Subjects often only offer a single pathway towards completion and don’t provide students with opportunities to individualise the learning process. In many cases students are unable to bring their own perspectives and experiences to the fore and this can result in a depersonalised learning experience that leads to disengagement (Conole, 2010). Providing students with opportunities to customise their experience through alternative ways of navigating the subject, engaging with the materials and delivering assessment items allows them to create their own learning pathway. This can be achieved without huge changes to the learning design, but through small increments like being less prescriptive in certain areas and providing students with more options in other areas. Alternatively, flexible and adaptive course designs can allow students to proceed at their own pace through differentiated or individualised pathways based on their demonstration of knowledge and competency.
The goal of individualised learning is to improve students’ learning by ensuring they ‘receive the particular kinds of learning experiences and support they need, when they need those resources, and in a form well suited to each learner’ (EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, 2015).
While there is as yet little research to show the educational justification for personalised learning approaches, there is general acknowledgement that a choice-rich learning environment at least allows students to:
- develop a deeper level of engagement with subject content;
- develop a greater sense of ownership of their learning;
- pursue areas that are relevant to their learning aspirations and the knowledge they already have.
Digital technologies foster a choice-adaptive learning environment that provides a means of integrated autonomous learning and assessment. Additionally, publishers and content providers are adding personalised learning tools and affordances to their existing systems to strengthen learner engagement.
EMT409 Adult Learning and Teaching Technology
The nature and content of this subject is quite fluid, so in an effort to keep abreast of new technologies and ensure students were receiving choice in their study, the final topic gives students a choice in what they learn about and how they choose the learn about it.
The final topic in the subject provides basic information on six new and emerging technologies, and technology issues. Students are required to select two of these technologies to research in more detail and add to their blog for the final assessment. Topics include: 3D and 4D printing; Augmented/Virtual Reality; Ethics, privacy and cyber theft; Inclusivity and ESL. This choice over topics allows students to identify issues relevant to their vocation/interests, and make sound connection between the theory and practice in this subject.
Personalised learning journeys can be provided through flexible or adaptive lessons and resources that provide individualised pathways through content based on student knowledge, behaviours and special needs. These learning pathways often use adaptive learning technology are often used to create these kinds of learning pathways. Alternatively, flexible and adaptive course designs that use conditional release of content material can allow students to proceed at their own pace through differentiated or individualised pathways based on their demonstration of knowledge and competency.
How to personalise learning:
- An individualised learning approach that blends the elements of self-paced exploration of learning content, conditional release of material, interactive simulations, peer tutoring and other approaches to create a more personalised learning experience.
- Organising learning materials into modular units, so students are automatically paced through their learning experience, only progressing once true understanding has been demonstrated.
- Using adaptive technologies to individualise and differentiate student learning, for example Smart Sparrow or Realizeit, is a move towards a more personalised approach to teaching and learning that uses data to measure student engagement, persistence and outcomes. Such adaptive learning platforms can be used to provide a nonlinear approach to learning, enrichment and remediation. Adaptive lessons are able to adjust to a learner’s interactions and demonstrated performance level, where immediate formative feedback loops provide students with individual learning pathways.
- E-portfolios are often used to support personalised learning for students. E-portfolios provide an individualised learning space that can include just one subject, for example, work placement, but might span a student’s entire course experience while at the institution.
Technology-related means for individualising the learning process are provided through:
- Within Interact2 - Interact2/Blackboard Learn Adaptive Release rules that are based upon a number of selection criteria, such as date, Grade Centre grade, task completion.
- Smart Sparrow - Smart Sparrow is an adaptive learning technology that provides the tools to create, deploy, share and analyse lessons that are interactive and adaptive. Smart Sparrow can capture, measure and report nuanced details about student learning, providing individualised feedback to students that lets them know where their strengths and weaknesses lie. This means that teaching staff have the ability to give each student a more personalised learning experience by providing real-time feedback and adaptive pathways that, for example, may specifically target misconceptions. You can sign up for a free Smart Sparrow account and to commence the development process for a Smart Sparrow adaptive lesson, use the DSL Service Request System (SRS).
- Realizeit - A cloud-based platform providing adaptive content authoring to create interactive online tutorials and lessons that are responsive to a student’s achievement. Realizit uses real-time analytics to capture and report on analytics relating to accesses, attempts, activity, progress, duration and achievement. This enables you to see things like who has and hasn’t commenced specific lessons/tutorials, how students are progressing through those lessons, if/where students are “getting stuck” and how they are performing on tests/quizzes. To commence the development process for a Realizeit adaptive lesson, use the DSL Service Request System (SRS).
- Pearson Education MyLab - A collection of online texts accompanied by adaptive components of homework, tutorial and assessment products, designed with the purpose of providing personalisation of learning experiences and improving the results of students.
Conole, G. (2010). Personalisation through technology-enhanced learning. In J. O’Donaghue (Ed.), Technology supported environment for personalized learning: Methods and Case Studies. Hershey, PA: Information Science Publishing.
Derradji, S. (2015). Harnessing the power of personalised education to promote lifelong learning in accounting. Smart Sparrow Showcase. Retirieved from https://www.smartsparrow.com/2015/05/08/harnessing-personalized-learning/
EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, (2015). 7 things you should know about individualised learning. Retrieved from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eli7124.pdf
Feldstein, M. & Hill, P. (2016, March 7). Personalized learning: What it really is and why it really matters. Educause Review, March-April 2016. Retrieved from http://er.educause.edu/~/media/files/articles/2016/3/erm1622.pdf
Fisher, L. S., Gardner, J. G., Brinthaupt, T. M., & Raffo, D. M. (2014). Conditional release of course materials: Assessing best practice recommendations. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 10(2), 228‐239. Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/vol10no2/fisher_0614.pdf
Gardner, J. G., Fisher, L. S., Raffo, D. M., & Brinthaupt, T. M. (2011). Best practices for using conditional release in online classes. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 8(10), 3-16. Retrieved from http://www.itdl.org/Journal/Oct_11/Oct_11.pdf#page=7
Irwin, B., Hepplestone, S., Holden, G., Parkin, H. J., & Thorpe, L. (2013). Engaging students with feedback through adaptive release. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 50(1), 51-61. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14703297.2012.748333
Tuckman, B. W. (2007). The effect of motivational scaffolding on procrastinators’ distance learning outcomes. Computers & Education, 49(2), 414-422. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2005.10.002