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5 Steps to Scaling Personalized Learning

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5 Steps to Scaling Personalized Learning

Implementing adaptive teaching and personalized learning at scale is achievable – and transformational, says Realizeit CEO Manoj Kulkarni.


Don’t tell Manoj Kulkarni that scaling personalized learning can’t be done.

The Realizeit CEO already made it happen in his previous role as Chief Technology and Innovation Officer at Career Education Corp., and today, he and the Realizeit team are implementing scaled and scalable adaptive programs with pioneering educational and corporate partners across the country.

Dozens of these digital learning innovators gathered recently at Realizeit’s annual Executive Summit to share success stories, offer tips and support, and discuss best practices for implementing their revolutionary approach to next-generation teaching and learning.

“There's a growing appreciation that what you all are doing is transformational,” Kulkarni told the group of their efforts to shift the educational paradigm to a personalized, student-centric model. “There's also a growing confidence that this can be tackled, that this can be achieved. … It is not just about experimenting with adaptive learning. It really is the notion that something like this has to happen in terms of a transformation – that it can be not only achieved, but it can be delivered at scale.”

In his keynote remarks at the conference, Kulkarni shared with attendees what needs to be true on individual and organizational levels to bring enterprise-wide personalized learning to life for students.

The role as “Sherpa” – an experienced leader to guide those ready to truly elevate digital learning to the next level – is a familiar one to Kulkarni, who’s among the most recognized pioneers on the front lines of this movement. It’s from this vantage point that he offered Summit attendees a roadmap to shifting personalized, adaptive learning programs from piloting to full-scale educational transformation.

  1. Reframe the discussion around digital learning.

“We are still living in a world where textbooks and lectures and exams and a one-size-fits-all model continue to prevail and dominate our thinking,” Kulkarni said. “The real need is to shift the discussion to what it really means to create a digitally enabled teaching and learning environment.”

Citing Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods as an example of a situation in which digital infrastructure is supporting physical infrastructure, he noted that consumers are growing accustomed to this blending of digital/traditional constructs – “and it’s not unreasonable for our learners to be able to expect that,” he said.  

In practice, this means figuring out how to create a truly blended approach to digital learning that becomes a natural part of the student experience rather than trying to attach digital onto the traditional learning construct. It’s not about creating an entirely new ecosystem but instead, understanding how to seamlessly fit and integrate within it, Kulkarni noted.

  1. Start small – but don’t get stuck there.

“It's not just sufficient to focus on the experimentation of new ideas, but focusing on the implementation of these ideas,” Kulkarni noted. “And it's not enough to just emphasize the implementation aspect of it, but really delivering the value of the transformation at scale.”

That said, broader adoption doesn’t mean leaving behind the ideas and input of individual faculty members. Scaling adaptive requires institutions themselves to adapt, not just to students’ needs but to the needs of teachers and the organization as a whole.

  1. Focus on what it means to be truly student centric.

The route to achieving this may include adaptive learning – but it doesn’t have to. “Realizeit was never founded on adaptive learning,” Kulkarni said. “It was founded on the notion of mastery-based learning. It was about fulfilling a mission of giving a learner the ability to be able to achieve to their maximum potential.”

“But it's not enough for us to simply enable adaptive. For us, it is about going beyond adaptive, beyond personalization to be able to truly understand how those are foundational elements to building a digitally enabled learning environment.”

  1. Talk less about the barriers and more about the success educators have had overcoming those barriers.

Celebrate the shift toward making it happen versus bemoaning the fact that there may not be a simple path to get there. “Make no mistake; it's hard to do, but it’s manageable,” Kulkarni said. “There are plenty of examples where this is being implemented successfully.”

Learn from the examples of those on the path ahead of you, but remember that every journey is unique. “We’ve never found an institution that is exactly like another institution,” he said. “There’s no one-size-fits-all model, even among educators.”

  1. Engage with a community of fellow innovators, and foster collaboration to drive shared learning and success.

Start by finding and leveraging the thought leaders in the adaptive/digital learning space (hear from a few of them here), but remember that the pool of potential resources goes much deeper. As Realizeit’s Executive Summit illustrated, many institutional and faculty leaders who’ve implemented adaptive solutions are willing to share their insights, challenges and solutions to inform the path forward for others.

As Kulkarni noted, “Education is one of those segments where you really can bring [together] a community of collaborators, a community of practice, to help each other."

Know a fellow innovator who's ready to move forward with personalized learning? Share this to help them get started.

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