Personalized Learning Explained…Really!!!

Personalized learning is a hot topic these days. Almost everyone in the education industry is talking about how important it is to educate with personalized learning in mind. Yet is personalized learning the same for learners of an early age K-12 when compared to College and post-graduate students? Is it designed to deliver the same topic to the classroom yet different methods per learner according to her/his needs or learning style? Or is it different topics to the same classroom according to each student’s interests? What is basic knowledge that we need all learners to have regardless their interests and direction? Should this basic knowledge also be delivered in a personalized approach?

I read a lot of journals and blogs covering the personalized learning topic yet it seems that most of them make the assumption that learners know exactly what they want to learn and learners know what skills are required by the market today or in the near future. For example, a suggestion made by Nazeema Alli, Rahim Rajan and Greg Ratliff in a recent blog titled: “How Personalized Learning Unlocks Student Success” suggests the below points to build personalized learning activities:

  • Adapting the scope of instruction based on assessments of students’ existing knowledge, skills, and gaps;
  • Using personalized hints or prompts that support students during learning activities or assessment items;
  • Prompting learners to generate explanations of how they have approached an activity (e.g., “show work”);
  • Employing algorithms that adapt the presentation of content based on relevance to learners’ goals; and
  • Adapting the complexity or presentation of content based on a student’s learning.

What happens if the learner comes for a none personalized learning environment and her/his existing knowledge is not the knowledge she/he chose to have? Should we still build on that knowledge? How can personalized learning assessment work in project-based learning when teams are involved? Can project-based learning also include personalized learning? Again if the learner is not mature enough to assign goals to herself/himself what should an educator do? Should the content complexity be adapted in a systemized manner or should the learner define the level of deep-learning “complexity” by an exploration approach that may guide to new fields of learning not visible to both the educator or learner? This also gets us to the question of who designs the adaptiveness of the personalized learning activity and how instructional design is maintained throughout the process? How is the process improved over time?

In conclusion personalized learning needs not to be the recipe for better education and learning, yet it is one of the ingredients in a recipe prepared by excellent educators. Learners need proper orientation about the environment they live in at an early age in order to make the right choices “goals” in the path of learning they wish to pursue. I am not sure why we do not educate learners at an early age about; finance & economics, politics, technology, learning and the history of different domains (such as the history of math or physics). This way learners will understand their own brain and make meaningful innovations that benefit the society. They also will be inspired by the history and understand what it takes to succeed. We need to teach the context and then teach in context.

Nidal has over 10 years of experience in education technologies, and worked on producing elearning hardware and software that is currently selling In 40 countries.

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