The Personal Versus Personalized Learning Debate

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Personal Learning and Personalized Learning are two terms, which are being used interchangeably for some time now? Is this trend correct? Do both terms refer to the same type of learning? Or are they different? In this blog post, we look at them and see which strategy influences learning at the modern workplace.

Personal vs Personalized Learning

What is Personal Learning?

When learning is offered by an instructor or is designed as a self-paced unit that helps the learner pick elements of the program and study at their own pace it is termed as personal learning. Stephen Downes, an eminent specialist in online learning says this about personal learning on his website – “Personal learning often begins informally, on an ad hoc basis, driven by the need to complete some task or achieve some objective. The learning is a means to an end, rather than the end in itself. Curricula and pedagogy are selected pragmatically. If the need is short-term and urgent, a simple learning resource may be provided. If the person wants to understand at a deep level, then a course might be the best option.”

What is Personalized Learning?

The U.S. Department of Education defines personalized learning as follows:

“Personalized learning refers to instruction in which the pace of learning and the instructional approach are optimized for the needs of each learner.”

Learning objectives, instructional approaches, and instructional content (and its sequencing) may all vary based on learner needs. In addition, learning activities are made available that are meaningful and relevant to learners, driven by their interests and often self-initiated.

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Impact and Use in Modern Workplace Learning

Modern workplace learning is fraught with challenges that must be addressed to derive the maximum benefits from the learning programs developed. The primary challenge being either the content becomes so focused that it can only be deployed for a niche group of learners. On the other hand, the program becomes too generic and diluted that it does not serve any specific purpose. Therefore L&D teams should work in close partnership with HR and the management team to develop role-appropriate learning that is delivered to the right person at the right time.

This has given impetus to the growth of bite-sized and adaptive learning where compact and self-contained learning nuggets are delivered on-demand. Not only is it easier and less expensive to design and deploy bite-sized learning content. It is also easier to integrate feedback from a group of learners or a beta-testing group to improve the effectiveness of bite-sized learning.

Personal Learning

In personal learning, the learner is given the freedom to pick and choose courses/modules that are of interest to him/her and chart their own course of learning. This may not always work well in the corporate workplace learning space. Specific employees in specific job-roles need to learn specific skills to do their job better. L&D teams can strive a balance by giving employees the option to pick up a course of their choice when the employee completes a specific number of courses or modules, which are linked directly to their day-to-day job-role.

Personalized Learning

The advantage of using personalized learning powered by adaptive learning and built using a thorough analysis of the skill-sets of the target audience is that one can provide optimized learning to one’s learners. This is the reason why most L&D practitioners tend to prefer personalized learning to deliver learning at the workplace. On the other hand, in schools and colleges, personal learning will work better and help students explore topics and learn better. We are beginning to enter the next realm of personalization in workplace learning as organizations invest in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Learning platforms hosting content have recommendation engines that help learners pick the next course.

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Origin’s Take

To conclude, personal learning and personalized learning are two different learning strategies/models.  There isn’t a one-size fits all approach to choosing an ideal learning strategy for organizations. Factors like staff strength, product/service-line, technology-dependency, budgets, and eagerness of L&D teams; all contribute to the design and deployment of learning strategies in organizations.

Would you be interested in reading about how we helped a leading luxury travel retailer train its employees? Click here to access a case-study that has all the details.

At Origin Learning, we offer the perfect blend of high-quality eLearning content services and Konnect 3.0 a powerful, mobile-first learning solution to deploy and deliver just-in-time eLearning content. Write to to help us address your learning requirements.


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