Recently I was talking to a former colleague from a telecommunications company. She was complaining that very much has changed lately and there are tons and tons of new information, procedures and offer mechanisms that everyone has to learn very fast. The company has decided to allow customers to tailor their own offers.
Employees, especially those in the retail and customer service departments are not really happy about this and feel like every such contract is an experiment in its own right. At the opposite end, customers seem to be more pleased than ever with the company because they finally get to choose and personalize their service packages according to their needs.
Of course it’s a nightmare for implementation teams who have to figure out how to make everything work and ensure that once a sales person designs a certain offer and the customer signs for it they will be able to deliver. It was a million times easier when there were only three versions and all bugs were sorted out in the first three days after launch.
Yet it’s what they have to do in order to stay competitive in today’s market so they make it work.
Personal beats global
It’s natural for all of us to desire personalized products and services. I think Coca-Cola’s rather recent campaign where they put names on the bottles proved that point exceedingly. In a world where that beverage is pretty much the image of globalization, having a bottle with your first name on it makes it feel personal.
The company actually took it one step forward and started offering more flavors so that everyone might find one to their liking. They even got into the hot beverages segment. Their marketing has been designing successful publicity and promotion for many years and somehow they manage to stay tuned to what people want.
It’s an example all companies should follow if their goal is to remain competitive and retain customers.
The ability to offer a wide range of products and services that can respond to various needs of very different people is what will make the difference. Each individual is unique and needs to be acknowledged as such rather than be treated as part of a general demographic.
Changing the strategy
With this in mind, Learning & Development managers ought to seriously consider personalized adaptive learning as part of their strategy. It’s 2018 already, the age when houses, television sets and phones are smart.
Pretty much all corporate training has gone digital by now, driven mostly by the desire to reduce cost and be more convenient for all involved – no more booking conference rooms and making sure that all participants’ schedules match.
Not enough attention has been given to the quality of learning outcomes though. Very often, the main focus while designing the training material was that the people who enrolled in the course should feel first and foremost entertained. While that holds some value and does wonders for the end of session satisfaction questionnaires, when it comes to translation in the workplace it leaves to be desired.
What’s clearly needed is an improved learning solution that marries the logistical need by making courses available “anytime, anywhere,” while also addressing the much deeper issues of effectiveness and learner engagement.
Taking the path less traveled
Of course, like my former colleague, some might make the argument that adaptive learning is still at the beginning, rather experimental and has not yet proved to bring positive results. Furthermore, there was probably a substantial amount of money invested in the company’s current e-learning solution so it doesn’t seem wise to shift gears just yet.
But apart from really making sense in today’s social dynamics, personalized learning is very far from being a mere shot in the dark. Recent studies have proved the benefits of adaptive learning. The researchers concluded: “Reaching higher levels of the cognitive domain and covering more advanced topics leads not only to more knowledge, but a better assimilation of that knowledge. This means that students are better prepared for their careers. Students don’t just go through the motions to get the required credits to graduate. They integrate the course materials better, at a much higher level of comprehension, and with higher retention of knowledge. In sum, they are better prepared for the professional world.”
Furthermore, using this personalized, software-driven approach allows to incorporate already existing e-learning modules. L&D specialists don’t have to throw everything away and start from scratch, it’s more of an upgrade.
All in all
As a well-proportioned mix of computer science and cognitive research, adaptive learning manages to deliver a personalized, online positive teaching experience. For corporate learning, it offers great potential to map effective and time-efficient unique learning paths that lead to personal development and improved business results.
Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.