Many of us have had this experience: we check in to a training ready to learn something new, only to slog through (or sleep through) hours of information we already know (or could’ve been in an email). Or the other side of the coin – we have no context or any idea what the training is even about, almost from the first moment the training begins. Adaptive learning is purpose-built for either of these situations.

What is adaptive learning?

Much like the scenarios above, adaptive learning focuses on the appropriate:

  • Progression of training
  • Method of delivery

Adaptive learning technology uses artificial intelligence to appropriately scale the material being introduced (and to immediately throttle complexity up or down as needed).

Just as you cannot roof a house until a proper foundation is poured, adaptive learning quickly figures out how much an employee knows and responds to that. It then offers more challenging material (or more explanation) as needed.

To continue the analogy, if your employee already has a foundation poured and four sides of the house erected, going through foundations again depletes employee motivation. And discussing types of roofing materials with a person who doesn’t know what a house is? Equally frustrating and unsuccessful.

The next part of adaptive learning is how training is delivered. What does this actually look like?

It depends on the learner and circumstances and doesn’t just focus on scaling up the difficulty of materials. It can also include training courses that are adapted for people with disabilities or information that is presented for a variety of learning styles (e.g., not only auditory and visual but also logical-spatial and kinesthetic)

Any learning task that considers an employee’s skills and abilities first and tailors the approach is a good example of adaptive learning.

Adaptive learning benefits

Adaptive learning acknowledges that one-size-fits-all doesn’t actually fit all.

Instead, it presents a personalized approach to training that is more engaging for employees. There is no more learning what they already know or wandering around, lost in the content.

This training strategy can help attract (and retain) the best talent because it focuses on giving employees what they actually need to do their jobs better.

When properly managed, adaptive learning in corporate training can also help you know when employees are ready for more responsibilities, a shift in their job, or an internal promotion. This helps you fully utilize your in-house talent (rather than looking elsewhere).

Disadvantages of adaptive learning

Even with all of the benefits of adaptive learning, there are some disadvantages to consider.

  • Designing adaptive learning takes more time and consideration on the front-end
  • The technology you select needs to be taught to employees
  • There is a learning curve for employees who are not familiar with this type of training

Adaptive learning does not work well for all topics either. In situations where employees need access to large amounts of information as a reference, it’s probably best to create a catalog or microlearning resources. Likewise, for urgent safety or health information, taking the time to design an adaptive learning task could result in injury. Finally, if you have to roll out compliance training with a required amount of seat time, this kind of training may not line up with your goals.

How to use adaptive learning in corporate training

Adaptive learning corporate training follows some of the same basic principles as the techniques used in K-12 and higher education. It starts with technology and ends with ongoing assessment.

Find the right adaptive learning technology for your needs

The first (and arguably most important) step is locating the right adaptive learning technology for your needs. This can be low-tech or assisted by new AI tools.

For example, do you need a pretraining skills assessment that then channels employees into groups based on their needs? Are there high-level concepts that your employees need to understand and apply – and how will you know if their training translates to the real-world? Is there an obvious gap in the amount of knowledge your employees have?

Each of these scenarios can be addressed with the proper technology – but not all technology is created equal. Take the time (and spend the money) for adaptive learning platforms that support your needs—now, and five years from now.

Draw from adaptive learning examples

Adaptive learning can cover everything from how employees treat each other to what to do in case of an emergency on the job.

Some of the most common adaptive learning examples include:

  • Pretraining questions that shuffle employees into appropriately-leveled training cohorts
  • Self-paced training modules that allow employees to access their choice of subjects (but block access to areas that require a prerequisite skill set)
  • Appropriately modified course design for accessibility (e.g., different fonts for employees with dyslexia)
  • Soft skills training that tests employee EQ (emotional intelligence) and offers training where gaps exist
  • Surveys that test for trouble spots in employee performance to focus training there
  • Problem-solving courses that feature choose-your-own adventure-style options (with different paths for each choice)

Focus on solid instructional design

Adaptive learning in corporate training is not exactly the same as the adaptive learning your kids experience as they take a state test (or level up on a video game).

Follow the principles of adult learning theory when designing your courses to keep employees engaged and on track.

Train your trainers

Likewise, whether your courses are asynchronous, synchronous, instructor-led, or self-guided, make sure your instructors are comfortable with the technology and effective in their method of delivery.

Evaluate your adaptive learning

Evaluating your courses, instruction, and employees is a crucial part of any training program. Work with what’s working, and focus on improving what’s not.

You’ve got your adaptive learning technology in place, but now what? EdgePoint Learning recognizes adaptive technology as a major learning trend of the future. We can help you create courses for adaptive learning modules or even just walk you through the process.

Get in touch today.

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