As higher education continues to adopt new pedagogical resources to focus on student success and retention, institutions and faculty look to proven personalized learning approaches as a means to enhance student and teacher experience. This article covers several strategies to engage different stakeholders to drive the implementation of personalized learning in your institution.
In the second session of the Educause Learning Initiative (ELI) online course: Personalized Learning: Finding the Model that Fits your Institution, Michael Feldstein considers the issues that can act as barriers to getting personalized learning plans in motion and discusses the most appropriate approach for fostering discussion to enhance stakeholder motivation. This will encourage meaningful conversation around the personalized learning ‘tool box’ and how it can be effective.
The motivation for Personalized Learning
Session one identified the key factor that leads to institutions adopting a personalized learning approach: “outcome as the driver – institutions have a perception that changes are needed”.
Once this driving factor has been acknowledged, the next step is to think of an area where personalized learning will have an impact. This will allow to narrow down the stakeholder group to work with to develop the idea.
“Which stakeholder group do you want to motivate and what do you want to inspire them to do?” Michael Feldstein
Motivation boils down to two key issues: a) who do you want to motivate and b) what do you need to do to give them that motivation?
Faculty as stakeholders
Faculty faces difficulties in their classrooms every day. They are trying to find teaching approaches that really resonate with students and give them the right level of support. Case studies showed that one issue that came up frequently was faculty’s frustration of wasting time in class on unimportant or repetitive items – areas that teachers felt students should already come to class knowing.
The motivation would be to create time in class to improve interactions with students by removing the time waster element. What faculty member wouldn’t get excited about having meaningful conversation with students about a subject they love? A personalized learning solution enables faculty to create an immersive online experience of the learning material for students to complete in their own time. Classroom time can then be used for applied learning activities, such as discussions, projects or experiments.
Once you have motivated faculty members, it’s essential to keep them focused on their teaching goals and how personalized learning can help achieve them.
“The more laser focused they are on what they want to accomplish as teachers, the more quickly they can make decisions about where they want to invest their time with technology” Michael Feldstein
Administrators as stakeholders
“Administrators have responsibilities for accountability”. The issue here focuses on the successful education of the student. The motivation is to ensure the institution is graduating enough students, and graduating on time. They are concerned with the quality of students’ work placements and other real world problems such as how respected their degrees will be in the work place. Feldstein encourages an ‘outside-in’ approach to find the personalized learning solution here. If there is a need to increase the graduation rate, you need to identify what is in the way of that. ‘Do students get lost in a subject such as developmental math?’ By getting more students through subject ‘killing fields’, more students will graduate. This is where you can introduce the personalized learning approach that can help solve the problem.
Students as stakeholders
Students don’t always like personalized learning approaches such as flipped classrooms. The issue is that it can be more demanding, with greater expectation placed on the student for class preparation and participation.
Feldstein’s experience has shown that at times, students can feel some disconnect between the work they are tasked to do at home and work taking place in the classroom. The motivation is to get students to love the edtech they are involved in. Essentially students want to feel their educational experiences are valued by faculty, rather than feeling they are trialing new technology. Solutions can come from active learning. Feldstein suggests bringing in games or adaptive learning at this point, and always keeping a link between the work carried out at home and in class.
“I’ve seen results where faculties get a lot of mileage from students – simply by making sure they’re creating a trail of breadcrumbs from the content that the students reviewed at home to the class discussion” Michael Feldstein
Good results take time
When it comes to implementing personalized learning approaches there is often a concern around time. Often there is a lack of understanding from stakeholders around the length of time it takes to pilot an approach and then implement it. Particularly when support and steer comes from above and resistance comes from faculty. Clear (positive) results are often required to appease any negativity during the process. And there is the very real need for results to encourage additional funding and support to move on to the next stage of the process.
Case studies at both Arizona State University and Essex County College have shown that personalized learning interventions don’t often go well on the first run. The suggestion is that at least three or four semesters are required to really get things working. ASU and Essex County College were able to look at their progress outcomes over time and fine tune the developments. Feldstein cited a published paper from Danae Hudson, psychology professor at University of Missouri who implemented a systematic approach to course redesign. It outlined the basic, yet essential, message that successful changes need long term support.
After identifying the pedagogical goals within your institution, the next step is to bring effective tools and options to help faculty achieve them. Problems come about when institutions start the process with the solution, and then search for the issues it can fix.
Personalized learning can help achieve much within institutions especially when stakeholders embrace open dialogue from the outset to create a set of goals – and tools to reach them – for the benefit of all. Identifying stakeholders’ issues and motivations is the ultimate starting point for a positive and lasting experience.