Why Personalized Learning Does Not Mean Learning In Isolation

Zishaan Hayath, CEO & Founder, TOPPRZishaan incepted Toppr seven years ago, prior to which he has handled key roles at, Opera Solutions, and ITC Limited, and has even co-founded another company - Chaupaati Bazaa.

Karan is a class 9th student, brilliant in Maths. He has just finished studying a topic on his online learning app and is now solving a set of questions based on the same concept. His answer to the first question is correct and is accepted, he proceeds to the second question, which he doesn’t recognize. On getting the wrong answer, he is presented with a self explanatory passage, pointing out the concept usage, followed by a modified version of the previous question. Karan’s new answer is accepted and moves on to the next question of the lesson.

Shweta is a NEET aspirant, and she loves studying Biology. She has learned and understood all the important topics listed for NEET on her learning app and has demonstrated that by acing all the mock tests. Wasting no time, she moves on to solving previous year question papers to get more practice under her belt and be fully prepared for her competition exams.

To improve his English comprehension skills, Siddhart chooses to read an article on football, his favorite sport in school. After finishing the article, he is given an assignment based on his interest and his learning skills.

Karan, Shweta, and Siddhart are participating in examples of different forms of personalized learning. The three students, having different learning needs, were able to choose how they wanted to learn for optimal performance.

Why Personalization?
It’s 2019, and we are in the middle of a ‘personalization’ movement. From the music we listen to, to the coffee we consume everything today is customized based on our likes and dislikes.

The advent of cutting edge technology such as Artificial Intelligence(AI), Machine Learning(ML) and Virtual Reality(VR)are some of the core technologies which have helped fuel this.

With over 40 percent of India’s population below the age of 18 years and personalization taking over almost all sectors of our life one often wonders why is education lagging behind? It is
only natural for education to become personalized after almost decades of a factory model set up.

And it is definitely catching up. According to a recent survey, almost 89 percent of Indian parents are embracing technology to help better their children’s learning, ranking highest in the world. The new study also allows us to infer that Indian parents are more enthusiastic to understand how tech can help their children study better.

Adaptive practice allows students to learn at their own pace and understand the concept better, while detailed reports help inculcate self-tracking and self-starter behaviour in students

Understanding Personalization and It’s Need in Education
Despite popular beliefs personalization in education first began with teachers and not techies. Teachers would pick students who needed extra attention for an after class session, asking them to solve special practice questions designed to improve their problem areas. Starting off as need based learning for students who required teaching methods beyond the traditional techniques personalization also helped students with learning disabilities learn better.

The effective use of this technique further progressed with the advent of newage technology. The use of AI and ML has helped personalize different phases of learning, such as knowledge gathering, practice, revision, and more. Due to increased competition, students also began preferring learning techniques that would help them maximize their outputs in minimum time and improve their final scores.

With several reports and claims agreeing to personalization being beneficial for all students and not just for special needs learning it gave rise to the personalization in education movement. Approval of the teaching techniques from an increasing number of educators also helped further reinforce this learning shift.

Will This Lead To Overexposure To Technology and Increased Isolation?
Even though personalized learning can be implemented without the use of tech it is dramatically more effective when used with it. Syllabus topics and concepts are conveyed better when making use of videos, images and story formats. Adaptive practice allows students to learn at their own pace and understand the concept better while detailed reports help inculcate selftracking and selfstarter behavior in students.

However, with the rising concern of the amount of screen time children these days are being subjected to there have been concerns about over exposure to tech. Parents are resistant to the idea of digital learning because they have been witness to situations where in groups of children sitting together hardly ever look up from their electronic devices to talk to one another.

Finding quality free time which is tech free is often difficult these days, especially if the tech is immersive and personalized. But if designed correctly and used efficiently, technology along with personalized learning can be a powerful strategy for better interaction in school, better learning in class and better results in exams. In fact the motivation behind the usage of personalization in learning was to promote inclusion rather than isolation.

Designed with the aim to help weak students study better without being singled out in class and getting rid of the stigma associated, personalized learning does not mean isolation. It is a powerful learning strategy that can be employed by all students to get the best of their education and dive deeper into the subject matters that interest them. If used in a structured and goal-oriented manner, personalization can help students achieve mastery in all subject goals.