Personalised Learning: ‘Been there, done that’

Ger Driesen

by Ger Driesen
26 April 2018


hat was the title of the workshop that Marin Schrijen, Erica Tiemes and I gave at the Dutch conference NextLearning 2018. The idea of personalised learning or adaptive learning is hot. It’s even the number one theme in Don Taylor’s L&D Global sentiment survey for the second year in a row

Personalised learning or adaptive learning uses the individual characteristics of learners to create the best-possible learning journey. These characteristics can vary based on personal experience, previous education, age or current knowledge and practical skills. Every decision the learner makes and the time he/she takes to work through the exercises can provide useful information. This ‘digital footprint’ creates a bunch of data based on which a learner is given the best-possible, most-relevant and most-effective learning journey.

Five approaches to personalised learning

Personalisation isn’t new. A professional trainer or teacher will often provide every learner or student the attention he or she needs to achieve the best result. But how can you do so with online learning?

There are five possible approaches that can also be used simultaneously.

  1. Preliminary selection: the use of characteristics to find an optimal match beforehand. Does the trainee need beginner, advanced or expert training?
  2. Digital footprint within the online learning platform: the learners learn by using a digital learning platform. The platform simultaneously ‘learns’ by collecting data from every learner. The learning journey, content and activities can be adapted to this information along the way. This is where the term ‘adaptive learning’ comes from.
  3. Entry test: you can collect specific data by making your learners take an entry test. By doing so, you can filter what content is or isn’t relevant to the learner and which path will be most effective. A personalised jump-start, so to say. Of course, you can collect additional data, as the learning journey progresses, to adjust the personalised path.
  4. Content curation: your most relevant sources will probably come from a library or the Internet. In the first three approaches, we’ve assumed the learning journey has fixed content of which the learner will only receive relevant parts. But did you know you can also keep the content ‘open’? You can provide and filter relevant content based on the learners’ characteristics and the themes he or she wants to focus on. Here, personalisation happens through content curation using filters.
  5. Location-based – adaptivity: the location determines what content is most relevant and thus provided to the learner The context can influence the required knowledge or skills and its relevance. The GPS system in your car, for example, provides you with the ‘knowledge’ and instructions you need in a specific place related to your goal and the current traffic information.

How do you put this into practice?

During our workshop at NextLearning 2018, Marin Schrijen from NIBE-SVV and Erica Tiemes from 112BHV shared their stories. They talked about what they had done, what was needed to do so and what they gained from doing so.

Moreover, we’ve made a checklist based on the experiences of Erica and Marin. I’ll discuss this list in my Learning Notes as well.

At the end of our workshop, we took some time to assess and value some of the tips and opinions from the audience. This brought us the following winners:

  1. Think about how you’ll manage the content after it’s being developed. What is the impact on the team in the long term?
  2. Set learning objectives and build a database.
  3. Make an accurate design of the learning journey in advance.
  4. Coordinate with all actors (including the trainer) when a subject is truly completed and how many questions are needed to check this.
  5. Vary and provide interactivity.
  6. Check your learners’ knowledge and match their needs.
Marin Schrijen from NIBE-SVV, Erica Tiemes from 112BHV and Ger Driesen aNewSpring

Did you know that the aNewSpring learning platform has provided adaptivity for years? Ever since the beginning (2003), we have provided this through the MemoTrainer: the personalised ‘knowledge retention tool’. The function of personalised learning journeys has been live since 2009 (that’s almost 10 years already!), and we provide location-based adaptivity via QR codes.

Any other questions?

Share them with us on Twitter: @aNewSpring, @GerDriesen


Ger Driesen

Ger Driesen, Learning Innovation Leader at aNewSpring

Think of connecting people, ideas and inspiration in the global L&D community and you’ve just created the perfect description of Ger Driesen. In his role as Learning Innovation Leader at aNewSpring he focuses on motivating and guiding professionals to build inspiring learning journeys. During his career he has had a variety of L&D roles, from consultant, trainer and facilitator, to L&D manager and entrepreneur. He’s also known as ‘the Dutch L&D trendcatcher’. Keep up with Ger on Twitter and LinkedIn.