Use it Better: Personalizing learning in online/blended settings

Person reading text on tablet while sitting.

Personalized learning: provide an approach tailored to the abilities, preferences, interests, and other diverse needs of the individual student. Song, Wong & Looi, 2012, p. 680.  

Within a blended or flipped education approach, personalized learning can accelerate and deepen student learning by tailoring instruction to each student’s individual needs, skills and interests, using a variety of rich learning experiences that collectively prepare students for success in the college and career of their choice. Teachers’ play an integral role designing and managing media, activities, etc. in 21st century learning environments, leading instruction and providing students with expert guidance and support to help them take ownership of their learning.

A Rand study (Pane, Steiner, Baird & Hamilton, 2015) of K-12 schools that adopted personalized learning focused on five (5) core attributes of success: learner profiles, learning paths, competency-based progression, flexible learning environments and an emphasis on college and career readiness. 21st century learning environments provide a flexible platform for personalized learning along with data and analysis tools to monitor, direct and assess student learning.

Basham, Hall, Carter & Stahl (2016) examined design characteristics of personalized learning environments including requiring highly self-regulated environments, transparent, continual and actionable student data, continuous feedback, weekly meetings, integrating learner voices and multiple means of demonstrating competency. Dabbagh & Kitsantas (2012) suggest a three-level pedagogical framework using social media – blogs, Wikis, Google tools and social bookmarking – to support personalized, self-regulated learning.

Existing products, such as Summit Learning, CoreXT and Buzz, already support personalized learning and are available to K-12 schools. Efforts are also underway to extend the capabilities of existing web-based learning management systems, such as BlackBoard or Moodle, to incorporate elements and features required for personalized learning.


Continued progress: Promising evidence on personalized learning
A research report from the RAND corporation that examines the impact of personalized learning on K-12 schools, teachers and students.

Future ready learning: Reimagining the role of technology in education.
National educational technology plan. (2016). U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology, Washington, DC. This document “…articulates a vision of equity, active use, and collaborative leadership to make everywhere, all-the-time learning possible.”

Personalized learning options for Michigan
From the MDOE, this page describes opportunities for realizing PL in Michigan.

Ten tips for personalized learning via technology, from Edutopia


Basham, J.D., Hall, T.E., Carter, R.A.,& Stahl, W.M. (2016). An Operationalized Understanding of Personalized Learning. Journal of Special Education Technology, 31(3), 126-136.

Dabbagh, N., & Kitsantas, A. (2012). Personal learning environments, social media, and self-regulated learning: A natural formula for connecting formal and informal learning. Internet and Higher Education, 15, 3-8.

Dobbin, G. (2016). Six ways to support personalized learning. EDUCAUSE Review, April 4. Available online at:

Grant, P., & Basye, D. (2014). Personalized learning: A guide for engaging students with technology. International Society for Technology in Education, Eugene, OR.

Pane, J.F., Steiner, E.D., Baird, M.D., & Hamilton, L.S. (2015). Continued progress: Promising evidence on personalized learning. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Available online at:

Song, Y., Wong, L.-H., & Looi, C.-K. (2012, August). Fostering personalized learning in science inquiry supported by mobile technologies. Educational Technology Research Development, 60(4), 679–701.


Dr. Andrew Topper: Associate Professor for the Grand Valley State University College of Education and MACUL SIG online/blended learning (OBL) steering committee member.