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So just what is a ‘personal learning path’ and why is it even important?
Personal learning paths are user-chosen and give learners control over their own eLearning experience, so they can more effectively acquire and retain knowledge and skills that will help them in the real world. This personal experience is tailored to each participant over time and helps hold their attention while increasing the “fun” aspect of eLearning.
A personal learning path is a learner-centered eLearning approach that emphasizes learner-specific goals and objectives, as well as each students’ personal preferences. The name also refers to the path that a learner selects on his or her own, such as which activities and exercises the student choose to participate in during the eLearning experience. Each eLearning activity gives the user a better understanding of the topic being studied, and gives eLearning professionals the opportunity to pinpoint the individual’s learning style and needs.
No matter what the subject matter happens to be – chess, CPR, using a magnetic crane safely - or the background of your target audience - new hires, interns, first-year medical students - learning should always be a personal endeavor to produce the greatest results. However, providing all of the necessary content in addition to allowing personal learning paths can be a challenging task. Below are six tips and strategies on how to integrate personal learning paths into your training programs.
For a personal learning path to be truly successful for students or employees, online learners must feel as though they are in control of their eLearning experience. This can be achieved by allowing them to choose which eLearning activities they complete next, how they receive the eLearning content, and even which eLearning assessments they will take. For example, you can offer them the chance to test their knowledge via online scenarios, multiple choice exams, or essay prompts. The key is to make the learner feel like they have a direct say in the learning process, rather than telling them how, what, and when they are going to learn. Psychologically, this is also very empowering and thus engaging to the students, and engaged learners learn more!
Periodic milestones give learners the chance to check their progress along the way and to ensure they are on the proper path. These serve as ‘pats on the back’ and sign posts that they’re proceeding along successfully. One simple way to provide milestones is to create a weekly checklist for learners to follow. If you want to give your learners more control, create one list of mandatory online assignments, exercises, and assessments, and then another that features optional tasks. Learners can then complete task in any order. You can even use online project management platforms to keep them organized, or integrate the checklists right into the homepage of the eLearning course.
Even though a personal learning path is decidedly individual, learners still need some form of direction and feedback. (See number 2 above) If users complete an online assessment, let them know what needs correction as soon as possible. This prevents learners from storing incorrect knowledge in their long-term memories. The key is to give them the constructive criticism they require, while still allowing them to learn from their mistakes. Similarly, you should also solicit their feedback so you can fine-tune your eLearning strategy, ensuring every learner is getting the personal support they need.
Not all online learners have the same personal preferences or learning styles. Therefore, it is important to integrate a wide range of online activities and exercises into your eLearning courses. Auditory learners can listen to virtual lectures or podcasts, while visual learners can watch eLearning videos and view image-rich content. Those who prefer to read their way through a course can opt for text-based modules. Variety gives every learner the opportunity to benefit from the course and to create a learning path that is ideally suited for their needs. Thanks to the ease of adaptability with digital materials, this is easier than ever before and a huge strength of eLearning in general.
Even when creating personal learning paths for each individual, the goals and objectives of the course must still be an integral part of the eLearning experience. The key to creating a successful, personal learning path strategy is to develop a plan that seamlessly blends the eLearning course essentials with the needs and wants of each learner. In addition to the individualized goals and objectives they set for themselves, they must also walk away from the learning experience with the key subject matter firmly ensconced in their minds and ready to be used as needed.
In addition to the mandatory eLearning assessments that learners must complete throughout the course to test their knowledge on new information and skills, it’s important to offer them online self-assessments that they can take on their own. Provide them with one or two quizzes or simulations that engage them to test their own progress and knowledge comprehension. Include a self-grading rubric or answer sheet that offers them the opportunity to correct their mistakes and receive the right information. Also, don’t forget to make them aware of the fact that you’re there to offer support, should they need it.
Allowing your learners to embark on their own personal learning path can help make your eLearning course even more meaningful and powerful – especially over time as you track the choices users make within the eLearning program. Depending on the subject matter and the demographics of your learners, certain types of materials and tests may work better than others. Each student’s learning choices help to blaze a path towards understanding the most effective methods for delivering educational knowledge. A learning program that constantly improves itself is like an automobile that changes its own oil and fixes its own flat tires. What a future there is for digital learning and training!
Are you interested in hearing more about eLearning development and its many unique capabilities and aspects? We at Designing Digitally, Inc. would love to share our vision and capacities with you. Contact our team today!