EU-Project ROLE

The Future of Personalized Learning Environments

Saarbruecken (GER), October 2010 - The next generation of learning solutions will be geared even more towards users, their knowledge levels and requirements, and their individual learning behavior. Dr. Volker Zimmermann of IMC AG explains what this essentially involves.

A buzzword frequently used in connection with learning solutions is -œpersonalization-. Dr. Zimmermann, what does this mean exactly?

Dr. Volker Zimmermann: Nowadays, the majority of companies use learning and training technology. Medium-sized organizations are also using the technology, usually to implement blended-learning measures. However, individual requirements are sometimes not sufficiently taken into consideration - companies aim to achieve scaled effects by standardizing content and offering each user the same thing.

In the future, modern learning technology will solve this problem by using integrated intelligence. Learning paths are already being personalized, and individual development and career paths are being adapted in talent-management and learning-management solutions. In the future, learning-management systems will have even more precise details about what their users currently need in the workplace and will offer them exactly what they require.

Large amounts of user-profile data have been collected for this purpose. The user must also be able to adapt software with regards to functionality, media, and learning services. In a phrase, the software personalizes the learning; this is also referred to as a personal learning environment.

This topic is being dealt with in the ROLE research project in which IMC AG is participating as a partner. Dr. Zimmermann, can you briefly explain what ROLE is examining?

Dr. Volker Zimmermann: ROLE stands for Responsive Open Learning Environments and is a current, strategic project - if not the most important EU research project involving learning technology for companies. In ROLE, more than ten excellent research partners are developing a personalized, intelligent training environment. The German participants are RWTH Aachen, Fraunhofer FIT, Festo Lernzentrum, and IMC AG. The project's output will allow learners to put together their learning environments in the way they consider to be the easiest and most practical to use.

Learning services, content, and functions that best fit their requirements will be recommended to the learners. The services can be integrated into learning-management systems and social networks like Facebook so that the technologies can connect optimally. In the same way that school and university students create their private learning environments at home, where they feel comfortable, they will also be able to create their own personal electronic learning environments in the future to optimize their educational efforts. Companies can combine their range of products with personally selected learning services.

What do you think is the most important development in current learning-management systems?

Dr. Volker Zimmermann: ROLE is aiming to make a paradigm shift from the usual principle "a learning environment for all" to a range of learning services that are "bundled into a personalized learning environment", completely on the basis of requirements, individuals, their level of knowledge, the interests of the company, etc. Users will receive standard educational or training programs from companies that they can individually extend to improve their learning success. They will be given recommendations from the system, which will help them to progress beyond the "standard course".

When will the results be available in the market, and when will people be able to use them?

Dr. Volker Zimmermann: It will not take long. We are no longer able to research sequentially - research is becoming increasingly integrated into product development. At IMC, we are currently using standards such as OpenSocial to open the CLIX system to the world of social-learning technology, which includes platforms like Twitter, Youtube, Facebook, and others. These services can then be embedded into learning scenarios and paths.

We are also implementing a type of "app-store" for learning services so that users can individually add their own required services to the CLIX functions provided by their company or training provider. In this way, we will also create the conditions for the use of research results from projects such as ROLE in addition to other research and development activities within IMC.

Since the first prototypes are currently being evaluated in the project and tested in productive environments at selected companies and universities, I assume that the first results from the research activities will be integrated into IMC AG products by the end of 2010 or the beginning of 2011 at the latest. Learning with technology will then become even more efficient, sociable, and fun than it already is.