Personalised Training. For real.

The era of training restricted to a classroom setting is now on its way out. Let’s be clear: it’s not that classroom learning is no longer useful. Far from it. But it should no longer be considered THE ONE AND ONLY setting for training. It is just one of the many ways people can learn what is meaningful to their professional and personal development in the landscape of personalised training.

What people want today is training that is immediately useful, has a specific focus and is compatible with the everyday pace of life. They want training that suits their individual needs, as delivered by the methodology used in adaptive learning.

Digital technology allows this to happen very precisely and efficiently. We can calibrate the level of detail of content, in line with the specific roles and duties of individual learners. In fact, some areas require someone in the company to have in-depth, specialist knowledge. Others require only a sprinkling of knowledge, just enough to establish whether a problem exists and who to turn to if it does.

It would be a waste of time, money and motivation to require people to study things that only experts will ever use on the job.

Personalising content for actual practical application by specific functions and roles is one of the innovative benefits of digital adaptive learning.

What’s more, learners are able to learn when it suits them, devoting time and energy only to the content they need, thanks to the software’s ability to calibrate how the material is presented to them.

Training programmes with these criteria involve some initial work to organise the content. Delivery, on the other hand, takes less effort, occurring over a period of time as and when needed by learners. The system provides reports so activities can be monitored in real time.

The principles and theory behind adaptive learning are not entirely new. What is new is the fact that digitalisation now enables full and effective implementation of those principles. Now that the technology exists, it is up to humans to develop the best methods and processes to take advantage of this valuable new opportunity for personalised training. And that is precisely what we mean at APPrendere when we say we transform how learning is provided within organisations.

Adaptive Learning

Adaptive learning: how it works, and why

I don’t have time. I’ve always got a lot of work to do”. That’s one of the most common objections people – at all levels in a company – make when invited to take part in a training course. Apart from thinking they don’t have enough time, another factor preventing them benefiting from training activities is a lack of mental space, i.e. a lack of attention and focus and insufficient motivation.

This is often compounded by boredom, for instance because they have already encountered some, or even most, of the content on previous courses or directly on the job. 

While we might all agree in theory that increasing knowledge and skills is an essential aspect of professional life – especially in this knowledge economy – in practice, the daily pressures of problems to solve and goals to achieve almost always have a bigger pull.

It’s not so much what training provides as it is about how to ensure that it is put into practice.

Behind the “how” are (at least) two key factors: how adults learn and how best to use digital technology.

It may come as no surprise that these are also the focuses of APPrendere. 

The unique characteristics of digital technology now make it possible to capitalise on what we already know about the way people learn. Adaptive learning software (like these) delivers the content that best suits an individual’s knowledge, without boring them with things they already know or frustrating them with information that is too advanced for them.

But there’s more. Adaptive learning programmes are organised to reinforce what someone has already learned using specific mechanisms such as interleaving and the spacing effect, i.e. alternating content at optimal intervals to enhance memorisation and internalisation.

But what do we do about the fact that “there’s not enough time”? Enter microlearning. The content is packaged into short, targeted “bitesize units” that take 2 or 3 minutes to digest. The person can choose the best time to look at them, and 3 minutes is usually feasible within the daily flow of tasks. To the point that it becomes an enjoyable habit to look forward to

This methodology focuses the benefits provided by new technologies on the most common critical issues: time, motivation, assimilation of content, measurement of completion and effectiveness of training.

Adaptive learning combined with the mechanisms of microlearning is perhaps the most innovative and interesting frontier currently seen in digital training. It’s one of the main resources APPrendere relies on to transform how learning is provided within organisations.

The Disruption of Training

Digital disruption has, for several years, been a reality in many sectors. But now it has also entered the office and the lives of white-collar workers, and, whether they like it or not, consultants, trainers and coaches are also affected.

LMS platforms, content creation and management, increasingly advanced communication technologies… These and many other aspects – which Covid has merely accelerated – are also radically changing the rules of the game in the field of business training.

Is this the end of these professions? No, at least not necessarily. But it is time for a fundamental shift: a cultural transformation that is so profound that it is anything but obvious, much less immediate.

Digital training is not classroom training brought online, but something completely different, in terms of its design, the methodology used and the tools deployed.

It took several years after the launch of the Internet for Web 2.0 to develop, in other words, the real and specific potential of the new environment. Until the early 2000s, the Internet was nothing more than a series of silent, motionless showcases, a two-dimensional reproduction of physical reality.

Science fiction novels are an excellent way of thinking about the significance of a paradigm shift towards an unknown future.

For example, The Wonders of 2000 by Emilio Salgari (1907) tells of a highly automated world thanks to electricity, where contraptions are powered by fantastically long cables. Salgari did not imagine the possibility of wireless connection.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968 – the basis for the film Blade Runner) portrays a society where people live with robots that are so evolved that they are indistinguishable from human beings, but still go to work in (flying) cars in office blocks swarming with people. No working from home.

These are just two examples of how relatively easy it is to imagine the incremental development of a single object or a single phenomenon of which we already have some knowledge.

It’s another thing altogether to step out of the box, that is the hidden structure of our daily lives and minds. In short, a paradigm shift.

That is what anyone working in the field of people development is called on to do today, whether as a user in a company or as a provider of training and coaching services. We must change, or rather transform the old attitude into one that may not fully exist yet, but for which the foundations are in place for building truly effective digital training.