Blog Post

How to Build a Personalized Learning Program

Dr. Laetitia Tia Samuel
March 20, 2024
Personalized learning blog graphic

Think back to the largest seminar you’ve ever attended. Perhaps it was a 101 college lecture, or a packed keynote address at an industry conference. No matter how engaging that educational content was, you likely received the same learning experience to your peers.

Personalized learning takes a different approach. This style of educational program focuses on targeted instruction and carefully designed learning experiences. This personalization enables individuals to learn what, when, and how they want. Contrary to popular belief, you can scale this type of program to any size with the right steps and tools—not just small groups.

Wherever you are on your education journey, learn how personalized learning can take your program to the next level.

What Is Personalized Learning?

Personalized learning is the act of designing education that caters to the learner’s unique background, motivations, skills, and goals. In public schools, teachers modify curriculum to fit specific student learning needs. In a similar way, companies can personalize their education program to support a broad variety of learning experiences.

Why Is Personalized Learning Important?

Personalized learning acknowledges that learners have different needs, interests, and preferences. This starts with understanding your learner personas, which provide the foundation for tailored learning experiences. These personalized learning experiences engage your target audience more effectively—and deliver better, more meaningful learning outcomes.

According to the Brandon Hall Group, 93% of high-performing organizations say personalized learning helps employees achieve their professional goals more easily. Our own Customer Education Report, created by Forrester, found that high-success companies are more likely to have formalized education programs.

Put into practice: Imagine you’re teaching a client about a complex use case for your product. Some clients might grasp the information with a quick video tutorial. Others might prefer to read a detailed article or engage in a discussion with fellow users. With personalized learning, you adapt the learning experience based on what works best for each learner. 

How to Develop Personalized Learning

A personalized learning program can be challenging to implement and maintain—especially in organizations focused on scale. Thankfully, efficiency and precision don’t have to be mutually exclusive goals.

Here are some ways to develop personalized learning that scales as you grow.

1. Understand Your Audience

You can’t spell personalization without “person.” To create custom learning experiences, you must first understand those you wish to educate. 

Consider grouping learners based on their existing knowledge, skills, preferences, and learning objectives. Instructional designers can tailor content and delivery methods to meet the specific needs of each group. For example, you can design a course with multiple levels to cater to learners with different proficiency levels.

2. Invest in Modular Content

Your learning audience isn’t a monolith, but that doesn’t mean each person’s needs are entirely distinct. You’ll likely encounter instances where learning needs overlap.

Modular content gives your program the flexibility to meet those needs. In essence, creating modular content means designing reusable “blocks” of education you can embed within a variety of courses. Each module typically covers a discrete concept or skill, making it easier for learners to digest and retain information. 

Modular content empowers learners to navigate topics at their own pace, based on their own needs. It also makes your life easier as a designer. You can easily reuse or update specific modules based on evolving company goals or industry trends. This flexibility allows for scale, ensuring that learning initiatives remain relevant no matter the size of the audience.

3. Leverage Artificial Intelligence

AI technology plays an instrumental role in personalizing learning experiences. Through ever-improving algorithms and machine learning tools, educational platforms can analyze learner data—such as performance metrics and learning behaviors—to provide personalized recommendations and adaptive learning content.

That’s not all AI can accomplish. Service-based learning AI tools, like chatbots and virtual assistants, offer real-time support and feedback. This can enrich the learning journey with interactive assistance and guidance.

4. Foster a Community

It’s impossible to have all the answers for your audience. A great way to compensate for these education gaps is to engage in social learning. Within the Intellum platform, we use a social learning tool—aptly named Community. Community empowers learners to crowdsource answers to common questions and challenges they face. 

Fostering a culture of collaboration and knowledge sharing allows learners to tap into collective expertise—enriching their learning journey.

How We Leverage Personalized Learning at Intellum

Looking for an example of personalized learning in action? Look no further than the work we do to educate our own employees here at Intellum.

As part of my work as a Program Manager, I spearheaded an onboarding initiative for our People & Culture team. This initiative required new employees across various regions to complete a set of education modules for compliance. 

To ensure a smooth onboarding experience, my team applied many of the learning strategies I mentioned above. We segmented our audience and created a modular experience. This ensured our learning content could quickly adapt to ever-evolving compliance requirements. By dissecting the needs of each group and condensing the content into smaller, digestible components, we tailored offerings precisely to their requirements. We even leveraged AI to craft unique learning objectives for each learning path.

Currently, I’m working to take that modular learning and create a comprehensive certification. To prepare, I outlined the curriculum and determined which modules would engage learners effectively. I’m leveraging even more of the strategies above. Specifically, building a community to encourage social learning, leveraging AI to match learning objectives with core competencies, and creating learning modules based on the learner’s proficiency level. My team has even added a pre-assessment to gauge prior knowledge of the subject material. This allows learners to bypass unnecessary sections and accelerate their path to achieving certification. 

In both examples, the goal remained the same: Provide a tailored, dynamic learning experience that meets the diverse needs of our learners. By segmenting our audience, harnessing technology, and focusing on adaptability, we can empower our learners—in this case, our internal teams—to navigate their educational journey with confidence.

The Challenges of Personalized Learning

As skilled as your designers may be, they face the same challenges most education teams face: a lack of time, a lack of resources, and a lack of data. 

Time poses a particularly significant hurdle for trainers aiming to craft tailored learning experiences. Balancing the demands of daily operations with the intricacies of personalized instruction demands real-time strategic focus. And as you surely know, that can be nearly impossible when you’re understaffed.

Moreover, the constraint of managing limited resources amplifies the complexity of personalized learning initiatives. Whether it's budgetary constraints, staffing limitations, or technological infrastructure gaps, resource scarcity can impede the seamless implementation of personalized learning strategies. Navigating these constraints requires creative problem-solving, collaborative partnerships, and a keen eye for leveraging available resources.

The challenge of limited access to educational materials within the organizational framework poses yet another barrier to effective personalized learning. Most information exists within silos. Ensuring equitable access to relevant learning resources remains a pressing concern. Comprehensive learning platforms, content management systems, and content curation strategies can democratize access to knowledge across the organization.

The Myths and Misconceptions of Personalized Learning

Personalized learning thrives on learner motivation and engagement. Beyond tailoring content, it's about increasing intrinsic motivation. We want learners to actively participate in their educational journey. It’s essential to foster a supportive learning environment that sparks curiosity, cultivates a growth mindset, and encourages self-directed learning.

A common mistake instructional designers make is equating personalized learning with individualized learning. While individualization focuses solely on meeting individual needs, personalization considers learner preferences, interests, and aspirations. 

Contrary to popular belief, personalized learning doesn't isolate learners in solitary pursuits. Instead, it thrives on collaborative learning experiences, peer interactions, and community engagement. Building collaboration and social learning opportunities into personalized learning ecosystems fosters a sense of belonging and dynamism.

Lastly, while technology plays a pivotal role in personalized learning, it's important not to rely on it as the sole solution. Without considering learning science and human interaction, technology can hinder rather than enhance the learner experience. Therefore, personalized learning requires thoughtful technology integration alongside traditional instruction methods to ensure a holistic and effective approach to education.

How Intellum Helps Personalize Learning at Scale

Want to accomplish more with less? Intellum makes personalized learning easy—even when crunched for time or resources. Use our in-line Evolve editor to mix and match content assets to support modular learning. Understand your audience using our data management platform, so you can deliver the right education at the right time.

Read how marketing platform Braze used Intellum to create personalized learning and launch a new educational experience within 60 days.

About the Author

Dr. Laetitia Tia Samuel Speaker Headshot
Dr. Laetitia Tia Samuel
Sr. Program Manager, Education
Tia is a program manager and learning experience designer who brings creativity, passion, innovation, and expertise to organizations looking to lead the way toward learning proficiency (including Intellum!). Tia has her Doctorate in Administration and Curriculum Development. She's also a social entrepreneur, engaging global social needs through community development, education, training, and strategic partnerships.