Adaptive Learning. What is it, and why is it so crucial for your Learners?

Recently, Corporate Training expert Donald Taylor released the results of his annual Survey about global trends in the world of Training & Development. In the Survey, Taylor asked 885 industry experts from over 60 countries one simple question, “What was the hottest topic in the world of Training & Development, during the year 2017?”

The most popular response was not Microlearning, nor Augmented Reality – as perhaps expected – but Adaptive Learning, or Personalized Learning.

adaptive learning is a smart way of doing e-learning, with specific paths for each learner

Taylor’s survey specifically concerned the year 2017, but the topic has been a core topic in the L&D field since long before. The turning point of Adaptive Learning can without a doubt be identified with the beginning of 2013, the year in which the Gates Foundation funded adaptive courses for a large number of mainly academically based organizations.

Adaptive Learning has not stopped at university desks: since 2013 it has begun to gain ground in the very field of Corporate Training, where it has begun to play a central role (due to its undoubted effectiveness) precisely in providing customized training for employees and learners.

Keep reading to learn more about this topic! 👇

What is Adaptive Learning?

In its most basic form, it is the kind of Training that adapts to the needs and requirements of the individual Learner.

Adaptive learning means an e-learning path customized for each person

Think of your standard training course: learners log onto your e-learning platform, watch a video or read text content, and then answer a few questions related to the module in turn. If the answers are correct, they can continue. If not, the platform prompts them to review the concepts delivered, and try again. Correct?

Ergo, everyone who takes that course comes out with pretty much the same training experience. Everyone sees the same video, answers the same questions, in the same order.

Adaptive Learning goes to work on precisely this formula. Learners in an adaptive course all start from the same “block,” but – based on their answers – the platform will provide them with different, personalized content and questions. Adaptive.

In the event that they do not give the correct answer, the platform returns to them an additional lesson, perhaps simplified from the previous one, providing them with precisely those basics that they likely did not possess before. If, on the other hand, they should “perform” very well – and the questions should not bother them in any way – then the platform will provide them with advanced notions about the same content.

Are Adaptive Learning and Personalized Learning the same?

It’s very easy to confuse Adaptive Learning with Personalized Learning. In fact, the two terms are often used interchangeably. This is not entirely incorrect, since – where learning is actually adapted to the student – it automatically becomes Personalized. Right? Technically yes, and yet…not quite.

adaptive learning and personalized learning are not quite the same thing

There are countless ways to personalize learning: by differentiating the modes of interaction with learners or the notions themselves – with the specific aim of reaching and engaging all the resources present. One can also use ad hoc exercises for each, or deliver examples based on the individual’s experience. This is Personalized Learning.

However, to experts in the field, the term appears summarily generic. To them, in fact, it may turn out to be simply a “mode of modification, adaptation and personalization not strictly directed to the concept of ‘Adaptive,'” says Newman in an article published by Campus Technology.

“Rather, think of Adaptive Learning as a new, wide-ranging approach to Corporate Training that can encompass and also develop the Personalization of a given training pathway” – precisely by adapting content to the individual learner as he or she progresses, as well as providing him or her with the knowledge just when he or she seems to need it most. This falls squarely within the concept of Personalized Learning.

What is Adaptive Learning like?

Think of your adaptive course as a…road. The conventional training course mentioned at the beginning of this Post is a straight road with no turns. Anyone who comes across that road will have to travel it the same way. From start to finish.


An adaptive course with branching content, on the other hand, is able to… guide each learner through the content offered, on the basis of the learner’s interaction with the course material. This will allow to:

  • skip the content in which they are perhaps already proficient;
  • prioritize some notions rather than others;
  • practice and gain skills on a given content, on which they perhaps feel less prepared.

A well thought-out Adaptive Learning strategy will provide the learner (precisely and only) with what best meets their training needs.

Possibilities provided by Augmented Intelligence

In some cases, Adaptive Learning can take a far more effective form than conventional content (e.g., video, interactive text). Augmented Intelligence in the form of chatbots, for example, can without less be considered a form of Adaptive Learning.

chatbot used as a form of adaptive learning within corporate training

A chatbot employed in an e-learning course is able to suggest courses to the Learner that are relevant to his or her specific professional figure, or monitor those courses that the learner must instead compulsorily take – as for corporate strategy. They are excellent advisors to bring back to the learner’s mind a skill acquired at the exact moment when it is most appropriate to employ it in daily work; they respond to specific questions and needs, becoming true…educational tutors in robotic form.

Why using Adaptive Learning?

Each learner is a person; each person is different from the other. Basically, everyone who collaborates within each individual organizational or corporate reality certainly possesses different backgrounds from each other.

Take for example the corporate reality Dine Aware. The mission of this company is to educate Food Industry employees in the perfect management-as well as interaction-of those customers with food allergies or intolerances. Restaurants, as we know, tend to hire staff from different countries and cultures, as well as from profoundly different and seemingly distant educational systems and languages. They all deal with the public, however.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with delivering a training course in conventional mode in Dine Aware as well. There are specific cases and content that are more usable if delivered to all learners at the same time and place.

Adaptive Learning, on the other hand, enters into excellent and providential synergy with the corporate Training & Development department precisely when the need arises to deliver specific notions to a specific learner, in the most functional manner for them.

What can I say…an excellent ally. Don’t you think? ☺

Thank you, A.J. O’Connell!

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