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Classroom and online learning traditionally takes a one-size-fits-all approach. Students move through the same topics in the same way, following a path designed with a single student in mind. This model doesn’t provide the support that struggling students need and it slows down advanced students, leading to bored learners that aren’t engaged and aren’t reaching their learning potential.
The best learning occurs when students are engaged and have control over their learning. As educators start to acknowledge and structure learning to fit the needs of their individual students, we’re seeing a move away from an assembly line model of learning to a learner-centred and learning focused approach. After all, learning isn’t something that is done to people. Learners must play an active role and have more influence over the decisions they take in learning. As this shift happens, learners will gradually change from being compliant learners to committed learners who are better able to master new skills and concepts.
Online learning platforms offer significantly more opportunities to personalize learning experiences for individuals than classroom training. Rather than target an average student in a classroom full of students, online instructional designers can create experiences for different types of learners at different levels. Learning designers can then craft learner-specific goals and objectives and build experiences that fit the needs of individuals.
While some Learning Management Systems support these types of personal learning paths, they tend to focus primarily on elearning interventions—as that’s the exclusive focus of most learning platforms. But open and extendable platforms, like WordPress, can take personalized learning beyond a single tool or platform. From live coaching and social communities to third-party automation tools (like Infusionsoft) and HR systems, WordPress learning platforms can integrate and connect almost anything. And with all of those integrations come new opportunities individualize the learning experience.
Creating Learning Paths
A strong personalized learning experience begins with a great deal of instructional planning. What are the short, intermediate and long term goals for your learners? Start by creating avatars, or different models of students, to help guide your planning. If someone is falling behind in a class, what additional activities and resources might support their learning? How will you know whether or not they need it? How will you keep more advanced learners engaged? How might you ensure that more visual learners aren’t held back by a program that favours a verbal learning style?
Use progress markers as decision points to assess whether or not goals are met. Has a learner demonstrated sufficient competency to move forward to more advanced topics, or do they need remedial help to stay engaged and not lose confidence? Make sure learners get timely notifications that encourage more interaction and show more progress, and even when they’re receiving extra assistance, use constructs that help learners feel like they’re in control of their learning experience. Branching learning paths and incorporating different types of activities, resources and feedback that are tailored to the learner will lead to better achievement.
Personal Learning Path Examples
Building personalized learning maps doesn’t have to be a long and expensive endeavour. With WordPress and plugins like the Uncanny Automator, advanced learning workflows can be built in minutes with absolutely no coding. It also works across a variety of LMS plugins, including LearnDash, LifterLMS and LearnPress.
Here are a few simple workflows possible with the Uncanny Automator plugin that help to improve learner engagement with personalized learning:
Welcome students to a course: Set up a recipe (a “recipe” is a rule where if something happens then other things happen) that sends users a welcome email when they complete the first lesson of a new course. Maybe include an instructor introduction, links to key resources and tips for succeeding in the course. And if you’re setting up some communication recipes, maybe add a few extras for your progress markers in the course—congratulate users with emails for reaching milestones.
Use quiz results to determine a learner’s path: Assessing progress and intervening appropriately is key to keeping users engaged in the learning and achieving their potential. If a user is doing poorly, enroll them in a remedial course and suggest additional learning activities to catch up. If a student is doing exceptionally well, autocomplete some topics that may be repetitive and give those users advanced challenges so they don’t feel held back.
Send progress emails to the instructor or manager: Keep parties involved in the student’s learning journey apprised of the situation and informed of whatever details they may need to intervene automatically.
Give students additional support: With WordPress, you’re not limited to just LMS capabilities. With BuddyPress, you might add struggling users to a remedial study group based on quiz results. Invite them to set up a virtual coaching session with The Events Calendar. Unlock access to a special Knowledge Base for advanced students. Or, get really creative and pass records to Zapier to build a personal learning journal that instructors can review in Google Sheets.
Advanced Workflows on WordPress Sites
Simple recipes are a great first step for personalizing learning, but real power of automation tools like Uncanny Automator lie in the integrations and conditional elements you can build into recipes.
Instead of having a single trigger in a progress decision point, Automator allows several to be used. Maybe instead of a remedial intervention being started when a user fails a single quiz, it’s instead started when a learner shows a pattern of difficulty across several courses or quizzes. In other words, maybe additional course/group enrollments, communications and CRM tagging happen only if a user scores under 60% on their first attempt in both a pre-test and a post-test for a course.
And speaking of CRMs, integrating with external systems allows extremely powerful (and further personalized) engagement strategies. Perhaps by demonstrating above average competency levels, users are tagged in Infusionsoft and then sent a weekly email campaign with offline activity ideas to further develop their unique interests. Or maybe a poorly performing student is encouraged to sign up for 1-on-1 coaching with an instructor at a discount to increase the likelihood that they’ll sign up for those sessions.
The possibilities are really endless, and what can be done with WordPress and Uncanny Automator to build personal learning paths is far more powerful and less expensive than what is available in any other Learning Management System.