News Release 

Out with the old! Personalized learning the way forward to help every child succeed

New book calls for educational change citing the success of an innovative, bite-size digital learning tool currently benefiting children in 100 countries worldwide

University of Huddersfield

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IMAGE: Traditional educational approaches are increasingly ineffective for the needs of today's learners and society more generally. A new personalised learning solution is required which incorporates an expanded view of education... view more 

Credit: Rupert Ward

A LEADING University of Huddersfield academic is calling for a revolution in education, so that learning is tailored to the needs of the individual child.

Rupert Ward is Professor of Learning Innovation and Associate Dean (International) in the School of Computing and Engineering, and his new book Personalised Learning for the Learning Person considers how the transformation to personalised learning could happen, based on his own experience developing a digital learning project tackling difficult subjects in bite-size chunks.

His 20 years of teaching experience, in the UK and internationally, has been built on the effective use of technology within education. In 2015, he spent 18 months as Project Lead for the iDEA - Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award - a free online programme that develops digital, enterprise and employability skills.

iDEA launched in January 2017 and has been adopted in over 100 countries around the world, and has been in particular demand during the Covid-19 pandemic, with an additional 1.25m 'badges' - iDEA's informal digital learning awards - completed since March 2020.

He sees the iDEA model, of incremental steps along the path of learning, as more suited to the world today.

"The education system has changed very little in the last 200 years," says Professor Ward. "It's the factory model - people emerge from the system with a quality assurance stamp; have you passed or not?

"Then, what has not passed is discarded. If people want to be 'learning fit', they have to feel like they can make progress. You do that by reducing barriers and breaking education down into manageable portions so you can incrementally develop. By making that progress, you motivate yourself to do more."

Professor Ward sees the online space as ideal for personalised learning that suits the individual, from early school age through to lifelong adult education.

"I think the sweet spot for online learning is in the early teens. For iDEA, I found that early secondary is where you can have the most impact. But there is nothing to stop you doing it earlier.

"If we make an analogy with fitness, our current educational systems put 100 kg on the bench press and ask you to lift it. It does not help you understand how to build up to 100 kg, or ask you to reflect on whether lifting 100kg is the right thing for you to aim for.

"Joe Wicks, for example, explains not just why you do certain exercises, but he also gives you the tools to understand and apply this learning to your own life. He shares expertise on diet and exercise so you can understand how things connect.

A new approach to education will, in Professor Ward's opinion, help current and forthcoming generations tackle more widespread threats, such as climate change and public health. This can happen, he hopes, by education producing people who have better physical and mental health and have more control over their lives.

"Learning that can be traded as an educational currency, but where we all learn differently, because we all do learn differently."

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Full link to the book: https://books.emeraldinsight.com/page/detail/Personalised-Learning-for-the-Learning-Person/?K=9781789731507

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