Personalised learning is the right reskilling tool for both corporates and business schools

Published: January 15, 2018 1:20:54 AM

Personalised learning incorporates behaviourist principles, which include breaking lessons into small parts, focusing on each step, and testing the participant many times along the way.

November is usually the month to plan the training budgets for the year ahead. At Inatech—as in any other organisation—there were discussions with business heads on the projected plans and the arising training requirements.

November is usually the month to plan the training budgets for the year ahead. At Inatech—as in any other organisation—there were discussions with business heads on the projected plans and the arising training requirements. A cloud software company in physical oil trading and risk management, Inatech operates in a niche area. Therefore, learning and intellect become critical attributes to success. For years, there have been challenges in managing people availability for professional development and current business requirement. Skill development was largely kept for a time when employees were not deployed on the projects. Fortunately, this is not the case, any longer. Of late, we have seen that self-learning tools are becoming more and more popular at work. Employees are making use of applications like YouTube, Alison, Project Gutenberg, GitHub, gamification, Free Code Camp, Lynda.com, Google’s Digital Garage and others to update their skills. Employees are using these learning platforms regularly. Learning is becoming self-driven, people are encouraged to plan their development and share with managers. In a particular helicopter company, the HR team implemented Amplifier, a cloud-based learning system that uses artificial intelligence to adapt to each user’s specific knowledge of a topic and test him or her via short, frequent multiple-choice quizzes and games. If there is a struggle with one of the training areas, the system will linger on that section, presenting the information in a new way and retesting before progressing the employee to the next module. Personalised learning is becoming the tool for reskilling.

The last few years have seen many personalised learning platforms like free MOOCs, YouTube and Khan Academy which are accessible on smartphones and iPads. These are just to name a few; there are many more personalised learning tools. In fact, personalised learning is redefining the way we learn.

If this is the trend in the corporate world, can schools be far behind? Many schools have leveraged sophisticated software programs that allow students to set their own pace and delve more deeply into specific interests, often in a blended learning setting. The general idea behind personalised learning is that the fixed time, place and curriculum of traditional classrooms is ill-suited to meet the demands of a diverse student population that has a wide range of learning needs. Personalised learning may be considered as the future of training. However, the idea dates to the 1950s. That’s when Harvard psychologist BF Skinner created a “teaching machine” that required students to master a sequence of very small steps to learn a complicated process. Management schools are integrating these principles using online learning platforms. At the Loyola Institute of Business Administration in Chennai, for example, business simulation case studies are being used a lot. It has been observed that it makes learning more effective. Today, instead of simply memorising facts for a test, students dive deeper into subjects that interest them. Textbooks and worksheets no longer dominate, as professors employ multiple instructional models.

Talking to the millennial generation, we observe that they are so tuned to this mode of learning and why not… The learner decides pace of his/her learning which may depend upon other commitments; the tutorials are user-friendly and can be viewed in smartphones at a time convenient to the learner. This is the promising new world of personalised training, in which learning experiences fit a person’s needs, style, retention speed and interests. It offers an elegant solution to a long-standing dilemma. The Economist news magazine recently argued that with all the disruptions in the modern economy, particularly technology, ongoing skill acquisition is critical to persistent professional relevance. Lifelong learning is becoming an economic imperative. Technological changes in industry demand stronger and continuous connections between work and learning. At the same time, technology is changing the learning trends that are very different from what they were, say, five years ago. People rely on Google and social media to access information; share knowledge, ideas and insights; discuss challenges; and receive advice and feedback. Learning can happen in an airport lounge by making the most of their spare time; in a café watching a new video tutorial before they go to a meeting; in subways and buses playing a game or learning a new process.

Personalised learning systems incorporate behaviourist principles, which include breaking lessons into small parts, focusing on each step, and testing the participant multiple times along the way. Learning can be fun and self-driven. Technology has always been a great enabler. This allows us to create a learning environment where employees take responsibility for self-learning. Personalised learning is an informal learning that enables employees to learn at their own pace and convenience.

Richa Pande
The author is chairperson, Placement, and adjunct faculty, Loyola Institute of Business Administration (LIBA), Chennai, and chief people officer, Inatech

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