Creating Value in e-LearningPart 4: Personalization

This is a guest blog post from Peter Sorenson, President of QUIZZICLE. Please see below for full bio.In elementary school teachers assign seats alphabetically, adjusting for student height or visual and hearing challenges. Future seating modifications may consider behavioral issues, such as placing disruptive students closer to the front to reduce classroom distractions.

In middle school or high school, students are allowed more autonomy: they select their own seats in class, adjust their own schedules based on friends or shared opinions of teachers and voice their ideas and impact curricula through participation in student councils.

College offers us the freedom to select our own school, create unique class schedules, select professors, attend classes or skip them, study in groups or work independently.

At each “education milestone” our ability to influence and shape our learning environment expands to meet each new level of maturity. The desire for personalization is a natural expectation for the mature learner. As we age, we value individuality and readily accept certain responsibilities associated with educating ourselves. The opportunity to play a role in influencing our learning environment provides for security and comfort, assuring a personalized experience.

Consider common experiences where your comfort is considered before engaging in an activity. The dentist adjusts your chair and offers novocain. The restaurateur offers you a selection of seats then asks you how you want your meal prepared. An adjustment of an environment or situation to accommodate your personal needs creates an atmosphere of security and comfort.

Now consider more expensive experiences, such as driving a luxury vehicle that adjusts your seat, mirrors, head rest and sound levels to a pre-programmed state each time you prepare to drive. An automatic adjustment of an environment to accommodate your personal needs based on previous knowledge and experience enabled by familiarity. For those who remember Cheers – think about the comfort level of the barfly Norm.

Let’s look at self-directed, corporate online training. Many of us develop a product we like to call “customized courseware.”  But does the student experience any personalization?  Do we ask him before he begins what might make the experience more enjoyable for him?  If he is fortunate we might include some “really advanced” tools that will allow him to self-adjust the environment, like muting the audio track.

What if the course could customize itself as it ran, to reflect the personal preferences of each student? What if the behavioral tendencies and learning styles of the student became collected data to be mined in real time to assist in personalizing the learning experience?

What if content engagement or navigation was not “force required” on students?

Consider that “intelligent content” could actually “learn from the learner” and thereby provide insight into the type of interactivity that invites the engagement of the student.

Think about an e-Learning course that doesn’t ask what makes you more comfortable because it already knows what makes you more comfortable, and prepares the online environment by making the necessary adjustments for you.

These questions should start us thinking about the experience of enhanced web-based training when it is built with the type of knowledge gleaned from more conventional classroom based student/teacher interactions. This new generation of online computer-based training can provide as much insight into the psyche of the student as it can deliver training in the most palatable and personalized format.


View other blogs in this series:

Creating Value in e-Learning Part 3: Isolation

Creating Value in e-Learning Part 2: Blindfolded Design

Creating Value in e-Learning Part 1: The Problem

Peter Sorenson Bio Image

Peter Sorenson


Peter Sorenson is the President of QUIZZICLE, a custom elearning development company located in Connecticut. He has worked as a multimedia designer, elearning designer and developer, and programmer since 1992. In addition to his primary job he continues to focus on replicating the classroom experience with all of its inherent learning support systems within the web-based training environment. He has presented at the Lectora User Conference for the past two years and has been an avid user and promoter of Lectora Publisher since 2004.