How to Personalize Learning in a Digital Classroom | D2L Europe
IE Not suppported

Sorry, but Internet Explorer is no longer supported.

For the best D2L.com experience, it's important to use a modern browser.

To view the D2L.com website, please download another browser such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.

How to Personalize Learning in a Digital Classroom

  • 3 Min Read

Personalized instruction is about adapting digital curriculum to fit students’ needs.

Personalizing the student learning experience in a digital classroom doesn’t mean just adding a virtual bulletin board to the login page or simply uploading content to a website. It means looking deeper at a student’s learning needs, harnessing their strengths, and offering differentiated instruction, just as a teacher would in a traditional or blended learning environment.

Personalized instruction allows educators to accelerate and strengthen student learning by adapting digital curriculum to fit student learning needs. Here are five ways to personalized student’s learning experience in a digital-only environment:

Communication

Providing a personalized learning experience starts and stops with student-teacher communication—it’s critical. For example, there should be weekly opportunities scheduled for the student and teacher to have teaching sessions and conversations about the student’s learning progress. The sessions can happen through a phone call, virtual classroom, or meeting platform for students that are working remotely. This will allow the teacher to identify the student’s unique learning needs and enable them to determine how to differentiate instruction accordingly.

Learn more about the Virtual Classroom tool in Brightspace

Flexible content

Utilizing content that can be altered and manipulated will empower teachers to customize the learning experience for students. Flexible content will allow teachers to provide differentiated learning opportunities, pull in outside resources for remediation, and move content around in a course per student’s learning needs. For example, if a student is working in an Algebra II course and needs more practice on a concept covered in Algebra I, flexible content allows the teacher to pull in a lesson from Algebra I and insert it into the student’s Algebra II course. This lesson can be moved around to change the scope and sequence of the student’s course and to add extra assessments and resources to the lesson content for the student as well.

Self-pacing

Allowing students to work at their own pace is another important piece of personalized learning. This provides students flexibility in scheduling and in their learning speed, which can be particularly important for exceptional learners. Many exceptional learners need extended time on assessments, so a self-pacing course will enable the student to take their time on assessments and meet the needs of the student’s educational plan. Additionally, high performing exceptional learners can move at an accelerated pace in the same course with self-pacing options. The self-pacing and extended time also meets the needs of other education plan accommodations such as printed notes/lessons, read-aloud text, as well as extended time on assessments. Ultimately, providing self-pacing gives the student ownership of their learning and allows students to learn at their own speed without feeling held back from moving forward or lost because the pace is too fast.

Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)

Employing a VLE that offers a platform for course alterations is key. A VLE platform will house the rigorous course content and should be user-friendly for student use and teacher customization. For instance, the number of multiple choice questions on an exam, time limits on assessments, course navigation, ability to creating content and/or pulling in outside resources are some of the functions that make a VLE selection important when considering how to customize the student experience. These functions allow the teacher to make personalized adjustments for students and enhance the learning experience.

Choice assessments

Another critical component of personalized learning involves providing more than one type of assessment or more than one occasion for the student to show mastery of the lesson standards—for instance, offering students the option to show mastery of content through either an essay with an oral presentation or a multi-media presentation with a graphic organizer. This allows teachers to tap into the student’s learning interests. Students will gravitate towards the assessment they are most interested in completing, providing the opportunity for ownership and creativity. In turn, students will feel empowered to showcase their knowledge with the chosen assessment.

Personalized learning in a digital classroom is changing the definition of education. By using an online learning platform and implementing these five considerations, educators can provide a student-centered, customized learning experience that is accessible for all students that will prepare them for the digital world.

To learn more about personalizing in a digital classroom, join the Florida Virtual School Team at booth 310 and during the breakout session, Personalizing the Student Learning Experience on Thursday July 20, 2017 at 4:10 at Fusion 2017.

Subscribe for blog updates
Share this:

Subscribe today!

Please complete this required field.
Phone number must be a valid number.

Thank you for subscribing!

Subscribe to our blog

Get the latest news and expert tips to help you get the most out of your learning environment.

Subscribe Now!

Fueling up:

Upskilling to grow careers

Name: Zaria
Age: 27

Policy prescriptions: Invest in a Learning-Integrated Life; Transform the learning of today with new partnerships; Accelerate the shift to skills-based learning and hiring

Zaria has five years of work experience and is ready to change jobs and enter a field that has high growth potential in her region. The national government has been investing in collecting better skills-based labour market information for years and has developed a public platform to offer individuals specialized tools to assess their skills against current market needs, and to locate employers that are currently hiring.

On the employer side, the human resources team is closely examining a recent internal skills audit done at their organization and determines that the organization needs additional digital marketing specialists. They initiate a search for individuals with the skills they will soon need and spot a strong candidate in Zaria who requires only light training on regulatory issues regarding the sale of electric vehicles, along with some formal skills development courses on social media marketing strategy. After a successful interview, Zaria is offered the job.

Upon joining, Zaria will receive an educational benefits stipend from the company, and access to a company-provided platform of curated programs for skills building from approved providers. Upon completion of a set of courses, Zaria will receive a credential from a company approved program verifying her technical knowledge and marking the end of her probationary period at the company. To ensure she continues to build her skills, she will move into a formal mentor program with one of her colleagues to receive continual peer-to-peer feedback on her demonstration of skills and knowledge. information

This affordable and accessible learning through employer-funded training has enabled Zaria to begin working while also upskilling to ensure her long-term success in the company and growing industry. The employer is investing in its employees, and company leaders are thinking further into the future about the skills the company needs, and the types of job candidates who will succeed. This match, based on skills potential, was made possible because of government investment in high-quality labour market information and a national platform that matches job candidates with career opportunities based on the candidates’ skills and the identified skill needs of a given job.

Taking the road less travelled:

A networked postsecondary education

Name: Sam
Age: 18

Policy prescriptions: Transform the learning of today with new partnerships

Sam is a prospective postsecondary student who has always been interested in pursuing a global and interdisciplinary education. Sam’s siblings have all instilled in her the importance of studying abroad, having spoken fondly of their academic exchange semesters, field research trips, and intensive language immersion programs. She is inspired, but unsure whether this pathway will be available if she chooses not to complete a four-year degree at one institution.

Sam is interested in understanding how emerging technologies can be used to modernize and improve government services—an area in need of talent not only in her home country of Canada but also abroad. She could take on a general political science, public administration, engineering, or computer science degree at the university close to her home, but none of those degrees feels like the right fit to build the skills she needs to pursue this career interest.

While researching options, Sam learns of a new degree completion pathway that allows students to take courses from a network of universities, colleges, and polytechnic institutions throughout Canada and stack them for skills-based  credentials that are recognized by major Canadian employers. A set of four of these credentials grants an individual a degree-equivalent endorsed by each institution. Sam identifies the skills and knowledge she wants to work towards and charts out four credential pathways:

  1. Service delivery design
  2. Change management
  3. Applications of emerging technologies (e.g., artificial intelligence)
  4. Machinery of government

With this customized learning pathway, Sam has full flexibility to decide how she wants to structure her courses, the institutions within the network she will study at, and the format and model of courses she prefers—whether live in-class instruction or online courses.

Cost flexibility is built in as well—students pay a standard fee based on the number of competencies they intend to learn rather than the normal standard of ‘credit hours’. The province in which Sam lives has endorsed this networked model of  postsecondary education and adjusted its financial assistance program to better support students. Grants and other non-repayable assistance take into consideration the number of courses the student is taking across all institutions when assessing financial need. Previously, Sam would have been required to be a full-time student at every institution to receive support.

Sam also has the option of starting with foundational courses or applying for Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) information so her existing knowledge and skills can be tested and she can move on to more advanced topics.

Sam completes her first three credentials in three years and uses her certifications to apply for a one-year work-integrated learning experience with the federal government in Germany where she can learn first-hand about the applications of artificial intelligence in government. When she returns home, she applies for PLAR to certify her learning on the machinery of government and is granted a degree acknowledging her four-part customized education.

The collaboration between universities, polytechnics, and colleges to create a networked approach to degree completion, and its endorsement by the provincial government, allowed Sam to graduate as an alumnus of multiple postsecondary education institutions. Her exposure to different thought spaces and networks was highly valuable for ensuring she was engaged throughout her education and set up for post-graduation success. In the rapidly evolving field she has chosen, she understands how important it is to continuously upskill, and is prepared to return to formal education for more stackable credentials as she continues throughout her career.

Route guidance:

Personalized professional development

Name: ZheYuan
Age: 33

Policy prescriptions: Prepare teachers for their own lifelong learning journeys; Accelerate the shift to skills-based learning and hiring

ZheYuan is about to join Marama’s school as a new secondary school teacher. He completed his professional teacher education a decade ago, and teaching looks a bit different today than it did when he was studying. With the incorporation of learning technologies in the classroom, and expectations of teachers delivering competency-based education information, he needs personalized professional development to feel comfortable and supported in this new opportunity.

The school district has been on its own learning journey since shifting to a competency-based education model, and has had some growing pains. Over time, the district has come to recognize that success depends on school administrators working closely with teachers to co-create systems of instruction, and pathways to professional development. The district has its own online learning management system (LMS) for teacher professional development, with a catalogue of content covering a range of subjects including:

  • Strategies for student-centred instruction
  • Design thinking—how to prototype and iterate on solutions to test new approaches
  • Online content—using learning management systems to advance competency-based education
  • Data analysis—interpreting student progress

ZheYuan is excited that he can take on professional learning to suit his needs on his own schedule. He recalls an earlier time when he had to spend nine hours a month in-person taking the same professional development courses as his peers who were teaching very different subjects and had varied skill levels and pedagogical needs than him, which was less than effective.

ZheYuan can also take advantage of his teacher community in the LMS, connecting both in asynchronous chats and in live discussions with other teachers and experts from across his region to ask questions and share his experiences. He sees some upcoming dialogues hosted by his school district to share learnings and signs up for those sessions, knowing he will get a valuable peer perspective from other teachers. ZheYuan is thankful that his school leaders recognize and value professional learning and provide the supports and the time needed for improvement.

D2L Whitepaper Contributors

Lead Authors:
Malika Asthana, Manager, Strategy and Public Affairs
Joe Pickerill, Senior Director, Strategy and Public Affairs, International

Contributors:
Jeremy Auger, Chief Strategy Officer
Mark Schneiderman, Senior Director, Future of Teaching and Learning
Brendan Desetti, Senior Director, Strategy and Public Affairs, United States
Mike Semansky, Senior Director, Strategy and Public Affairs, Canada
Nia Brown, Senior Manager, Strategy and Public Affairs

In the driver’s seat:

Owning the personalized learning journey

Name: Marama
Age: 14

Policy prescriptions: Prepare teachers for their own lifelong learning journeys; Accelerate the shift to skills-based learning and hiring

Marama is enrolled in a school with a competency-based education model information. Students are responsible for owning the personalization of their learning pathways, making choices alongside their teachers in how and when they learn.iii Teachers play a central role in guiding and validating all learning, regardless of where it takes place—offering formative assessments to evaluate a student’s mastery of skills and knowledge. Teachers use data from these assessments, gathered through an online learning management system (LMS), to differentiate instruction and provide targeted supports so that all students progress toward graduation. As a student diagnosed with a learning disability, Marama is supported in her education by this personalized learning pathway.

All students complete an assessment in ninth grade to identify their natural strengths as a learner. Their teachers use the results as inputs to design tailormade educational pathways with learning materials and activities that suit the individual students’ learning needs. In Marama’s case, this includes:

  1. Supplementing lecture-based teaching with structured but independent reading
  2. Shadowing professionals who work on the concepts she is learning about
  3. Taking the stories and lessons she’s learned and sharing it back with classmates by designing a creative and interactive presentation

Over the course of the school year, Marama spends a third of her time in live lectures (sometimes online) with her teacher alongside other classmates—but the rest of her time is spent learning in the ways that suit her best. She can log into her online LMS from her mobile device to access her school resources and complete on her own schedule before the assigned deadline. When Marama finds a concept that interests her, she can ask her teachers and counsellor for support in finding a working professional to speak to, or work alongside for a couple weeks, from the network her school has curated over time. And when she has learned something, she is encouraged to reinforce her learning by applying her skills and developing content to share back with her classmates.

Marama’s personalized learning journey empowers her to own her education by learning in ways that are effective for her, with the support that allows her to be successful. Her teachers have high-quality data about student strengths and performance they can share with her parents to show them how she is mastering specific skills, and where she may need extra support. Her school experience empowers her to embrace her subject interests very early on, and she advances to deeper topics quickly as she submits evidence of learning that demonstrates her proficiency. She graduates having cultivated a mindset for self-directed learning early in her education.