology can collect data and initiate adaptivity. Their real value surfaces out when they are packaged in one tool like Sproutlogix, the platform that uses AI, behavioral Science, and data analytics to create an adaptive learning experience for employees.

 

Adaptive learning: Leveling up the playing field for organizations’ corporate training

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According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD), organizations that focus on comprehensive training programs have a 218% higher income per employee than those who don’t offer formalized training. At the same time, these organizations enjoy a 24% higher profit margin than those who invest less in training (Source).

Here are ways in which adaptive learning can take corporate training in organizations a notch higher.

  • Improved time efficiency

A personalized adaptive approach can slash the amount of time it takes for an individual learner to achieve mastery as compared to many other learning approaches. It eliminates the need for instructors to reteach what people already know. The focus of this approach is more on where they need to become skilled. Improving time efficiency in corporate training is extremely crucial for employees in various fields such as retail, call centers, or healthcare, the sectors where time off-the-floor is a critical component.

  • One-on-one approach

The best part about adaptive learning is its ability to provide focused attention to an individual learner. Existing eLearning methods fall short while providing personalized feedback. On the flipside, adaptive learning technology utilizes algorithms to adjust itself to the specific needs of learners by monitoring tasks and responses. This, in turn, replicates the benefits of one-to-one teaching-- something that holds utmost importance in today’s corporate world.

  • Quick collection of learner data

Adaptive learning follows a question-based approach to teaching and learning, evaluating what the learners already know and where they are lagging. This results in a huge volume of very specific learners’ data, which enables organizations to analyze the performance of groups as a whole. Along with competence, this approach also boosts confidence as learners become surer of their knowledge of different concepts.

  • Individualized learning paths

Adaptive learning platforms gather data as the learners excel through the course. Organizations can leverage this data to personalize goals and learner content, as well as carve an effective learning path for each learner. The data stored also helps to regulate the training, so they meet the needs of learners. It is perfectly suitable for heterogeneous groups, whether they are beginners, intermediate, or advanced in their proficiency.

  • Keeping pace with information changes

Information, especially in the digital age, is constantly evolving, and traditional learning approaches fail to keep pace with such dynamism. In an adaptive environment, the latest material and track accurately what learners could grasp. The system can distinguish between materials a learner has already mastered and new areas to be covered. It allows organizations to create content, prioritize the release of crucial subjects, and then to add new content to the system.

 

Making adaptive learning work for organizations

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The adoption of adaptive learning as a technology-driven and mastery-based approach requires organizations to keep the following three aspects to keep in mind:

  • Science of learning: Organizations can leverage a variety of science-backed learning techniques that can boost performance, increase retention, support quick upskilling, and comprehensively engage learners. A few examples of these include neuroscience, spaced repetition, metacognition, game design aspects, and conscious practice. Doing so enables learners within organizations to better understand their strongest and weakest abilities.
  • Business (Performance) Impact: Training can be costly, but perceptive organizations know that it can dramatically increase performance and business impact. They must understand that all employees are not the same in terms of knowledge or skill, which is why not all of them are going to need the same content. They need to harness speed to mastery to create a strong business foothold on multiple levels.
  • Learner Personalization: Learners hail from various backgrounds, and consume information at their own pace. Organizations must focus on learner personalization and leverage multifaceted artificial intelligence algorithms to estimate results and providing learning solutions-- all in real-time. Personalization ensures that the right people get the right training and that the right person is holding the right role and at the right period.

From the viewpoint of various stakeholders, such as trainers, managers, facilitators, and C-suite leaders, adopting adaptive learning becomes possible with KPI-based, real-time analytics. This precisely highlights where learners are facing the most difficulty. When instructional designers and course developers can identify learner challenges in real time, they can rapidly customize the course to suit their learning needs.

 

Why adaptive learning should be the foundation of L&D strategies?

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Adaptive learning has taken center stage in learning and development programs of organizations as employers seek efficient and cost-effective ways to train workers who require upskilling. Here are a few reasons why adaptive learning holds so much importance:

  • Creating personalized learning experiences

Adaptive learning can smartly integrate individual learners, managers and L&D using actions like personalized journeys, smart nudges, and 360-degree feedback etc. For individuals, an adaptive learning platform caters to their measured style and pace, and for managers, the learning process can be aligned with business objectives to ensure relevant upskilling. For an organization’s L&D, adaptive learning is a progressive way to get necessary actionable insights into areas such as the Individual Development Plan (IDP) and succession planning, etc.

  • Boosts employee confidence

Adaptive Learning is designed for intelligent interactions with the individual and to create an engaging and motivating learning ecosystem. If an individual is not able to grasp certain concepts, adaptive learning systems can introduce alternative ways to fill the knowledge gap-- something that’s of utmost importance in improving employee agility and performance. By adopting an adaptive learning model, organizations can significantly reduce human perception biases while assessing capabilities of employees and keep their motivation and confidence at the peak always.

  • Saves time and money

Adaptive learning involves custom-built algorithms that deliver learning at scale by creating a virtual one-to-one model emphasizing personalization and localization. In most organizations, there is a certain learning path for a certain role, navigating which can consume time and resources. However, adaptive learning content like webcasts, VR modules, gamification, etc. are designed to work specifically around the learner, allowing them to apply their training on the job. It enables learning organizations to save time and money by doing away with uninteresting and expensive training sessions, as well as give employees ample scope to scale affordably and rapidly.

 

Adaptive learning is here to stay, and it’s all poised to make a huge difference in organizations. For greater efficiency and effectiveness in talent development, organizations need to make this learning model the foundation of their L&D strategies. Even if it isn’t ready for enterprise-wide deployment just yet, they should evaluate its numerous benefits now and prepare for the future. It’s truly an excellent method of infusing consumer-grade adaptability in the workplace and making learning a more enriching experience for everyone in the organization.

 

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