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Growth Expected for Personalized and Adaptive Learning

Friday, June 22, 2018

Personalized and adaptive learning both have the power to reach learners in new ways. Whether organizations are developing personalized learning (tailored instruction based on specifications such as their interests, experience, or job role) or adaptive learning (learning that uses computer-based technology to modify content to a learner’s needs), these modalities allow learners to engage with content suited to their needs, interests, and knowledge levels.

ATD Research recently explored these types of learning in the research report Personalized and Adaptive Learning: Shaping Employee Development for Engagement and Performance, sponsored by McGraw-Hill Education.

Current and Future Outlook
Currently, 83 percent of organizations offer at least some personalized learning options. Nineteen percent of respondents indicated that most of their organization’s development assets were personalized, but this is expected to change. When asked how their assets might change two years in the future, 31 percent of respondents felt that most of their organization’s development assets would be personalized.

Use of adaptive learning is not quite as prevalent. While 55 percent of organizations use adaptive learning in some form, adaptive learning comprises a major portion of learning assets at just 7 percent of organizations. But in two years, 20 percent of respondents predict that a majority of their organization’s learning offerings will use adaptive technologies.

One mode of adaptive learning in particular, artificial intelligence (AI), is predicted to see major growth. Currently just 18 percent of respondents’ adaptive learning platforms use AI, defined as the development of computer systems capable of performing tasks that typically require human intelligence, such as speech recognition or decision making. In two years, respondents expect that number to nearly triple to 52 percent.


Barriers and Recommendations
There are, however, some barriers to keep in mind. For both personalized and adaptive learning, the top two barriers respondents identified were a lack of learning technologies, followed by a lack of organizational technology infrastructure. Despite the expected growth for both personalized and adaptive learning, it seems many organizations may not yet have the technologies necessary to effectively support them.

To overcome these barriers, the report recommends that talent development staff first assess their current situation. If existing initiatives are effective, staff should consider what they are doing right and ask themselves what they could be doing better to expand their use of personalized and adaptive learning. For organizations that have not yet tried personalized or adaptive learning, staff should assess whether their talent development function has the skills and resources needed for success.


If lack of technology is an issue, the report advises that talent development embrace partnerships—whether with their organization’s IT function or with external suppliers—to ensure greater success with personalized and adaptive learning.

Learn More
For more insights and recommendations, the full report is available for purchase for $199 for ATD members ($499 for nonmembers) here. The whitepaper of the report is free for ATD members to download, and $19.99 for nonmembers.

About the Author

Shauna Robinson is a former ATD research analyst. Her responsibilities included preparing surveys, analyzing data, and writing research reports.

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