When introducing new learning products to today’s market, personalization is key to success. Yet deciding the level of personalization required for a successful learning environment can be a daunting task for digital curriculum creators when the term itself embodies varying degrees of opportunities and learning experiences. Industry-wide, the term is viewed in many different ways. Differentiated, adaptive, and competency-based learning all represent different angles of personalization, guiding the learner through various levels of interaction.
A recent study by the U.S. Department of Education defines “personalization” as “instruction that is paced to learning needs, tailored to learning preferences, and tailored to the specific interests of different learners. In an environment that is fully personalized, the learning objectives and content as well as the method and pace may all vary.”
No doubt there are many options for learners to engage with curriculum in today’s world. So the challenge for the education industry comes down to this: How do we build personalized learning experiences in a more meaningful way?
Digital content creators continue to feel the pressure to get products to market quickly and control costs while keeping learning design front and center of their process. In the pursuit of differentiation and ensuring the longevity and protection of their intellectual property, they often take on the enormous task of developing their own platforms and portals internally. As a result, we often see millions of dollars and time invested into building unique products that in truth run on very similar back-end technology.
And the effort does not stop there. More often than not, each unique platform requires a custom workflow to manage the development and distribution of its curriculum—a workflow that typically does not expand outside of its native platform—making content nontransferable to other learning environments.
As an industry, we continue to recreate the wheel zeroing in on innovations in platform engineering rather than centralizing our focus on creating and delivering high-quality personalized learning experiences that are rooted in well thought-out curricular planning.
By leveraging off-the-shelf frameworks, digital curriculum creators can accelerate platform development while incorporating customizations and technology components such as smarter content workflows and insightful data dashboards to better guide both learners and teachers. This not only allows them to deliver new products faster and more affordably, it also frees them up to do what they do best: design and deliver a learning experience focused on innovative curriculum and learning pathways that drive student outcomes and success.
Starting with a baseline framework, digital learning companies can begin shaping a personalized learning experience around their curriculum, and identifying and incorporating technology components and authoring workflows that enrich both the learning process as well as the development cycle.
There are several technology components to consider. Advanced curricular authoring workflows, for instance, are essential to building and tagging content for scalability and use in multiple products as well as enabling content enrichment. This requires a change in the way content is viewed, shifting the focus to authoring within a knowledge ontology and ensuring a clear understanding of the learning design. This enables content to have life in more than one product. The role of standards becomes much more critical to ensure content interoperability.
Content tagging, on the other hand, is the very lifeblood of a personalized learning system. Without a well-defined content logic model and a flexible tagging model, curriculum cannot be served up when and where it is needed, therefore compromising the platform’s ability to tailor to each student’s individual learning needs.
At the same time, implementing robust mechanisms to capture, track and analyze—learning analytics, student analytics, and content analytics—is key to helping improve student performance and outcomes. It also provides insight into content performance gaps.
Based on LearningMate’s experience partnering with digital curriculum creators to develop various personalized learning technologies, we believe that attempts to drive curricular innovation by engineering software is significantly riskier than similar efforts that are focused on curriculum design. New technology and homegrown product specific authoring workflows rarely create the kind of sustained, breakaway differentiation that innovative instructional design does.
By collaborating with specialized technology partners, digital curriculum providers will realize their personalized learning visions, increase their speed to market and save money by leveraging technology accelerators. They will also deliver best-of-breed products that thrive on curricular innovations, thus making a real impact on teachers and learners.