Personalized Learning Can Revolutionize Corporate EducationDidina Gonzalez | Associate Director of Learning Innovation and Efficiency, FT | IE Corporate Learning Alliance
Employer investment in corporate education is skyrocketing as corporations are recognizing the importance of having employees on the cutting-edge of innovation and change. In fact, many employers think their employees need constant education and training just to keep up with the changes happening in their industry. Of course, as all higher education professionals know, students learn at different rates and in different ways. In this interview, Didina Gonzalez discusses the capacity for personalized learning to revolutionize the corporate education space and shares her thoughts on the major roadblocks to its wider adoption.
The EvoLLLution (Evo): What do personalization and customization look like in today’s online courses?
Didina Gonzalez (DG): For more than a century, educators have striven to customize education to the learner, but it is only today that the dream is starting to be a reality. There are two important factors contributing to this: firstly, the high-speed evolution of the learning technologies and, secondly, the growth of the quality and quantity of online education offers.
The use of artificial intelligence machines, for instance, has emerged during recent years as a powerful instrument for learning personalization and the improved measurement of learner results. By tracking the learning progress of participants, programs can be customized with specific content, tools and support in accordance with the student/employees’ performance, learning style or competency framework defined by the organization.
Blended learning, MOOCs, connected courses, virtual communities of practice and communities of inquiry all offer a wide spectrum of online learning opportunities to help build bespoke learning paths with multiple strategies to meet varied learning needs.
In the world of executive education, the personalization of learning is still not widespread. Online training has enabled the industry to take a large step forward by enabling ubiquitous service and the global extension of community learning, for instance, developing study groups with colleagues in other parts of the world. Some, like us at the Financial Times and IE Business School’s Corporate Learning Alliance (FT|IE CLA), are taking the shift towards personalized learning one step further by offering blended, bespoke service, which combines the benefits of online learning (such as lower cost and anywhere learning) with the ever important, face-to-face offering. Programs personalized to both the participant and their company are highly valued by employees, and as consequence, the level of commitment and the effectiveness of learning increase significantly.
Evo: What do you hope personalization in online business education courses will look like in 20 years?
DG: Adaptive learning will actively expand, and students, teachers, CLO’s and employees will benefit from these trends.
People learn in many places, doing many things and exchanging many experiences. Over the next 20 years as Big Data management and analytics tools become more sophisticated, learners’ activity will be made tangible within their social context. This will be especially relevant for corporate training managers, as it will allow them to optimize training investment through the assessment of performance and productivity data.
Linked to these tools, the spectrum of evaluation and feedback systems will be extremely varied. They will gather reliable evidence on the level of learning achieved, but more importantly, enable understanding of how achieved learning is applied. Interactive and participatory assessment including social software, 3D computer simulators, serious games, virtual real-world scenarios, and biometrics from in-site activities will be usual assessment tools in the same way quizzes and exams are currently being used.
On the other hand, traditional credentials valued will diversify, moving beyond the college degree as employers will also accept certificates for personalized learning paths focused on competencies and expertise more than on knowledge silos.
Evo: Why is personalization valuable in the online learning space?
DG: There is no one learning environment that fits every student perfectly. In addition, most educational providers are focused on use and evaluation of knowledge, not on the generation of it. This is why people want the flexibility and the virtual collaboration inherent in online methodology.
Online learning allows learners to direct their own learning, connecting content to interests and challenges to inspiring experts and peers, and learning outcomes to the higher order skills needed in the real business world.
Online learners assume an active role in their learning process similar to the active role that they are playing in their fully connected everyday lives. So they highly appreciate the opportunity that learning technology offers to express their creativity, to generate new ideas and to develop a critical thinking into an enriched and open learning ecosystem.
The FT|IE CLA has made significant strides to ensure value in personalized learning. We ensure each of our clients and customers have a bespoke offer and are able to take an active role in their own learning process.
Evo: What are the most significant roadblocks standing in the way to higher levels of personalization in online courses?
DG: One of the most important, yet most difficult, things to achieve is building a model where personalized learning paths will be recognised with the same kind of certification structure as online programs are by government agencies. This is neither easy nor cheap. Institutions will first have to be willing to offer a wide range of online opportunities, with a guaranteed quality standard. Then, they should assume that much of the learning that occurs online could not take place in a face-to-face delivery model as new forms of evaluation will have to be considered. And third, they should invest a big deal on technology to support this new educational framework.
Additionally, innovation in technological solution plays a fundamental role in the progress of a personalized learning model. Nowadays, most analytics tools can manage data related to learners’ activities in a specific course, but they would still not be able to deal with contributions that include abstract thinking, concepts generation or any other creative expression.
These are the challenging transformation that all the stakeholders involved in the educational sector will face in the following years.
This interview has been edited for length.