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Adaptive learning: Pros and cons

Any e-learning software worth its salt in today’s market will include at least some form of adaptive learning system. It’s not hard to see why. Organisations the world over have turned to the technology to help improve their training programmes, as well as to save time and money. But do you know all of the pros and cons of adaptive learning?

In this guide, we’ll break down the positive and negative aspects of adaptive learning, and provide you with more insight about if and when to incorporate it into your training courses.




What is adaptive learning?

The idea behind adaptive learning is simple: people learn best when training materials are adapted to meet their needs. Adaptive learning harnesses the power of technology to automatically offer personalised educational content to each learner.

In practice, adaptive learning works by collecting data through an LMS or LXP. This includes information that is manually input by users as well as statistics regarding their use of the platform. Using this data, artificial intelligence is then able to determine what to serve to the user. This makes it possible to offer content and training methods that are tailored to each user’s preferences and requirements—even at scale.


With adaptive learning, training is centred around the learner themselves. Instead of offering the same content to everyone, each individual has their own unique training pathway, and is only shown modules and material that will truly be valuable to them. In short, adaptive learning makes training more effective.


Benefits of adaptive learning


Benefits of adaptive learning

There are plenty of advantages of adaptive learning—so it’s no wonder that more and more businesses are turning to it. Let’s take a look at each of them in greater detail.


Training courses adapted to each learner

The first benefit of adaptive learning won’t come as a surprise: it makes it possible to personalise learners’ training courses. It makes selections and refines its choices in real time, offering increasingly tailored content to each individual as it gains more data about them.


To give an example, this process may start by asking the learner to fill out a questionnaire via an LMS. The adaptive learning algorithm will then analyse their results and will map out a training course that fits their existing knowledge level and the pace at which they gain new skills.


Higher retention rates, better results

Another plus point for adaptive learning is its ability to increase retention rates. To put it another way, it makes employees more likely to retain what they learn during the course and, in turn, helps them to develop new skills more easily. As such, adaptive learning is effective in promoting knowledge consolidation.


To help achieve this, the learner’s LXP or LMS will enable them to put their knowledge into practice—for example, via the use of virtual workshops. Adaptive learning platforms can also jog learners’ memories by offering them online materials, such as quizzes, at the end of their training course.


An intelligent coaching system

Thanks to artificial intelligence, it’s now possible to offer more comprehensive support to remote learners than ever before. That’s because adaptive learning systems come complete with coaches, as well as other kinds of virtual tutors.


These ‘coaches’ are, more accurately, chatbots, which are fuelled by data provided by the user. The more a learner communicates with their virtual coach—for example, by asking them questions, or letting them know which skills they want to build—the better the coach will be at understanding them and at providing relevant answers and support. And since these coaches are virtual, there’s no need to book in a specific time slot to speak to them: they’re available 24/7.


Improved learner engagement

Adaptive learning puts a strong emphasis on providing an excellent user experience. This is what sets it apart from earlier types of e-learning systems—and it also makes the training process much more engaging for learners.


Training courses now evolve to fit the learner’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as their existing range of skills and experience. Everyone is able to learn at their own pace, and no one needs to waste time on unnecessary activities. Instead, employees will only be offered content that either meets their interests or helps them build a required skill.


Another plus is that, in contrast to traditional e-learning modules, adaptive learning offers a truly engaging environment. With formats such as group activities, virtual classes, online discussions and serious games, there’s plenty to keep learners motivated and stimulated.


Less admin work

Automation is at the heart of how adaptive learning works. This means it allows stakeholders to skip the tedious admin and save huge amounts of time, especially as creating an adaptive learning course is simpler than ever. Employees also benefit from this system, as they no longer need to sit through training sessions that aren’t useful for them. Instead, they can focus their attention on gaining knowledge that they can actually use on the job—and, as a result, will gain new skills even more quickly.


Disadvantages of adaptive learning

It can be tricky to get the hang of

Though adaptive learning systems are powerful and rich in features, they aren’t always easy to get the most out of. To maximise the potential of the platform, training managers and designers need to put a lot of effort into planning out courses. After all, it requires the creation of suitable, high-quality adaptive learning content in multiple formats, including video and audio, as well as interactive elements. This can certainly prove complex, and it requires a strong understanding of how to use a variety of software.


Pros and cons of adaptive learning


It needs to be integrated into your blended learning strategy

We may be living in a digital era, but moving the training process entirely online has drawbacks. Without contact with others, learners are likely to end up feeling cut off and unmotivated. Meanwhile, it’s been proven time and again that human interaction helps us to retain knowledge much more easily.


A common mistake, therefore, is to assume that adaptive learning can take the place of all other forms of training. Instead, it should be just one of the many tools in our arsenal, and form part of a broader digital learning strategy. Ideally, it should be used within the context of blended learning, in combination with face-to-face sessions and other forms of online content.


Your team needs to be able to correctly interpret its results

Adaptive learning systems generate a lot of data. It’s up to your team to sort through, interpret and analyse it all—and with so much to get through, it can leave you with more questions than answers. Say, for example, a group of learners performed poorly on a test, and you need to figure out why. Did the learners actually fail to master the material, or were there problems with the questions themselves?


Similarly, your adaptive learning platform might offer you a huge variety of graphs, statistics and figures. It can become a bit overwhelming if you’re not sure what to look out for! That’s why it’s important to keep your focus on the data that will actually help you to reach your goals and execute your strategy.


LMS platforms aren’t always optimised for adaptive learning

When investing in a learning management system, you need to choose your platform wisely. Be sure to check that the provider offers adequate support and the right set of features to enable you to roll out your adaptive learning strategy. Thankfully, this is one problem that you can easily avoid. To guarantee a smooth and successful transition to adaptive learning, all you need to do is choose a platform like Rise Up!


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