For digital and IT enthusiast Zachary Konopka, learning by example is a habit everyone from neophytes to seasoned professionals should embrace. “Imagine a professional training course designed to address how to complete a learning objective based on the learner’s experiences,” he says. “What if every learner’s path was determined by the consequences and repercussion of their actions and responses?”

That question is at the center of adaptive learning — a trendy concept in corporate training but one that has roots stretching back to the 1970s. The technique has only recently become a popular methodology in corporate training centers across the country, including in New Jersey. The topic will be the focus of Konopka’s presentation at the Mid New Jersey Association for Talent Development (ATD) Technology Showcase. The eighth annual event will be held at DeVry University in North Brunswick on Tuesday, April 17, from 1 to 6 p.m. and include four speakers highlighting an emerging, established, or growing facet of IT.

Sessions will include “Integrating Mobile Into Talent Development” presented by Geoff Holle, talent development, art direction, CA Technologies; “Augmented Reality Technology” by Mike Hruska, president/CEO at Problem Solutions; “Technology Enabled Learning,” by Bryant Nielson, executive director of CapitalWave.

Konopka is a native of Michigan. His father was a truck driver and his mother was an educator. He earned an undergraduate degree at Western Michigan University and did post graduate study at the University of Detroit and spent time studying in Italy. He is vice president of sales and strategic partnerships at Skilitics (www.skilitics.com), a digital learning company based in New York. Among other things, the company develops Skilitics Thrive, cloud-based analytics software that captures and reports real results of a client’s learning profile.

“Our technology provides the organization with a viable tool to assess the impact learning is having across the business,” he says. In addition, the software allows trainers to build, track, and maintain sophisticated consequences-based learning to business and corporate professionals.

According to various studies, including a recent report from Information Services Group, a global technology and research firm based in Connecticut, the market for data center and transformation services is growing by at least 15 percent, fueled by growing enterprise demand for flexible, always available, and private cloud-based infrastructure. The most accepted and widely used design theory is ALGAE (Adaptive Learning Game Design). The approach is based on a series of educational game designs and instructional strategies designed to promote learner engagement.

Konopka says adaptive learning is an effective and proficient method for instructors to educate young professionals. “With so many tools and products available to corporate learning professionals, sifting through the best and most practical ones can be challenging,” he says.

Adaptive learning is the personalization of learning experiences for professionals and students using computer-based technology. The technology allows instructors — mainly corporate trainers — to modify the learning content to conform to the learning level of the participants based upon responses to specific questions and tasks.

For example, in traditional training courses, a participant views pictures, videos, and digital documents and is asked a series of questions of multiple-choice questions about what was shown. Konopka says if the participant answers the questions correctly he moves on to the next phase or series of questions. However, if the respondent answers the questions incorrectly, “He will become totally disengaged and try to click his way through the remainder of the material as quickly as possible,” Konopka says. Eventually that participant will get an adequate number of questions correct after multiple tries and complete the course, without ever fully comprehending the material. “Not much learning nor change in behavior there,” he says.

With adaptive learning, the instructor designs a curriculum based upon the participant’s response to the questions.

Adaptive learning reduces scrap learning. Scrap learning is the learning that was delivered but not applied on the job. Scrap learning comes from content that is delivered but is irrelevant and doesn’t motivate or inspire the learner. Conversely, adaptive learning uses a data-driven approach. Konopka says adaptive learning focuses on the architecture of learning and can improve work flow in an organization. The principle enables employees to take control of their professional development by implementing a “work at your own pace” system.

“Dynamically adapting coursework to fit the learner’s need will immediately identify professional development opportunities based on the knowledge gaps demonstrated by the learner,” Konopka says. “Adaptive learning experts should demonstrate knowledge up front, and instructors can combine online and in-person instruction.”

Lastly, it’s common for business professionals to participate in dozens of digital learning courses and presentations throughout their careers whether mandated for company compliance issues, product knowledge or professional advancement opportunities. Opportunities for corporate learning leaders to become executive-level power players start with data, metrics and the analytics they can provide to the organization. “The ability to capture and master adaptive learning will empower staff and learning departments within the corporate hierarchy,” Konopka says. “The method can make the difference between a department being a dreaded cost center to a revenue-driving profit center.”

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