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Big Data and Personalization


There were several themes that threaded through Masie’s Learning 2013 conference this week. Two themes that stood out to me the most were personalization and big data. One session even explored how these two work together and how big data will likely eventually dictate what type of learning we’re offered, just as Amazon and Netflix offer us merchandise and media based on our prior preferences. This session showed some third-party applications and platforms that provide learners with what they need, where they need them, in sizes that are digestible. Their user interfaces (UIs) looked amazing, with a mass integration of all training experienced by that individual (just as TinCan evidently does/will)—augmented with feeder tools that use big data to push content at them depending on their roles, preferences, and other learning experiences. It was exciting to see all those analytics, metrics and algorithms in place and contemplate how we can put these at our clients’ fingertips. How much more could our clients personalize for their audiences if technology wasn’t holding them down?   How could this help them reach their business objectives?

Another type of personalization using data also caught my ear. That same morning, someone had mentioned in the general session that their learners’ feedback from one solution was so overwhelmingly positive, they had departed from their original plan and just pursued that portion of the approach whole-heartedly, augmenting it until it addressed the whole need. This willingness to turn on a dime, to design according to positive feedback rather than a previously-established direction gives designers so much latitude to actually design with the learner (rather than the bureaucracy) in mind. It was refreshing. It was refreshing to see in action the trickle-up theory, if you will: that learners and end-users actually provided data that changed the organization’s tactics. And I can’t wait to help our clients put mechanisms in place to design with the learners in mind and to hear what they have to say.