Supporting personalised learning processes

Aim of the module

The main aim of this module is to introduce the idea of personalization of education and personalized learning as well as the possible use of ICT to support the personalized learning. We will also explain the relations among personalized learning and lifelong learning.

Learning outcomes of the module

After studying this module you will be able to:

  • Explain the term personalized learning
  • Name the five typical key components of personalized learning
  • Describe the possibilities of ICT use to support personalized learning



The idea of personalization of education can be traced back to the XIX century, when Helen Parkhurst [59] created the Dalton Plan stating that each student can program his or her curriculum in order to meet his or her needs, interests and abilities; to promote both independence and dependability; to enhance the student’s social skills and sense of responsibility toward others.

According to [58], the term personalized learning, or personalization, refers to a diverse variety of educational programs, learning experiences, instructional approaches, and academic-support strategies that are intended to address the distinct learning needs, interests, aspirations, or cultural backgrounds of individual students. The other definition given by [60] states that: Personalized learning is the tailoring of pedagogy, curriculum and learning environments by learners or for learners in order to meet their different learning needs and aspirations. Personalized learning is generally seen as an alternative to so-called “one-size-fits-all” approaches to schooling in which teachers may, for example, provide all students in a given course with the same type of instruction, the same assignments, and the same assessments with little variation or modification from student to student. Personalized learning may also be called student-centered learning, since the general goal is to make individual learning needs the primary consideration in important educational and instructional decisions, rather than what might be preferred, more convenient, or logistically easier for teachers and schools. The idea of personalization is widely applied in e-learning.

It has to be stated at the very beginning that personalized learning is not a return to student-centered theories, and it is not about separating students/learners to learn on their own. The rationale for personalized learning is to raise standards by focusing teaching and learning on the aptitudes and interests of learners.

Personalised learning typically has five key components that all must understand to enable learners to engage actively in the management and design of their own learning:

  1. Learning how to learn: helping learners develop a repertoire of learning skills and strategies to support their development as self-directed learners
  2. Assessment for learning: using a range of assessment techniques, with the emphasis on formative assessment that engages the learner.
  3. Teaching and learning strategies: deploying the full repertoire of strategies, with learner and teacher make informed decisions about which to use and when.
  4. Curriculum choice: providing learners with guided opportunities to develop individual learning pathways that develop skills rather than knowledge.
  5. Mentoring and support: ensuring learners have a one-to-one mentoring relationship with an adult, and benefit from peer support.


ICT as support of personalized learning

The advancement of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and digital content development tools made personalized learning available to wider audiences. There are several advantages of ICT in learning as stated in [61]:

  • ICT can present content in an engaging and attractive form
  • ICTs help teachers to record and constantly monitor the progress of each student
  • ICTs allow customized delivery of relevant education material to each individual learner.
  • ICTs can build virtual social communities among different educational institutions, teams of students or teachers.
  • ICTs facilitate learning-to-learn skills.

ICT enables the implementation of the abovementioned components of personalized learning as follows:

  • For assessment of learning: Assessment in a classic educational institution is usually limited to examinations at the end of a learning unit. It is usually accompanied by grading and its primary goal is to compare students’ achievements with standards. More detailed assessment of students’ needs, abilities and progress has been too difficult to perform. Advances in the various learning management systems (LMS) made an automated assessment occurring throughout the learning process a reality. The complete data on students’ progress including multiple-choice tests results, portfolios, works in progress, results of one-to-one conversations, etc. can be collected at the desired rate. Teachers can use this information to make data-driven decisions regarding the adjustment of instruction of each individual student.
  • For effective teaching and learning: Even the best teachers have to use the universal teaching strategies to deliver course material to students in the traditional classroom. Thus, the ‘one size fits all’ approach is a main measure to keep classes going. Information technologies make personalized instruction possible through the adjustment of learning strategies and content to each individual student. This approach has become highly popular in e-Learning, but it can also be implemented in the classroom, when selective delivery of digital content becomes a part of personalized instruction.
  • For curriculum personalization: Students within a group in the typical classroom environment have to follow the same learning program at a pace that allows even poor achievers to master the material. This undermines the progress of talented students. With the use of computers and mobile devices not only learning paths, but also curricula can be personalized for every student. Each person in the classroom can be presented with the material he or she needs. A learning management system will keep track of the advancements of every student in the class, ensuring that the core material will be covered by everyone, but also giving the best achievers an opportunity for in-depth intensive teaching.
  • For changes the organization of educational institutions: The emergence of information technologies hasn’t changed educational institutions as such. In most of them, computers are still primarily used as tools for teaching information technologies and don’t change the way students learn other subjects. When used for personalized teaching and learning, computers and mobile devices transform the respective processes and also change the organization of educational institutions. The classroom layout is redesigned to reflect the shift of attention from the teacher to students. Instead of typical rows of tables, classroom setup can be organized in such a way that students – equipped with individual computers or tablets – will be facing each other and the teacher. Class schedule changes and corresponding resource allocation adjustment due to the necessity to provide a wider curriculum choice can be mediated through LMS.
  • To take education beyond the classroom: In a world without information technologies, the involvement of students, community enthusiasts and industry professionals in the education process requires their physical presence in the classroom. Nowadays, learning content can be produced by experts in digital form and then used repeatedly for teaching students. Using Web 2.0 tools and social networks, learners can interact with each other beyond the classroom. Their progress can be monitored online. Mobile devices and Internet connection allow students to continue their studies in a familiar learning environment wherever they are.

Some educators believe that personalized learning could diminish the relational and ethical dimensions of education. To avoid this, personalization should not be taken to the extremes, when it becomes similar to self-learning. The teacher using personalized learning in the classroom should combine it with other teaching techniques (teaching in small groups, mentoring, etc.).

Personalized learning, tailored learning and lifelong learning

Personalised learning recognises that learners begin their learning experience from different starting points and that they possess unique talents, aptitudes and skills that have not been previously recognised or used to best effect to overcome barriers to learning. It acknowledges that learners need to learn how to learn and to access different opportunities and support to succeed in adult life. [60]

Within the personalized learning teachers work with individual learners to assess the learner’s previous achievements and experiences (personal, social and educational), needs, interests and aspirations. They then map out what the learners need to do and achieve to get where they want to be. The recommended steps for learners to take are identified and targets set and agreed so that they have the best chance of achieving their future ambitions. Review dates are recorded and methods of support planned for in a document that is often called an individual learning plan. This plan is, in effect, a route map for lifelong learning.


Based on [62] to make these plans happen, learners have to be empowered which means that they are:

  • Involved in compiling schemes of work, planning and delivering sessions, planning and delivering group tutorials, mentoring their peers, planning and developing a programme of enrichment activities. Learners’ participation in the above activities supports the concept of personalised learning. It also helps to foster within learners a greater awareness of their actions and consequences, contributions and rewards.
  • Informed: about: the assessment criteria for the qualifications being studied; methods of support and where it can be obtained; progress made to date; steps that need to be taken to achieve long-term goals; progression opportunities and the day-today operations of their schools. If learners are informed, they are in a better position to make choices that give them the best chance of success.
  • Heard: the schools and teachers should obtain and act on learners’ views. Tutorials and feedback are important here.




Within this module we paid attention to the idea of personalization of education and personalized learning and the five typical key components of personalized learning. We also explained how ICT can be used for support of the personalized learning in its different parts and phases. We had a closer look at the relations among personalized learning and lifelong learning.