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Getting ready to include adaptive learning in instructional design

There’s a joke going around about COVID-19 being the single most important factor driving digital transformation in organizations. You know what they say, “it’s funny because it’s true.”

For years, companies have said they are getting on board with the new technologies. However, most took their sweet time until faced with a pandemic that changed the face of workplaces around the world.

With so much upheaval, is it really the right time to get ready for adaptive learning? The answer is yes! Companies will need whatever it takes to move forward and thrive in the ever-changing economy.

Read more: VUCA, or how to do business in interesting times

What does adaptive learning entail?

With VR, AR, microlearning, AI, design thinking, and UX all crammed into any discussion about modern organizational learning, it’s tough to pinpoint what adaptive learning means. It sounds good because adaptability has positive connotations in any corporate context.

In its essence, adaptive learning defines any form of nonlinear learning. It challenges the traditional model where the user starts in one place, goes through a series of checkpoints on a learning path, and finishes at an endpoint.

Instead of treating all learners in the same way, adaptive learning allows L&D specialists to create training modules that are dynamic and adapt to individual needs, preferences, and abilities. It sounds good, but there are a few things to consider before implementation.

Read more: Why adaptive learning is a ‘must’ in your corporate learning strategy

How would the existing learning infrastructure need to change?

It would be amazing if you could buy an extension, install it on the server that is hosting the company’s LMS, and instantly end up with a platform that can do adaptive learning without a glitch.

The way AI keeps evolving, this scenario would be possible in the future. For now, there are decisions to be made about organizational needs and which systems are compatible with the current virtual and physical learning inventory.

Furthermore, the adaptive learning platform data must be analyzed with the information already being streamed by the current LMS. There also has to be a correlation between measurement and KPIs.

Read more: 5 Things to consider when moving towards adaptive L&D

What has already been tried?

There are times when it’s a bad idea to look at what everybody else is doing because it decreases the focus on your own objectives. There are other instances when it’s best to take a good hard look at the success and failure stories of other organizations who have already taken steps towards implementing adaptive learning.

There are always relevant articles and case studies to find. They are precious resources for understanding what worked for them and learning from others' mistakes.

Be mindful of what kind of architecture was employed for adaptive learning, what tools they used to find learning needs, improve employee performance and drive up engagement rates. It’s also relevant to see which of the processes that were already in place for linear learning helped them transition to adaptive learning.

MATRIX guide: How to make training more flexible using automation

Who is the audience?

The concept of adaptability is closely connected to the personalization of the learning process. And for it to be personal, L&D specialists need to have a comprehensive learner persona.

There can’t be a single one for an entire organization but, to begin with, a description of at least one persona is needed to start the process. Start small with a pilot program for adaptive learning on a group of employees.

It will be a test for the new platform and how the employees will receive this new way of deploying learning. Be careful when choosing the test group and the pilot course objectives. Moving towards adaptive learning requires extra resources, so the trial run needs to show relevant content.

Read more: Adaptive learning – perfectly tailored to the individual

What will instructional designers do?

While adaptive learning is closely connected to AI, the instructional designers’ role remains instrumental in making it a success. No matter how great the technology is, if the quality of the learning materials themselves is subpar, the whole endeavor will have poor results.

The traditional instructional design had some rock-solid foundations necessary for the new way of doing things. The trainers will have to be familiar with the latest delivery methods, business drivers, and behavioral psychology.

The future of training depends on data-generated strategy, so instructional designers will have to take their cues from the adaptive learning platform analytics. Effectiveness will come from a collaboration between the human and the AI factors.

Closing thoughts

Organizational learning has seen tremendous transformations in a short period of time. This is the reason why adaptive learning no longer seems like a major shift but a natural evolution. Moving forward requires thorough preparation and involvement from various departments across the organization.

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