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Higher Education Review ›› Magazine ›› April-2018 ›› Special issue

Cognitive Education: Why Personalize Learning?

Author : Bikram Sengupta, Senior Manager, Cognitive Education and Interactions, IBM India Research

Bikram Sengupta

Bikram Sengupta, Senior Manager, Cognitive Education and Interactions IBM India Research

Personalized learning is now a buzzword in the Education industry. Almost every month, one hears of a new technology company that has devised yet another way (mostly an algorithm) to personalize learning. Technology, especially cognitive computing, certainly has enormous potential to deliver personalized learning at scale. But we will defer a discussion on how to achieve this for later. For now, let us reflect on the following questions: what exactly is personalized learning? And, why should we strive to personalize learning?

What is personalized Learning?

Given all the excitement around personalized learning, it is interesting to note that there is no single, commonly accepted definition of what constitutes personalized learning. A recent report by the US Department of Education defines personalized learning as follows: "Personalized learning refers to instruction in which the pace of learning and the instructional approach are optimized for the needs of each learner. Learning objectives, instructional approaches, and instructional content (and its sequencing) may all vary based on learner needs. In addition, learning activities are meaningful and relevant to learners, driven by their interests, and often self-initiated."

We are now at the dawn of the knowledge age that requires a completely different set of competencies for the workplace


However, at the core of any personalized learning approach are two central tenets:

(a) Understanding the learner deeply – In terms of learning abilities, prior knowledge, interests,goals and contexts (collectively, the learner's "profile"), which shape his/her learning needs at any point

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