Why Personalization is the Future of L&D

Shelley Osborne

Head of Learning & Development at Udemy

October 16, 2018

Personalization has become part of everyday life in the consumer world. When you’re searching online for a restaurant or movie, you likely expect instant and personalized search results. But this type of recommendation engine isn’t just for your favorite music, movies, or restaurants. Within a learning & development (L&D) context, personalization–fueled by advances in machine learning–is changing the face of corporate learning. Employees can now browse through topics and courses that are uniquely tailored to their interests, behaviors, and goals.

Personalization is poised to transform the L&D experience

In the context of L&D, personalization is driven by machine learning and algorithms to create learning journeys and offer recommendations based on learners’ past behavior. Gartner contributor Sharon George writes, “Personalization will revolutionize L&D by providing customized learning experiences for every employee, based on the challenges they face in their role, their career aspirations, and their personal preferences.”

These elements of personalized learning complement Bersin by Deloitte’s description of the mature learning organization. According to Bersin, “successful learning organizations have moved beyond L&D and training; instead, they are developing their entire organization to fully integrate learning with the flow of work and at the point of need.” Moving beyond the static classroom, personalized online learning enables organizations to deliver courses that are unique to an individual employee in the moment of need.

Here are three benefits of a personalized learning experience for your employees.

3 benefits of personalized learning

1. Personalization promotes skill progression

In the L&D context, personalization can be used to create a customized learning journey that’s relevant to a learner’s job, interests, and more. Udemy for Business’ new Smart Recommendations engine powers what individual learners should learn next using the data of 30+ million learners on Udemy worldwide. By analyzing billions of learning interactions unique to Udemy and Udemy for Business, we can deliver smarter, personalized learning recommendations for each individual. By surfacing more powerful and intelligent content to learners, we can better engage learners and help employees navigate the ever-evolving skills landscape. See how Udemy for Business delivers personalized learning to individual employees.

Here’s what that might look like in practice: Employees who take Python courses might receive content recommendations on Natural Language Processing because that’s the topic most learners take next. It’s an area of computer science that utilizes Python knowledge and a natural skill progression for Machine Learning. Alternatively, a new manager that takes a general management course may receive course suggestions on giving feedback, good communication, emotional intelligence, or presentation skills to further hone their management skills. Through these kinds of recommendations, employees can deepen their knowledge beyond the original course they took.

2. Personalization boosts learning engagement by making it relevant and personal

Personalization can ensure learning is relevant by connecting learners’ past activities to their future goals. In Student Engagement: Key to Personalized Learning in Educational Leadership, writer and teacher Larry Ferlazzo cites relevance as one of the keys to sparking intrinsic motivation in learners and defines the concept by asking, “Do students believe that accomplishing the task or reaching the learning target will help them achieve a short-term or long-term goal?”

Creating a personalized learning experience also has the potential to boost learning engagement and retention. In Science Shows Making Lessons Relevant Really Matters, journalist Sara Bernard writes, “Students need a personal connection to the material, whether that’s through engaging them emotionally or connecting the new information with previously acquired knowledge (often one and the same). Without that, students may not only disengage and quickly forget, but they may also lose the motivation to try.” Referencing research by neurologist Judy Willis, Bernard explains that when learning is relevant and meaningful, it helps engage students with what they already know and build neural connections and long-term memory storage.

By serving up relevant courses that matter to employees and are related to their past learning behavior, Udemy for Business’ Smart Recommendations helps promote continuous self-directed learning at organizations.

3. Personalization helps employees prepare for what’s next

In today’s era of technology disruption, employees must stay on their toes and learn continuously to prepare for what’s next. Personalization can adapt and anticipate what learners are hoping to accomplish. In 3 Ways Personalization Can Improve the Employee Experience, Gartner contributor Sharon George writes, “Increasingly, organizations regard learning and development (L&D) teams as strategic partners responsible for building critical digital skills in the workforce.”

With the speed of technological change, it’s critical that employees learn from the latest, most up-to-date content. Udemy for Business’ agile content model reflects the rapid pace of technology change. We’re uniquely positioned to deliver the latest trending topics based on the behaviors of over 30+ million global learners. Our Smart Recommendations engine delivers trending topics relevant to the individual learner. For example, if an employee takes an IT certification course in AWS, they might receive recommendations on related hot new topics like AWS Lambda, the AWS serverless framework, and others. See how a Udemy for Business subscription can help your employees stay ahead of what’s next.

It’s an exciting time for personalized learning in the workplace. Advances in technology mean that employees are better positioned to stay ahead of the digital age by bridging their skills gap faster. Relevant recommendations and learning journeys can boost overall employee engagement—and the success of your business.

See how Udemy for Business’ Smart Recommendations can create a more relevant and personalized learning experience for your employees. Learn more here.

About the author:

Shelley Osborne is Head of Learning & Development at Udemy. She has 14 years of experience in the education sector and corporate learning and development. Previously, Shelley was VP of Learning & Development at Farside HR Solutions, specializing in talent leadership, management training, and soft skills development in the startup space in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has a Master’s degree in Education from the University of Calgary where she specialized in gamification and instructional leadership.

About Udemy for Business:

Udemy for Business is a learning platform that helps companies stay competitive in today’s rapidly changing workplace by offering fresh, relevant on-demand learning content, curated from the Udemy marketplace. Our mission is to help employees do whatever comes next—whether that’s the next project to do, skill to learn, or role to master. We’d love to partner with you on your employee development needs. Get in touch with us at business@udemy.com

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