January 24, 2021

Pluses and Minuses of Personalized Learning

The increasing diversity of the global student population undermines the globally established curriculum and assessment standards. They simply don’t fit all students, requiring an alternative approach to education for preserving its efficiency and relevance. Personalized learning has become a response to such a situation, with more and more schools resorting to this form of customized instruction.

Overall, personally tailored learning receives much support from educators and policymakers. It is also actively supported by tech giants like Facebook and Microsoft. But there are still some barriers many educational stakeholders point out. So, is personalized learning the future or education? Or are there any nuances? This post explores the pros and cons of this approach to make things clear.

The Pros

Without a doubt, personalized learning gives more freedom to students. In this way, educational institutions can tailor the pace of instruction and amount/complexity of educational material to every student’s needs and abilities. Here are the advantages the approach promises.

Tech-Friendly Education

Education and technology have long been going hand in hand to meet the students’ diverse needs. Students have been using technology intensely for the past decade. Whether you are ordering an admission essay service or researching several online databases, everything becomes possible with technology.

But with personalized learning, technology is becoming even more critical. Students can enjoy individualized education by working on their personal devices, in their personal accounts, and by using specialized apps that track individual student progress separately. Thus, with technology’s growing availability and students’ tech-savviness on the rise, personalized instruction becomes a reality.

Self-Paced Learning

The biggest advantage of personalized learning is the ability to study at one’s own pace without being tied to the class’s average speed. In this way, talented students can progress quicker, covering the standard course materials and coping with the tasks ahead of the deadline to have more free time. So, students with a higher-than-average potential can launch startups while still at college, not depending on some rigid deadlines and requirements.

Inclusive Education

A typical situation in a traditional classroom is that of a diverse student population. While talented students are often bored because they cope with the tasks quickly, students with disabilities may struggle with the basic material every day, keeping pace with most of their class. As a result, students with low cognitive abilities face constant pressure to move forward, even if they need more time to master the concept.

With the individualized learning approach, even students with special needs who typically lag behind the rest of the class in traditional classrooms may get access to the world’s top universities with scholarships. As they study individually and don’t face classmates’ pressure, they can achieve greater heights in education. Under these terms, the concept of inclusive education acquires a new meaning and transforms into reality.

The Cons

Despite the personalized learning bonuses mentioned above, one should note that this approach to instruction is not ideal. As it’s relatively new, it still conceals some neglected areas and needs improvement. Here are the major cons one should consider before embarking on a personalized learning project.

Lack of Self-Management Competency

First, a big con of using personalized learning is the need to assume responsibility for one’s own learning progress. Many students lack self-management skills, thus requiring guidance and productivity management tips to be successful. Thus, self-paced learning is not everyone’s cup of tea, and some students can fail an exam or delay the degree work because they can’t study independently.

Over-Reliance on Technology

Personalized learning is perfectly matched with technology, but one should not forget that technology is still not suitable for all academic subjects. In some academic disciplines, teacher-student interaction is vital, which is what technology can’t provide.

Besides, the increasing involvement of Facebook and Microsoft, as well as other Silicon Valley companies, in public education, is causing caution among tech skeptics. Thus, the trend towards greater digitization of education is dubious in power balance and equity, with commercial market players getting access to decision-making levers they shouldn’t typically have.

Teacher Overload

One of the most severe drawbacks of personalized learning is that teachers are the primary change agents and implementers of the change—the process of time- and labor-consuming, which can’t help causing teacher overload and burnout. Besides, not all educators are well-tuned to technological innovation, making the transition even more burdensome for them.

A common solution is to assist teachers in adopting technology faster. But again, not all people are tech-friendly by nature, and the educational system risks losing some talented educators as a sacrifice to the unavoidable technological progress. Whether progress is worth this price is still to be decided.

Lack of Assessment Standards

Finally, non-compliance with personalized learning with the traditional assessment methods is a problem that this educational innovation has yet to address. Many educational approaches advocate a departure from rigid assessment standards, claiming that grades and marks limit access for non-traditionally talented students.

However, without some ranking, colleges and universities will lose their primary tool for admission. Students may also lose the target scores to follow when applying to higher educational establishments. Without scores, the very concept of educational success or failure may become blurred. Thus, the new approach needs some new form of assessment fitting a freer, self-paced educational mode.

So, Is Personalized Learning Worth It?

Personalized education is a new word in the world of learning, and it is here to stay. Its focus on innovative technology and the philosophy of attending to students’ individual needs make it a promising future trend. Yet, personalized instruction is still at the germinal stage of development, so its fans and promoters should keep in mind that it still needs many improvements to function correctly.

But as with mainstream education, personalized learning poses risks of leaving some students behind. Thus, the proper delivery of individualized learning is possible once these risks are identified and addressed.


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