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Adaptive Learning In Practice

Adaptive Learning In Practice

Related to innovations in learning solutions, I’d like to share some real-world examples of adaptive learning in practice. First, let’s visit the instructor-led classroom. Facilitated learning in a brick-and-mortar classroom is still alive and well and will have a place in learning for the foreseeable future. But in recent years, I’ve been recommending that classrooms move to a paperless distribution system. Learners engage with their participant materials via tablets or laptops. In many classrooms, learners have been using computers for years in instances such as learning computer systems, so this is the final step in eliminating the laborious tasks of printing, compiling, and shipping paper-based classroom materials!

Here’s an example of how it’s done:

  • Materials are compiled in PDF forms where certain parts of the text can be edited by the learners, such as practice activities.
  • Materials have more of an e-learning look and feel, and may use PowerPoint or Word as the development tool. The layout looks more like the facilitator slide deck with clickable text boxes for expanded information.
  • SharePoint or corporate network is the delivery vehicle. Materials are uploaded, and learners are given access to them when they come to class. All materials are available after the class to participants for later access if needed via either download or continued use of login.
  • Materials can be updated more frequently without material waste (in cases where print materials were stockpiled).

Another example of adaptive learning is the use of mobile app learning solutions. Most mobile learning apps are stand-alone apps that are accessed separately from the actual product for which they were designed. Take the example of an app for delivery drivers. When the driver needs to recall how to use the map feature on his app, he touches a learning link on the map icon. This links him to a brief tutorial on how to use the map feature of the app. If he needs to know how to use the inventory component of the app, he clicks on the learning link within the inventory screen. One click and the user is back to the original app screen rather than in “learn” mode. In this way, app users have the info they need where they need it and nothing else!

Similarly, virtual job aids are finding their way into companies such as restaurants and manufacturing plants. For example, I have created videos as a restaurant owner demonstrated each step of his proprietary food preparation processes. These videos were later made available as a YouTube-looking list that could be displayed on tablets placed near each work station in the restaurant. Expanded written step-by-step instructions and quality standards were also available with one click on the video! I’ve used the same concept in manufacturing plants by placing virtual job aids at machines to show how safety measures and steps work via video clips.

Another challenge with any organization is quickly moving knowledge from the Subject Matter Expert (SME) to others in the organization who can benefit from their expertise. In typical design/development cycles, SME availability is very limited, and the back-and-forth email and phone call exchanges between instructional designers (IDs) and SMEs is often sporadic and disconnected. Adaptive learning innovations can streamline this process. For example, when working with global software SMEs, I provide them with a sample WebEx, script examples, and instructions on how to record WebEx demonstrations. They use my example to record the step-by-step instructions to walk through brief software demonstrations. When I (working as the ID) receive the WebEx, I can insert their video demonstration into the facilitator PowerPoint deck, or I can insert the video into the e-learning course. I can even create simulations using Captivate based on the video they provided without the typical back-and-forth video conferences, emails, and phone calls that eat precious ID/SME time!

Adaptive learning possibilities are limitless thanks to the ever-increasing variety and improvements in technology! As Learning Architects, our role is to observe where people need knowledge and skill development and place the information at the point of need. The success of adaptive learning depends on our ability to keep knowledge acquisition simple, easy to find, and on point!


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