Personalization, Customization, and the Whole Sch-bang!

We are living in a world of personalization. It’s everywhere. Pay attention next time you are surfing on the internet, and you will find that almost everything is customized to your interests. For example, your Facebook news feed is your personalized newspaper with data from friends, Google Ads are personalized based on your search data, and in Gmail it shows the relevant ads by getting keywords in the mail.

Have you ever been looking for a new pair of tennis shoes online and then the next website you go to you see a ton of tennis shoe ads? This is that same thing.

There is a reason why things are being customized to you. It causes you to pay attention. So why wouldn’t we want the same in online courses?

To find out more about personalization and e-learning, I viewed award winning e-learning developer, Tim Slade’s awesome webinar on “E-learning and Personalization“.

So, what is personalization? Well, according to Tim, there is no proper definition, so he created his own. It’s engaging people into learning, but more specifically, “It involves the use of technology to tailor the presentation of content to match the preferences and needs for specific user.” It is taking what the student or user wants and personalizing it to their needs.

And apparently, it’s super beneficial in e-learning courses. Why?

Tim puts the benefits into three categories:

  • Interaction– It allows more opportunities for interaction for learners.
  • Engagement-It is eye candy, and provides an additional sense of quality. You can’t ignore content that allows you to engage in it.
  • Retention-To fit to learner’s needs, it not a one size fits all, and allows learner retention.

What are some ways you can create personalization in your e-learning courses?

An overarching theme here is options. Options, options, options. When you are personalizing a course, the more choices a student has, the better.

To get started, there are three categories:

  • Personalization controlled by the learner. It requires direct input of the students needs and preferences by filling question forms or by choosing options and alternatives.
    • Tim’s examples:
      • Branching- giving multiple choice answers and branching the course based on what they selected.
      • Creating a course with  multiple options, then changing what’s on the screen based on the option picked.
      • Allow students to select options and then branching the course of those option.
      • Asking students what they like to learn and tailoring the course to fit their needs and then have the course branch into that area.
  •  Personalization based upon an existing user profile and meta-descriptions of the information content – In this case, the learners’ preferences are stored in their profile.
    • Tim’s examples:
      • Allowing students to enter a value (for example, their name, age, job, etc.).
      • Creating avatars or characters to lead the course, and asking them to choose one that best represents them.
  • Personalization via searching for a correlation between the learners – Correlation is through the values of the attributes, describing the learner’s profile. 
    • Tim’s example:
      •  Give them a sense of control by asking what do you want to learn about? And letting them click on that section. Eventually, they will learn everything, but allowing them to choose what they want to learn first gives the “student control over the learning experience, with boundaries” – Tim’s own words.

So overall, its important for students to be able to customize their online learning experience, and to learn more about personalization, these are excellent studies here and here. Don’t forget to watch Tim’s amazing webinar here.