Sue Diseker Sabat
CEO, BocaVox; Former Educator
Innovation in education technology has been an important means to enable the shift toward a more personalized approach to teaching and learning. Personalized education addresses the increasing number of challenges institutions face while trying to operate a traditional educational model for a tech-savvy generation, such as disengagement, achievement gaps, and frequent drop outs.
Individualized learning offers students optional learning styles with the choice to excel in areas they are most interested in, progressing at their own pace. Personalization allows all students to succeed without time constraints, with the goal of instilling a deeper, more meaningful grasp of subject matter.
Having access to reliable, comprehensive data regarding each student’s prior and present academic performance, attendance, discipline reports, and personal interests provides educators and academic advisors the information they need to guide students to choose goals that interest them and are realistic for them to achieve.
Keeping in touch
Frequent communication has been shown to be one of the top criteria for increased retention rates. Providing students with an academic advisor for one-on-one conferences is a practice that results in overall improvements in academic achievement, eventually raising graduation rates. This important practice is more likely to occur if the institution’s management system offers a tool for easy scheduling, both for faculty and students.
During conferences, advisors can work with students to create an individualized learning plan or ILP to document their goals, with a plan of action for attaining them. The ILP can be uploaded to a platform where it will be accessible to the student throughout their academic career to update and use as a roadmap to to see how they are progressing toward meeting those goals.
Learners of all ages can benefit from having a mentor with whom they can voice their interests and dreams, and to help them make strategic career decisions. College students in particular need someone, besides their parents, who has knowledge of their personal academic data, and who will listen to their personal goals and help them make important life decisions in which they are most likely to succeed.
A personalized plan
Personalization requires educators to tailor their instruction and the learning experiences for each student. Faculty can evaluate metrics like pre-test scores from competency exams, persistent failure to log in or attend class, and low grades or poor completion rates to predict which of their students are most at risk of failure, and reach out to them before it’s too late.
This data can be used in conjunction with alternative learning opportunities, such as projects or internships aimed at increasing engagement for students with different learning styles, while simultaneously providing more challenging stretch-assignments for those who consistently meet their goals.
Some other important tools that enable educators to juggle the challenge of allowing learners to progress on different learning tracks include management of anytime starts, academic pacing, access to test scores, and personalized learning plans, all in a single, comprehensive platform that is easily accessible to both students and advisers.
Additionally, the ability to offer competency-based learning provides even more opportunities for personalization, with rapid achievement of subject mastery in areas where students excel, especially for returning students who may have some work experience. Competency based learning requires tools that can import standards or criteria for mastery, and associate outcomes and rubrics with assignments, as well as a gradebook, with the flexibility for mastery-based grading.
A comprehensive management system that offers a complete set of tools will make the evolution back to a personalized setting akin the one-room schoolhouse (a class of diverse students all working at varying stages of learning) a workable reality in today’s fast-paced educational environment.