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This time it's personal

Sam Blyth, Director of Further Education and Schools at Canvas, discusses how tailored learning can aid student experience

Posted by Lucinda Reid | December 02, 2016 | School life

When content and resources are easily available online, for many, the real value of a school lies in the student experience, and the savviest institutions know that personalisation is key. Many academies believe building a flexible and tailored learning environment will ultimately lead to more motivated students who get better results.  

But academies face a dual challenge in delivering personalised learning. Not only are they under unprecedented scrutiny - as the industry looks to this new breed of school to lead the way in education policy - they must also serve a broad and increasingly diverse student base.

So how do academies bring personal teaching to a varied student body, leading the way for others to do the same? How can digital technology - sometimes viewed as a channel for unspecialised and mass produced education - become the facilitator of tailored teaching and learning?

Using data to inform

Many experts tell us that education is now ‘all about the data’, and that online tools that collect information on student behavior and performance can also deliver personalised learning. Understanding the way that students engage with a course is vital to knowing what information and materials to provide.

But to drive fundamental change to teaching and learning, data must be used as a catalyst for change. It’s actionable insights, rather than static performance monitoring, that will empower teachers to deliver a personalised and flexible learning environment. Being able to alter teaching quickly to address student needs can increase student engagement and motivation, and ultimately, improve results. Being able to act on performance data throughout the year, and not just at exam time, is vital to delivering an educational experience based on flexibility and insight.

Use data to inform teaching decisions - rather than as a inflexible measure of performance - and the journey towards tailored, personal learning has begun.

Empowering students to control their own learning journey

Today’s students are increasingly mobile. No longer do they want to be tied to the classroom, instead they expect to access course materials whenever and wherever they happen to be. Teachers are no longer expected to impart knowledge in a linear fashion, at the front of a class. The most successful teachers know that the best results come from empowering students to learn in their own way, investigating and solving real-world problems, rather than ingesting and regurgitating rote material. At Canvas, we’ve learned that giving students ownership of learning does not mean abdicating control. Concepts like the flipped classroom, which enable students to ingest passive rote material at home, enable teachers to seize control of the classroom in a new way by freeing up lesson time for in-depth discussions and personalised teaching.

For some, student empowerment represents the ultimate in personalised education, with course material and delivery being driven, in part, by the student.

Less haste, more speed (for some, anyway)

As well as helping students to learn in their own way, some forward thinking educators look to tools that let people learn at their own pace. While operating within the parameters of curricula, online environments such as Canvas help students learn in their own time and give them the flexibility to take more time over complex areas of study - or re-do lessons they’ve found tricky. Similarly, advanced students have the ability to look ahead, which enables them to prepare themselves for areas of learning yet to come.

It’s clear that the industry is looking for ways to make teaching more personal and academies have the freedom to try tools and methods to power student-led learning. Understanding how data can inform, but not dictate learning, can provide students with more personalised teaching, and empowering learners will ultimately lead to better results.

Many academies already realise that digital technologies, such as virtual learning environments, can be used to better personalise lessons for students. The use of tech can help students learn in a style that engages them without requiring an unsustainable level of time investment from teachers. If academies invest in the technology to drive this change, they’ll be a beacon for the rest of the industry, helping institutions across the world understand how to better engage and motivate learners.

For more information about Canvas, visit their website.

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