What is adaptive learning and how can it enhance my learning and development strategy?

What is adaptive learning and how can it enhance my learning and development strategy?

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The learning and development sector is currently undergoing a phase of rapid expansion and transformation. The trials posed by the pandemic, such as the rise of remote working and the widening skills gap, have been a catalyst for change. In fact, research from Fosway Group found that 71% of CEO’s expect talent shortages to continue across entire workforces as well as specific roles.

In response to this, many learning and development teams have gone back to the drawing board when it comes to their strategies, which in turn has revealed various areas in need of improvement for many organisations. This has also highlighted both new and old concepts that may have been previously overlooked. Among the emerging themes garnering significant attention is adaptive learning.


What is adaptive learning?

Adaptive learning is a concept based around personalised learning that has been gaining traction in recent years, with trend data on global search showing that ‘adaptive learning’ has doubled in average searches per week since 2018. Adaptive learning is on the up, as evidenced by The Global Adaptive Learning market it is expected to reach an estimated value of $7,278,202 by 2027, which is a projected growth rate of 23.85% from it’s 2021 value.

The objective of this model is to enhance the learner’s experience. It does this by identifying their strengths and addressing any gaps in knowledge, skills, or behaviours. This drives efficiency because the learning path is customised to the individual learner’s unique needs.

Often, adaptive learning goes hand-in-hand with learning technology, such as learning management systems and digital adoption platforms, which can enable trainers, and other learning and development professionals, to harness adaptive teaching techniques. However, adaptive learning does not rely solely on learning tech.

Adaptive learning is a powerful tool for addressing the limitations of traditional classroom training, which often employs a one-size-fits-all approach and can be challenging to tailor to specific needs, particularly with limited time and resources. In contrast, adaptive learning programmes often result in better outcomes and more efficient use of resources.


What are the benefits of adaptive learning?

The key benefits of adaptive learning are:

  • Personalisation of learning
  • More efficient use of resources
  • Better retention and engagement
  • Improved learning outcomes

Let’s take a look at each of these in more detail:


Personalisation of learning

Adaptive learning centers around tailoring training programmes to the needs of individual learners. Effective adaptive learning and teaching takes into account the learners existing knowledge, learning style, and goals, while also considering adjusting difficulty levels to challenge learners appropriately. This is a great way to ensure they don’t lose focus or become overwhelmed by the material. Personalisation of learning helps learners to progress through course materials at their own pace, in a way that is best for them.


More efficient use of resource

Implementing adaptive learning into your strategy might seem like it will cost more money, but this isn’t necessarily true. With more organisations looking to invest in learning and development initiatives that will help solve talent and skills shortages, there might be scope for an adaptive learning programme that can deliver the personalised skills training that your organisation needs to be successful.

In fact, due to ongoing talent shortages, almost 60% of CEOs say they are investing in upskilling their employees. Adaptive learning can be leveraged to make the most out of this resource.


Better retention and engagement

Adaptive learning keeps employees engaged throughout the training process because it is tailored to them, and therefore benefits them more than a one-size-fits-all approach. This is achieved by offering engaging and even interactive content, personalised assessments and feedback. By making training more engaging and challenging, individuals are more likely to remember what they have learned and apply it in their work.

A 2021 adaptive learning study published in the International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education found that using an adaptive model can “encourage, motivate, engage and activate… active learning, as well as facilitate their knowledge… rather than simply taking in information passively.” This is vital when carrying out any kind of training or development exercise. The study also found that the adaptive learning approach has the ability to improve an individual’s retention of course content, such as skill specific learning, beyond what they can learn in a conventional setting, because the adaptive model allows them to learn individually.

When learning can be retained and applied at work, it is a great boost for ROI because it proves the efficiency of personalised learning over standardised group learning whereby individuals forget what they have learned before they can apply it.


Improved learning outcomes

The primary goal of adaptive learning is to improve learning outcomes. When you customise the training experience and adapt to the needs of each learner; identifying areas where learners are struggling, and adjusting training accordingly, learners can achieve their learning objectives more quickly and effectively. Additionally, adaptive learning technologies have the ability to add gamification elements, such as badges and points, which increase motivation and participation.


What are the challenges of adaptive learning?

The biggest challenge people face when adopting an adaptive learning approach is implementation. Organisational investments in learning technology are on the rise, and adoption of digital learning has advanced dramatically, as learning teams expanded their use of technology to support individuals. In the last 4 years alone, Fosway Group report that there was a 21% increase in adoption of multichannel delivery to support learning.

This can be a challenge at first for many learning and development departments who may have limited resource to develop further content, or set up existing content in an LMS, for example.


How can Adaptive Learning Enhance Learning in the Flow of Work?

Learning in the flow of work is particularly important in today’s fast-paced business environment. With the economic challenges mentioned above, learning and development departments are under more pressure to keep ahead of working patterns, whether remote, hybrid or in the office, by being innovative and finding new ways to increase productivity.

Learning in the flow of work enables the seamless delivery of training to employees as they are carrying out their tasks. Adaptive learning enables learning in the flow of work by making it possible for employees to acquire new skills and knowledge that are specifically relevant to them and the tasks they are carrying out, without having to take time away from their work to learn.

Adaptive learning can also inspire more flexible learning in the flow of work training and content. Traditional training programmes are often inflexible, aimed at large groups instead of individuals, and can take employees away from their work for extended periods of time. Adaptive learning, on the other hand, can inspire personalised learning in the flow of work with more relevant goalposts for individuals to work to, enabling better retention and expedited learning.

Adaptive learning is a great way to enhance learning in the flow of work initiatives, as it helps employees to develop their skills quickly and efficiently.


How can I incorporate adaptive learning in my learning and development strategy?

Think adaptive learning is a good fit for your organisation? Here are some ways that you can incorporate adaptive learning into your company’s learning and development strategy:


Identify key learning objectives and goals of your company

It is important to understand what the company wants to achieve with its learning and development programs before considering any adaptive learning solutions. For example, if your organisation wants to implement a learning strategy whereby training is standardised and universal for all employees, adaptive learning won’t fit that model.


Assess the skill levels of your employees

Adaptive learning works best when it can tailor content to each employee’s individual needs. To achieve this, you will need to assess employees’ current skills and knowledge. There are lots of ways to do this, from open-discussions, one-to-one meetings, self-evaluation surveys, and even building out quizzes in your LMS. Find a way to assess your teams that is right for your organisation, and keep the goals of the training in mind. For example, if the goal is for that employee to develop a certain skill, you might want to assess them based on their current skill-level as well as trying to ascertain what the knowledge gaps are that stand in between their current level and the goal.


Use digital learning platforms

If available to you, a great way to incorporate adaptive learning into your company’s learning and development strategy is to leverage your learning platforms, or invest in learning management systems.


Provide tailored learning content

Once you have assessed the skill levels of your employees, you can start tailoring learning content to their individual needs. Start by identifying knowledge gaps and providing targeted content to fill those gaps.


Monitor progress and adjust accordingly

Adaptive learning is all about adjusting to each employee’s progress. To make sure the programme is effective, you need to track employee progress regularly and make adjustments as needed.


Encourage self-directed learning

Last but not least, encourage employees to take responsibility for their own learning and development by providing them with opportunities to pursue their interests and passions within the context of the learning programme. This will help to create a more engaged workforce that are motivated to upskill themselves.

Adaptive learning is an exciting and innovative approach to learning and development that has the potential to revolutionise the way we think about training. By using technology to personalise the learning experience for each employee, adaptive learning can improve engagement, retention, and success in the workplace.

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