What Happened to the Promise of One-to-One Online Learning?

One early claim of the advantage of computer-based instruction was that the computer could adapt to the individual learner and provide her or him with instruction customized to their individual needs. This does not seem to be happening in the world of e-learning.

This adaptation to individuals is a missing ingredient in training and education. Even with the advent of computer training, the next logical step of individualized training/education has never materialized. The ideal strategic situation would be to have, in a corporate setting, performance-based metrics (number of products sold, number of initiatives presented, projects finished, etc.) tied directly to elements courses or course pieces within a Learning Management System (LMS). So, if an employee was making fewer calls than desired, the LMS would recognized the deficiency and “push” training content to that employee centered around content related to making more sales calls.

Based on an individual’s performance, a courses could be created using existing media elements (video, audio, text). Ideal the course would deliver the exact type of content needed to the employee. In an educational setting, a system could diagnose what the student knew or didn’t know and present her with just the right information to fill her gaps in understanding.

An alternative would be to create a system where the employee answers questions about his skill set and a manger answers questions and then an individualized training program is assembled by the LMS to address specific needs. S Input could be gathered from managers as well to indentify individual employee performance. Then, once the data is gathered, training related information, videos, etc. would be “pushed” to that employee within the context of her daily work activities through whatever device she happens to be using.

We need to get away from the “broadcast” concept of e-learning where “one-size-fits-all” and instead get to the apprenticeship model where instruction is customized to each individual learner based on his or her individual needs. The next evolution of e-learning needs to be one-on-one, personalized instruction that is designed (on the fly) to meet the needs of the learner and then stop.Too many people are taking large sections of online courses that they just don’t need. They already know the information but have to sit through it because others don’t already know the information and everyone gets the same instruction whether they need it or not.

Social media has not so much focused on informal learning as its focused on “just-the-information-I-need” learning which happens to come from peers instead of learning and development professionals. If learning and development professionals want to stay in the game, the thing they need to do is to figure out a way to create adaptive learning systems to increase the efficiency of learning and decrease the waste and redundancy in many, many e-learning courses.

The real value of computer-based instruction is individual adaptability and we haven’t even scratched the surface.

Posted in: Design, Education, learning design, Learning Objects

Leave a Comment (3) ↓


  1. Rodolfo Fernandez March 5, 2012

    The use of a pre-survey is a good way the students’ ways of learning and also their computer skills, especially with the adult population.

  2. karlkapp February 29, 2012

    In the ideal world, it would be great to have an adaptive learning system with infinite options, agreed. But one of the elements that I think has delayed the adoption of adaptive online learning is the exact sentiment that you express. We need to have 100% configuration options.

    I think what would work is a solution that is part way between no adaptability of the instruction and 100% adaptability. Let’s start with looking at course objectives and pre-test the learners to see what they know and if they already know the content, have that skipped in the e-learning module. That will allow some level of adaptability, anything at this point is a little better than what we have now.

    Thanks for the comment and for pointing out the difficulties with 100% adaptability and I love the idea of a “profile” that plugs into various LMS systems to customize the learning.

  3. Adrienne Gross February 24, 2012

    To configure the online learning to the learner would require near infinite configuration options. For example, their life experience, whether they are an introvert or extrovert, visual/aural type etc. One would need to do some kind of pre-course assessment, or leverage from TNA findings. Perhaps it is better to list the topics and leave the learner to ‘learn’ what they need, then take the ‘one size fits all’ assessment.

    One day in the future a learner may have a ‘profile’ that can plug into the online learning, and then have the LMS present only the information and exercises relevant for them.

Karl Kapp
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