What do you see when you’re teaching? Some students follow you with interest, engage in discussions, and are eager to learn more. Others are passive listeners and don’t seem to be fully engaged. And some look like they’re just waiting for class time to end.
What if there is a way to give each one of these students something tailored to their needs to boost their learning engagement? Modern edtech such as an intelligent learning platform (ILP) can help you achieve this by creating a personalized learning environment.
Personalized learning is currently emerging as one of the biggest trends in education. Learn what it means, what benefits it brings, and what teachers need to create a personalized learning environment for students.
What is personalized learning?
If you’re looking for a definition of personalized learning in the Glossary of Educational Reform, you’ll learn that:
Personalized learning means addressing the distinct learning needs of each student with the help of different instructional approaches, educational programs, and learning strategies and experiences.
Simply put, personalized learning means adapting the learning experience to each student’s individual needs, skills, and goals. It sounds improbable since there is only one teacher in the classroom and many students with different abilities, interests, etc.
So, how can educational institutions offer a personalized learning environment for students without having to divide them into smaller groups based on their interests and level and get a separate teacher for each group? With the help of edtech, students to learn at their own pace and focus on their specific goals.
Using edtech to personalize education for students is already something that many educators do by incorporating technology in teaching activities, such as:
- Learning management systems (LMSs)
- Video conferencing tools
- Video content and digital presentations
- Online games and assessments
- Digital field trips
Moreover, even before the pandemic, educational institutions were eager to adopt edtech. According to a 2018 Education Week Research Center survey centered on U.S. school principals, 97% of respondents said that their school was already using some form of edtech to personalize learning.
This is only the beginning of what can be a major change in education, thanks to the huge potential of edtech. While technology doesn’t aim to substitute teachers, it can facilitate their work and ensure that each student gets access to customized educational content and assessment methods to provide the best possible learning outcomes.
What are the benefits of creating a personalized learning environment?
Instead of a one-size-fits-all curriculum, a personalized learning environment emphasizes:
- Each student’s skills and interests
- Students’ individual learning goals
- Flexible teaching strategies and adaptive learning
- Edtech for content and evaluation
Personalized learning puts students at the center of the educational experience. They take ownership of their own learning and make decisions related to their goals. Among other things, this helps build sef-reliance, confidence and academic achievement.
Personalized learning makes students more aware of their learning needs, abilities and helps them achieve their long-term goals. Thus, they can take early steps toward their future career by focusing on their strong points and passions.
Creating a personalized learning environment with an intelligent learning platform
An ILP has various features that promote a personalized learning experience for all students. Here are the main ILP tools teachers can rely on to personalize learning in and beyond the classroom:
1. Competency-based learning
Competency-based learning opens the door to a new, student-focused learning approach.
It is a structured and gradual approach that ensures each student progresses through the curriculum at their own pace. ILPs offer different features that allow teachers to put competency-based learning concepts into practice.
An ILP can understand learners’ strong and weak points. It will not only know a particular student is good at French grammar, for example. It will understand that the student excels at syntax while they still need a bit of extra help with the tenses.
Based on the competencies teachers want to teach or assess, the system enables them to tag the course content accordingly. Each module and assessment can have associated competencies. For example, a French grammar course centered on future tenses can have the following competencies:
- Recognize to form of future tenses in French
- Know the usage differences between the tenses
- Apply the future tense rules while conjugating verbs
Once a student completes the class and its assessments, which are centered on these competencies, they acquire the necessary skills associated with the course’s competencies. So, the ILP can prompt them to the next level and suggest or give instant access to more advanced courses, such as the Conditionals in French or a French Tenses Overview module.
Competency-based learning focuses on each student’s skills rather than the time they spend logged into the learning platform or in the classroom. Teachers can create as many individual competencies in the ILP as they want to.
After tagging their content with the competencies, they will see how well their classes cover the necessary skills. The system displays user-friendly competency-related graphics. So, if a class seems to lack the competency it should teach, teachers can enhance it.
The ILP can also automatically map a person’s strengths and weaknesses without teachers’ intervention with automated assessments such as quizzes and other digital assignments that can help detect knowledge gaps and determine each student’s level.
2. Personalized learning recommendations
An ILP mainly aims to build a personalized learning environment for each student by offering tailored content recommendations. This strategy has been deployed for years in other fields technology revolutionized, such as retail. Now, thanks to powerful and accurate algorithms, personalized recommendations are also available in the educational sphere.
The more a student interacts with the system, the ILP gradually understands things about them and provides more appropriate suggestions. ILPs also tailor their content recommendations based on learners’ goals. For example, a student who is passionate about English literature and whose goal is to master modernism in literature can receive a variety of resource recommendations such as:
- The school or university’s internal literature courses
- E-books, studies, and essays
- Literature-related articles
- Links to videos, movies, documentaries
These will be adapted to the student’s level and specific literature interests, in this case, twentieth-century literature. This multitude of materials ensures that students access more information and more content formats. While some learners may prefer reading articles, others need more interactive course formats such as video and audio courses or gamification to feel engaged.
Therefore, students also get to choose the type of content they want to use for studying. Moreover, they are free to turn down specific content recommendations and only use those that align with their preferences. Plus, they can rate these recommendations to help their colleagues and teachers realize how relevant they are.
3. Learning goals and personalized paths
A personalized learning environment also involves creating custom learning paths for students. These learning paths are tailored to each individual’s skills and goals. Learning paths enable students to acquire skills easier by providing a firm and tailor-made plan for each individual.
These paths are sequences of educational content and assessments students must go through to learn new topics and acquire new skills. They comprise various educational resources. An ILP helps build flexible personalized learning paths and allows both students and teachers to intervene in their creation by adding different goals or resources.
A learning path can include the in-house courses the educational institution provides, as well as external resources, such as videos or courses from third parties (e.g. Udemy), and all sorts of assessments (quizzes, essays, etc). Once students start walking on their learning path, they will gradually progress by completing different classes, submitting assignments, and acquiring badges and certificates for their effort.
Learning paths make it easier for teachers to create a personalized learning environment for students. Each student can access a personalized path based on their abilities and goals so they can master the necessary concepts more easily.
4. Learning analytics
Besides personalized learning recommendations, ILPs also provide in-depth learning analytics and reports. These show the overall level of mastery students in a class reached to each student’s individual goals and how well they’ve covered them.
Learning analytics can provide teachers with an accurate overview of how well their students progress on their learning paths. They also offer at-a-glance information about course attendance, course completion rates, and grades.
ILPs display learning data to ease teachers’ and school administrators’ work. Reports help educational institutions make sure that their efforts to personalize learning bring the expected results.
Moreover, with the level of in-depth ILP analytics now provides, it’s also possible to detect at-risk learners. These are slower learners who are lagging behind their educational goals or those who have attendance issues. The system can spot and signal these users so that teachers can close knowledge gaps effectively and prevent more serious problems such as school dropout.
Creating a personalized learning environment for students is easier by using an intelligent learning platform. These systems incorporate all the necessary tools that enable teachers to provide content suited to each student’s needs and preferences. They include competency-based learning, personalized recommendations, learning goals, paths and analytics. Personalizing learning increases student engagement, empowers them to make their own learning-related decisions, and puts them on the right path for their future careers.
If you’re interested in learning more, check out NEO, an intelligent learning platform for schools and universities.
Ioana Solea is a passionate blogger and online foreign language teacher. She loves all things edtech and she believes that it’s the future of teaching. She writes about various topics, from online teaching tools to pedagogical strategies.