A Personalized Approach to Learning

Designing an Effective Training Program December 18, 2020

This article was originally published on FE News.

In today’s digital world, businesses can identify the precise needs of their customers and curate products accordingly. Take the example of e-commerce websites: based on the history of past purchases and other insights, the website can recommend products that individual customers are likely to buy. Similarly, a streaming video service like Netflix can recommend what their viewers are likely to enjoy based on their previous purchases. 

The level of personalisation is so precise that it delights the customer with a better shopping experience and in turn boosts sales. In a market that is crowded with so many products, filtering out and presenting what a customer exactly needs is a boon. 

With personalisation already happening in several sectors, the question is: why are we still relying on outdated teaching methods that ignore the individual needs of children? Isn’t it fair to expect a more personalised approach to learning and education? 

The current state of play

Despite all children learning differently and at different paces, most schools across the world follow the same textbooks and the same rigid methods. This uniform approach to education does not recognise that each child will struggle with different aspects of the curriculum – and unless they attend a fee paying school – are unlikely to receive special attention in their areas of weakness. In fact, even fee paying schools sometimes struggle to identify the areas where a child needs extra support. 

Unfortunately, this approach to education is creating gaps in learning and is holding children back from reaching their full potential.

According to research, approximately a quarter (25%) of American High School Freshmen fail to graduate on time (1). While external or personal factors – such as caring for a family member – sometimes play a part, over a third (35%) of dropouts are simply due to students failing their courses. 

The education sector needs to cater to the individual needs of all learners

The “one size fits all” approach is simply not working; a personalised approach to learning on the other hand can help teachers to understand and adapt to their students’ different learning paces and varied competencies. 

Some schools have already made strides in giving education a personal touch. However, evaluating every child, understanding their areas of weakness, coming up with a learning plan, and then executing it is not an easy task – it is also not easily scalable to an entire classroom. Fortunately, the digital world can offer a solution.

Understanding learners is the bedrock of personalised education 

Using digital tools, educators can locate every child’s current learning capabilities through a simple diagnostic test. This allows teachers to identify the areas where a child is struggling the most and then map out a lesson plan that would best support the child’s development in that particular area. Educators can focus on resolving that particular problem area, before moving onto the next topic. 

These digital tools also offer teachers an insight into their pupils’ approach to learning that goes beyond their grasp of the subject. Using activity stream data, educators can have a better understanding of their pupils’ preferences, skills, mindsets, citizenship, and context. 

Gooru is a good example of this type of digital, personalised learning platform. It can be used by schools and other learning collaborators to detect and map a learner’s journey. Founder Prasad Ram likens it to a GPS-like experience for learners that provides real-time data about the progress being made. By building a complete profile for the learner, teachers can then go on to create a better personalised learning programme. 

Curated online courses based on the advancements in Machine Learning (ML) technology are also helpful, delivering personalised and prioritised content to each learner – one at a time.

The increase in free online courses on various subjects additionally makes it easier to provide learners with focused materials that cater to their needs, meaning students who are struggling will be able to get help sooner. 

Let’s use these tools to advance personalised education

This year, the global pandemic has shone a spotlight on online education to an extent never before seen. Yet, it has also highlighted significant inequalities in education and how those who might struggle can be easily left behind. It’s time now to make sure we maximise the potential of personalised education and equip every student with the opportunity to succeed. Online platforms provide the precision and scalability necessary for personalised learning to make a real impact to mainstream education. 


(1) Silver, David, Marisa Saunders, and Estela Zarate. “What Factors Predict High School Graduation in the Los Angeles Unified School District.” Attendance Counts. Accessed February 18, 2015.