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How Adaptive Learning Improves Professional Development


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How Adaptive Learning Improves Professional Development

Written on Dec 1, 2016 3:22:00 PM, by Ilie Ghiciuc

When looking at the $350 billion that is spent on learning and training every year around the world, there are some figures that state 45% of that learning is scrap. By other estimates, the number is as high as 80%.

That means that almost half of the learning and training provided around the world does not help employees with their professional development. Training programs do not seem to be working well, but there is hope for employees, as systems are changing.

Also read: 9 Myths and Truths about Employee Training Programs

Before Adaptive Learning

Before online learning, the most effective learning took place when teachers and learners worked together to create a unique learning plan for the learner. The teacher adapted the material to fit the needs of each individual student. The pace of learning and activities were determined by the relationship between the learner and teacher, and the progress of the learner.

Online learning was supposed to be the next step in bringing this type of learning to more people. Unfortunately, this has not happened for most employees. Many types of online learning relate information in a passive manner, having employees listen to or read information and then pass a test.

Although online learning seemed to be the next best thing in learning, it does not meet the needs of any learners. Many companies are now incorporating things like neuroscience, gamification, microlearning, and adaptive learning in order to bring online learning to life. 

What is Adaptive Learning?

When companies use adaptive learning, they incorporate technology that takes into account every employee’s unique learning style. Using data and analytics, these programs adapt to every learner and adjust the pace of learning, difficulty of content, and type of content.

Pace - As employees progress through an online system using adaptive learning, the system will change how fast new material is presented based on how learners do on assessments.

Difficulty - In a similar fashion, the system will also change the difficulty level depending on how well employees are learning information.

Type of Content - Using an assessment at the beginning, the learning system will filter out what an employee already knows so they are not seeing the same information over and over again.

Learning style - The system will track how each individual employee learns best and present them content in their learning style: audio, visual, interactive.

In practice, employees that use an adaptive learning system start by taking a learning style assessment and knowledge assessments. The software presents them with content.

As they work through the course, the system will track their performance and change the content based on learning style and difficulty.

Data will be available so that employees and organizations can align training with their goals, measure progress, and connect learning with work tasks. 

Also read: 11 Technology Trends in LMS

The Advantages of Adaptive Learning

There are many advantages to using adaptive learning, both for the organization as a whole, and for each employee’s professional development.


Using an adaptive learning system is often good for companies when comparing the investment into the system with the return on investment.

Data and analytics

Both for organizations and employees, the amount of data and analysis that adaptive learning provides can help track progress on individual and company goals.


An adaptive learning system will help employees reach their professional development goals, as it adapts training to specifically fit their individual needs.

Employee engagement

Employees who take courses in an adaptive learning system are highly engaged in the process. In one study, a group of employees registered for a course on using spreadsheets. Out of the initial group, 80% finished the first course. Over 80% of those employees decided to move on to the second course. Data showed that scores increased by 8 points after the first course and 9 points after the second course.  

Also read: Why Learning And Engagement Are Inseparable


Adaptive learning systems use data and analytics to help employees discover skills and explore topics in an in-depth manner. Because it changes the difficulty and pace, employees can explore a subject in a manner that will help them reach their development goals faster.


Employees who want to get promoted can show progress and initiative through data collected by the adaptive learning system. 


In some ways, this could help companies attract and relate to Millennial employees. The way the system works may be familiar to Millennials since they are more likely to have grown up using similar systems.


Employees will have more control of their learning and be able to reach their goals more independently than if they had to rely on in-person training sessions or non-adaptive systems. The system allows flexibility as employees can access the learning courses at any time they are able to, and in various locations.


Employees will be able to learn in a way that helps them reach professional goals, as the system helps them integrate knowledge into their jobs. It also reduces the amount of scrap learning, information that is not applicable to an employee’s job.


Adaptive learning systems have many elements that will help organizations create a culture of learning, from personalization, to flexibility, to learning goals.


With adaptive learning, there is the potential for more personalized learning, making better use of the $350 billion spent each year. Needless to say that this would be a welcome change for both employees and organizations.


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Ilie Ghiciuc
I've been an entrepreneur for the past 10+ years building great software companies together with fantastic teams. I like to spend most of my free time reading :)