Drive Outcomes with Adaptive Learning

What does it take to create a more impactful and engaging learning experience that improves individual and business performance? Personalization, reinforcement, and adaptability.

Companies continue to deliver less-than-engaging learning in the form of static, one-size-fits-all courses and classes. As a result, they only measure results relating to those methods: completions, course grades, and smile sheets. Given the shallow nature of that data, does learning really influence the business? No one can tell.

Stagnant learning budgets and an increasingly complex technology marketplace challenge organizations seeking a learner-centric experience that delivers real business impact, namely improved performance and increased revenues. Legacy systems, boring content, and learning mythologies make it difficult to deploy learning that leads to success for learners and organizations. 

What does it take to create a more impactful and engaging learning experience that improves individual and business performance? Personalization, reinforcement, and adaptability. Together, these characteristics take learning to the next level.

Personalized, Adaptive Learning

Brandon Hall Group defines personalized learning in two ways. First, the learning experience must be based on the employee’s professional and personal needs and interests. Second, learners should be able to access learning via a medium/format/device that is best for them. Organizations find that this type of learning helps to continuously develop knowledge, skills, and abilities, as well as supporting employees in reaching their personal and professional goals more efficiently.

Our most recent study, Exploring the Learning Experience, found a strong correlation between providing this type of learning and improved outcomes. To start, high-performing organizations (HiPOs)—those companies with improving revenue, profitability, customer satisfaction, and other key performance indicators—are far more likely to provide learners with a contextual experience, including the following:

It’s not just personalization, however. Unless you reinforce that experience and have learning adapt as learners and the business change, you will get the type of static learning experience we seek to avoid. As employees learn and develop, their needs change. Learning must reflect these changes and adjust as necessary, providing learners with what they need to move forward without giving them repetitive or irrelevant material.

Learners must engage with a personalized learning plan and recommendations, and they need to be able to revisit content and put new skills and behaviors into practice. Ideally, the learning experience will incorporate all of this in what we can call an “Adaptive Experience.”

This experience includes:

  • Opportunities to practice and apply knowledge
  • A method to reinforce learning concepts
  • Contextualization based on learner requirements
  • Gathering learner feedback

The study found companies that do this are far more likely to say their learning approach positively impacts key outcomes.

How effectively does your current learning approach positively impact the following outcomes? 

The difference is clear and found across many other outcomes, including business-process improvement, revenue, and profitability. Organizations need learning programs that take the goals of the learner into account, along with those of the business, then allow the learning to be constantly revisited and reinforced, adapting as the employee learns more and continues on his or her path. True adaptability digs even deeper and takes the learner’s level of knowledge into account, as well as levels of mastery, uncertainty, and misinformation. This ensures each learner gets exactly the content and reinforcement he or she desires and requires.

Fighting Misinformation

From a learning perspective, it isn’t enough to assess whether learners “know” the material. It’s also important to know how confident they are in their knowledge—both right and wrong.

Employees who are confident in their new knowledge are more likely to change their behaviors and act. This is usually a positive outcome, but people often have confidently held misinformation, as well. Misinformation can result in things as simple as ineffective processes or increased costs, but it also can have severe consequences for customer service and compliance, and may even have life-or-death consequences.

An adaptive learning system can identify the confidence with which learners hold their knowledge, thereby helping the organization boost confidence where needed and remediate misinformation.

Key Takeaways

Personalization need not be an overwhelming challenge. Creating contextualization around what learners require based on their role, the subject at hand, and their learning history creates personalization that can be engaging and effective.

Learning can go a step further by incorporating technology that can adapt the learning experience according to how the learner interacts with the learning and his or her results.

By analyzing assessment results, as well as how confident each learner is in his or her new knowledge and skills, these platforms create a level of personalization that content alone cannot provide. They give learners what they need to move forward at the

pace and direction that makes the most sense.

An adaptive learning platform can let organizations take concrete actions with the data they collect by identifying and remediating knowledge gaps leading to costly errors.

Organizations must focus on the following to create a personalized, adaptive learning environment:

  • Personalized development paths where learners can track their own progress
  • Understanding the link between learning and intended outcomes
  • Recommendations based on learner data such as mastery, uncertainty,

and misinformation

  • Opportunities for practice and reinforcement. Learning cannot adapt based on single events.
  • Opportunities for learners to provide feedback, which will add to ongoing adaptability

To download a free copy of Brandon Hall Group’s research summary, Rethinking the Learning & Development Budget, click here.

David Wentworth is principal learning analystat Brandon Hall GroupThe firm’s vision is to inspire a better workplace experience, and its mission is to empower excellence in organizations around the world through its research and tools. Brandon Hall Group has five human capital management (HCM) practices and produces the Brandon Hall Group HCM Excellence Awards and the annual HCM Excellence Conference, in West Palm Beach, FL, February 4-6, 2020.