What Are Some Personalized Learning Online

We know digital textbooks are everywhere, but that’s just the beginning. Here’s how to find the best ones to adapt to your unique learning needs.

What is a personalized learning program? It’s a high-level argument for providing students with access to complex online learning concepts at the individualized level. That’s how personalized learning companies like Carolulating work: Students follow a pre-chosen learning plan and compare their progress to that of the students in other courses they’re taking.

In school, this means kids only receive a one-size-fits-all grade in every subject they take, from making English Intermediate to Algebra to Web Design. When school is focused on “practice,” for example, it’s easy to find things like math problems or note-taking sections where homework assignments generally look the same for everyone.

But online learning can be much more individual. After all, kids aren’t learning the same thing at the same time, from the same textbook.

There are many examples of personalized learning programs where students must take a test in response to an assessment. They can get answers up to 10 times faster, for example, and, for certain subjects, get tailored feedback on their responses before they take the test.

Some schools use this approach to help kids with learning disabilities pass standardized exams. Often, students try to get a specific score on a test in one class, so they have a sense of accountability. This, in turn, can help students who are struggling to access the support they need. The fact that they know their answers before they take the test can make it much easier for them to pass.

However, so far, companies like Carolulating have not been able to optimize learning in more ways: one that helps kids from historically low-income families and with disabilities gain more of a sense of belonging, or more access to technology tools like tablets and laptops, or in some cases, to meet learning challenges.

To change that, personalization should not only be about individualizing the educational experience, it should also be about offering tools students need to best meet their individual challenges. It must be about helping students gain more of a sense of belonging—or access to technology—that will provide greater access to learning opportunities and support them toward achieving their educational goals.

A new study of personalized learning in a working class area in New York City found that personalized learning helped a group of high school students better prepare for college and careers. Similar programs that helped inner city and Latino/a high school students in New Mexico, California, Georgia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania showed improvements that researchers say fit the characteristics of an income group at the bottom-of-the-line according to U.S. Census data.

However, more research into exactly what personalized learning programs can do to help students get from where they are today to where they want to be is still needed. The students in the study were not given current scores on their knowledge or skills in the subjects they were taught. That was a limitation of the program, because it could not clearly reflect on their progress.

That means that today, far too many students are lost when it comes to achieving their educational goals. If we want to see personalized learning truly improve the lives of every student in a low-income area, we need to make sure we include such programs in every learning opportunity that is available to every student in that area.

As study after study shows, there are many benefits to incorporating personalized learning into every learning opportunity—for everyone. Who wouldn’t want to achieve their goals more effectively and be more connected to the people who could help them achieve them?

Just think: Imagine learning without grades? Or learning how to solve a problem in a new technology without being caught in a lurch by a 30-second feeling of inadequacy? Or learning how to think faster through technology without feeling trapped by aging laws that slow down the learning process?

If we keep striving for those results, they will come—but only if every child is fully supported through a personalized learning program that truly supports each child’s unique learning skills and strengths. It’s that simple: It all starts with the students, not the instructors.

Charles McArthur is the Senior Director of Personalized Learning at Carolulating.

Carolulating is a startup that offers personalized online learning programs specifically designed for the educational needs of low-income high school students. Working to change the lives of low-income students in New York City and around the country, Carolulating brings powerful online learning to New York’s finest high schools.

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