What is adaptive learning?

I was recently asked to provide a definition for “adaptive learning.” Since the industry doesn’t have a standard definition for … well … anything, here’s what I said:

The purposeful use of data, technology and content to provide the right support at the right time and help an individual employee improve their workplace performance

What do you think? Does this definition make sense? How does it compare to what you’re hearing about adaptive learning in the marketplace nowadays?

My definition is meant to be simple. The tools and tactics applied will vary by organization and use case. What makes adaptive learning adaptive is (1) the use of multidimensional data, (2) the continuous nature of support and (3) the variety of support methods applied.

Every employee is at a different place when it comes to their knowledge and capability …

By building a multi-dimensional data profile that includes insights into what an employee knows, how an employee behaves and what an employee achieves, we can adjust the method of support to match proven need …

Not only does an employee develop at their own pace, but their capability is sustained through continuous support and learning opportunities …

After all, people forget. Skills degrade or become obsolete. Continuous learning and support is critical to maintain pace with the ever-changing priorities of the business.

I will continue to focus on the topic of personalized and adaptive learning for the foreseeable future. I fear that this topic will become the next L&D trend – misunderstood, overly-marketed, misapplied. When done well, adaptive learning has the potential to transform an organization’s learning and support strategy. When done well. If we let bad information and junk technology get in the way, it could be some time before we see adaptive learning become a fixture in the workplace.

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