Whitepaper: Adaptive Learning: The New Frontier of Custom Learning Experiences

what is adaptive learning

The ability to customize every area of our lives has become so commonplace, we often take it for granted. Everything from the latte we drink to the apps we use can be perfectly tailored to our unique preferences and desires. This adaptable quality of modern living has created a tremendous demand for more flexibility and customization in professional settings. 

Once considered an impractical notion, the concept of adaptive learning has taken the e-learning world by storm in the past several years. With so many studies proving the existence of different learning styles, adaptive learning offers greater inclusivity and acceptance than traditional education. 

And when it comes to employee and customer training, adopting an adaptive learning method is one of the best decisions you can make. But what is adaptive learning, and how can you use it to maximize business goals? Keep reading, because we’re going to cover all that and more in this handy guide.

What is Adaptive Learning?  

Adaptive learning is an instructional method that uses digital technology to create customized learning experiences. This educational style uses data and student performance to continually modify learning pathways so that users are always receiving appropriate instruction based on their needs. 

Adaptive learning is the opposite of a one-size-fits-all approach because it personalizes the learning experience. For example, in an online employee training scenario, an adaptive learning platform would modify its prompts and responses based on each individual user’s performance. This allows those who are struggling with the material to receive the help they need, instead of falling behind. 

There are many ways an adaptive learning platform might assist the user along their journey. If, for example, a user lingers on the screen for more than 30 seconds before answering a question, a pop-up message might appear asking the user if they need a refresh of previous concepts. A user could then go over the information again if needed, and pick up where they left off later on. 

Similarly, if a user’s performance indicates they are confident with the material, an adaptive learning system would allow them to skip certain modules and advance more quickly. 

Adaptive learning systems harness the power of data and analytics to make the learning experience adapt to the student, and not the other way around.  

A Brief History of Adaptive Learning 

Here are some of the ways an adaptive learning model can benefit both customers and employees in the workplace:

  • Increases engagement: Whether you’re training new employees or developing a customer onboarding program, adaptive learning naturally increases engagement overall. A personalized learning experience is much more likely to keep the user engaged, and the real-time feedback and support they receive can increase motivation.
  • Easily identify knowledge gaps: With so much user data at their fingertips, learning and development teams can easily spot content areas that aren’t performing well. For example, administrators can look more closely at modules that have a low completion rate to see if there are any issues with the content.
  • Flexible learning environment: Both customers and employees are demanding greater flexibility in all areas of their lives. Adaptive learning takes advantage of mobile technology to offer on-demand access to learning materials. This is much more efficient than trying to get everyone in the same room on a certain date and time.
  • Defines priorities: Because adaptive learning systems cater to a unique individual’s needs, users can prioritize the information they need the most in order to do their jobs successfully. This also takes the burden off larger organizations, because they don’t need to worry about whether the right information is getting to the appropriate personnel.  

Tips for Creating a Successful Adaptive Learning Strategy 

Use Data Sources to Gather Insights 

A successful adaptive learning strategy depends on the amount of data available to you. If there’s not enough information on a specific user, it’s almost impossible to create a personalized learning experience. Things like the person’s role within the organization, their current knowledge base, and what results they’re trying to achieve can help inform the type of content they need. 

Encourage Continuous Learning 

The flexible nature of adaptive learning modules often means users will pause, go back, skip ahead, or pick up the session another time. For this reason, it’s important to foster an environment of continuous learning to help people stay on track. Engaging in frequent learning sessions also helps users retain knowledge better than a one-time training conference.

Listen to Feedback 

Besides using the power of data to identify focus areas that need improvement, it’s also important to gather feedback from your users. This can be done through one-on-one conversations, online surveys, or chatbots. Getting direct feedback from your employees or customers gives you a more holistic view of what’s working and what’s not, rather than relying solely on your analytics dashboard.

Provide Interactive Support 

Adaptive learning offers users a lot of autonomy, and while this is great for independent learners, it can sometimes be a problem for students who are struggling. With the adaptive learning method, users may not always have access to a live instructor. That’s why every adaptive learning platform should have some kind of simulated tutor or support feature available at all times. If a user is struggling with a particular module, a chatbot or other type of help feature can prompt them to rethink their approach. 


Including an adaptive learning strategy in your online training program is a smart move. There are many ways adaptive learning can benefit your organization and contribute to business goals. Some of the most significant benefits center around increased employee retention and higher customer satisfaction. 

The personalization of an adaptive learning model means that employees are getting the exact information they need at all times, which makes them feel more confident in their role. 

For customer onboarding programs, an adaptive learning platform can boost customer satisfaction by focusing on the customer’s unique needs and desired outcome. This makes it much easier to highlight the connection between your customer’s pain points and the benefits of your product or service. 

Adaptive learning makes online training more efficient and cost-effective, which can help drive revenue growth over time. When creating an adaptive learning strategy, it’s important to gather the appropriate data, foster a continuous learning environment, listen to feedback, and provide interactive support features. By following the tips outlined in this guide, you’ll have made the first step towards a more inclusive and effective online training program.  

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