Personalized Learning: 6 Tips for Designing eLearning Programs

Shauna Carson

When was the last time you felt that your learning requirements personally met your learning needs? The purpose of this article is to define personalized learning, identify why personalized learning is important in the workplace and provide tips for designing personalized eLearning programs. The article will conclude by offering suggestions for supporting personalized learning using your Learning Management System.

What is personalized learning?

Personalized learning breaks from the traditional image of classroom (or lecture-based) learning - that is, a learner sitting at a desk listening to a facilitator or completing the same assignments as other learners. Varying the mode of instruction, the pace of learning, expanding the venue of learning beyond a classroom, and detaching expected outcomes from a rigid timeline are all characteristics of personalized learning.

Simply stated, personalized learning is instruction that offers different learning options to students where the experience is tailored to the learning preferences and the specific interests of different learners.

But why is personalized learning important in the workplace?

1. Personalized learning motivates learners

Research shows that when adult learners have control over the nature, timing and direction of the learning process, they are more likely to be motivated to learn. Adults have a need to be self-directed, deciding for themselves what they want to learn, and when they want to learn it. More often, adults also have less time to dedicate to training and are looking for bite-sized learning solutions or quick fixes to problems.

2. Personalized learning addresses different learning styles

Workplaces have a range of diverse employees and these individuals have diverse learning styles. Some people prefer to learn by completing a physical task while others learn simply by reading or studying a document. Creating and maintaining the best learning environment in the workplace involves meeting the learning needs of each of your employees. In other words, a "one size fits all" approach is likely to be ineffective.

3. Employees expect personalized training

Society has taught us to expect personalized content, products and services. Targeted marketing and news feeds, for example, are encountered on a daily basis. We are recommended products, jobs, news articles and other information based on what we look for and how we interact with other content. Therefore, it is only natural that, at work, employees expect their training to be personalized to their individual needs.

4. Personalized training relates to employee's needs and requirements

Learning in the workplace occurs at the individual level. Today, employees have a wide variety of roles and responsibilities. It is important that each individual employee's learning journey appeals to their work needs and requirements.

6 Tips for designing personalized eLearning programs

As the eLearning industry continues to grow, so too will the need to ensure that content is personalized. Here are six tips for designing personalized eLearning programs:

1. Provide different learning resource options.

This could include bite-sized videos, online courses, webinars, downloadable documents, manuals, jobs aids, continuing education credits, etc.

2. Use the learner's name

This may seem like common sense, however when was the last time you took an online course that addressed you by your name? Using an individual's name not only personalizes the learning experience but also makes the content feel less commercial. For example, begin a course by saying "Hello Sarah! Welcome to this Awesome Training Course" or when the learner has completed the test or evaluation say "Congratulations Sarah! You have successfully completed Module 1".

3. Include branching options in your online courses

Creating branched scenarios is an interactive way to personalize your e-Learning. Use an authoring tool such Articulate or Lectora that allows you to create scenarios and direct learners down paths that interest and are relevant to them.

4. Build in a continuous feedback loop

An effective assessment of what learners do and don't know will also help course designers ensure that future learning activities address the changing needs and objectives of learners.

This will help learners understand how they are progressing and guide them to information that addresses their weaknesses.

5. Allow learners to choose where they want to access the content

Responsive web design (RWD) "is an approach to web design aimed at allowing desktop webpages to be viewed in response to the size of the screen or web browser one is viewing with". By ensuring that your content is responsive, it allows learners to access the information anywhere at anytime.

All of your learning content should be responsive. This means that it operates on a computer or laptop, on a tablet and on a smart phone. If you are providing short videos, the majority of your learners are likely to watch these on their phones while they commute to and from work.

6. Ensure learners can access the content whenever they want

Ensure your LMS easily directs learners to where their learning is located and allows them to jump back into content that they have previously looked at. Your LMS should be user-friendly and include personalized learning paths that clearly outline options and required learning items.

Supporting personalized learning with an LMS

From a learner's perspective, the role of any LMS is to make learning easy and accessible, regardless of the types of learning being administered. Here are four tips for personalizing the learning journey using your Learning Management System:

1. Customize learning based on role, job task or position

You want to make sure that your LMS allows you to assign different learning resources and paths to different groups in your organization.

2. Customize learning items and learning paths

The most successful LMSs build individual learning profiles that help learners follow their own paths through a competency-based progression, in an environment that is flexible and that promotes personal choices. Check out this article 8 Tips to Create Personalized Online Training Paths to learn more about creating personalized online learning paths that meet your employee's individual needs.

3. Use gamification to create personalized instruction

Gamification and well-designed game-based learning provides levels of personalization that "scaffold" learning and foster self-direction to help individuals achieve mastery of knowledge and skills.

4. Ensure your LMS is responsive

Ensure your LMS is responsive so that learners can access their learning at anytime from any device. You should assume that the majority of learners will use their phones to access their learning. Therefore, your LMS must work on a smart phone.


Personalize learning is more important today than it has ever been. Ensuring that your eLearning content and the technology you use to support learning has personalization capabilities will help you target the individual needs of your learners.

This article provided you with a number of tips for incorporating personalized learning principles into your eLearning. It also offered suggestions for supporting personalized learning through your LMS.

Remember, personalization is about providing your learners with options and ensuring that they feel that you care about their individual learning needs. The first step in building engaging learning programs that address individual needs is simply asking your employees what training support the need. So what are you waiting for - start asking!

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Shauna Carson

Shauna graduated from the University of Toronto in 2002 with a Master of Arts in English before moving home to Calgary to work in the fast-paced, detail-oriented oil and gas industry. Now certified as a technical writer, Shauna is comfortable writing in a variety of styles, and for a variety of audiences.