August 10, 2020

Online, personalized learning considered the future for education in wake of pandemic

Note to Journalists: A photo provided by William Watson is available on Google Drive.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — COVID-19 has changed the outlook for education, highlighting the potential for online learning and the need for more personalized learning options for students, according to a Purdue University College of Education professor.

William Watson, associate professor of learning design and technology, said student education levels are more likely to be spread all along the spectrum this school year based on what educational support they received at home.

Using personalized approaches to online instruction allows learning to be based more on each student’s individual strengths, weaknesses, goals and motivations, he said.

“A personalized approach to learning supports student autonomy and the direction of each student’s learning process,” Watson said. “It values a student’s self-direction, motivation and engagement beyond simple knowledge acquisition.”

“Ultimately, the move to personalized systems of education is a question of when, not if,” he said.

Watson is director of Purdue’s Center for Serious Games and Learning in Virtual Environments and studies the leveraging of technology to create more personalized learning.

Despite the efforts of instructors this year, the pandemic highlighted how unprepared many schools were to meet the suddenly altered learning situation of their students.

Watson said personalized learning moves past the traditional education style where students are grouped by age, with those that learn more quickly moving on and leaving behind others who learn at a slower rate.

 “If we move away from this, we can use online learning to structure our process in very different ways, namely, personalizing the process for each student to ensure learning, efficiency and personal meaning,” Watson said.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked the No. 6 Most Innovative University in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at purdue.edu.

Writer, Media contact: Brian Huchel, bhuchel@purdue.edu. Working remotely but will provide immediate response.

Source: William Watson, brwatson@purdue.edu. In addition to phone interviews, the professor is available for Skype, Zoom and WebEx interviews.

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