Personalised learning is not exactly an entirely new trend in education and learning. The concept of tailoring education and learning programmes to individual needs, abilities and preferences has been around for quite some time. However, it rose to prominence only in the first decade of the 21st century, especially in the UK. Here, it has been heavily promoted as a solution not only for the existing educational issues but also for many social and economic challenges. To determine whether personalised learning can really be the answer to the many problems of the traditional education, teaching concepts and learning environments, however, it is necessary to understand what personalised learning actually is.
Personalised learning refers to adjusting the curriculum, teaching style and learning environment to the needs and ambitions of each learner individually. It is very similar to the so-called individualisation which also seeks to adjust the learning style, environment and pace to individual needs. But unlike the latter, personalisation offers the learner more freedom in terms of the learning materials, where they are learnt, how, etc. Obviously, this requires a thorough understanding of an individual’s prior knowledge, experience and interests.
Personalised learning offers several advantages over the conventional learning styles and concepts. Some of the main advantages include:
More choice about the learning materials, place of learning, learning style, etc. There are certain targets that need to be met but in comparison to the traditional learning, personalised learning gives the learner much more choice when it comes to most things including learning materials, place of learning and learning style, to mention just a few.
Pace of learning is adjusted to the learner’s needs, abilities and personal preferences. As a result, every learner can progress at their own pace; more talented/committed ones can progress faster, while those who are having difficulties acquiring certain skills or knowledge have the ability to take more time to fully grasper/understand the concept in question.
More enjoyable experience for both educators and learners. Research has shown that personalised learning is more enjoyable for both educators and learners. Also, it encourages more interaction between individual learners and the educator both inside and outside the classroom. Personalised learning has been shown to be particularly well received by adult learners who tend to be more independent, autonomous and goal-centred. Likewise, they tend to perform better if the learning material, style and environment is adjusted to their prior knowledge and skills.
This concept of education has a few drawbacks which, however, mostly concern educators. In order to be able to provide personalised learning, the teacher needs to adjust their approach, pace and style of learning to individual learners and their needs. This, however, requires a lot of preparation to first identify the needs of individual learners and then develop a plan to meet their specific needs. Also, personalised learning typically involves the use of technology which can present a problem in some situations.