Personalized Learning vs. Individualized Learning: What’s the Difference

4 points

There’s a big difference between the concepts of personalized and individualized learning. Then why do we keep confusing them? The reason for confusion must be the foundation of these words. If you look for the definition of the term person, you’ll find this: “a human being regarded as an individual.” Person and individual are practically the same thing. That justifies the confusion.

When we’re involved in educational processes, however, there’s no justification for confusion. We have to understand the methods and make a difference between them.

Let’s cut through the chase: what’s the main difference between personalized and individualized learning?

Personalized learning is adapted to the needs of an individual.

Individualized learning is tailored to the accomplishments of an individual.

Still sounds the same?

With personalized learning, you’re encouraging the students to learn in a way that suits their capacity to digest information, as well as their unique preferences. You’re teaching lessons in a way that takes into account the interest of individual students, so no one will feel left out. The student actively participates in the creation of the educational process. These are the four main distinction points from a student’s perspective: voice, co-creation, social construction, and self-discovery.

Individualized learning is different. With this method, you tailor the instruction to the strengths and weaknesses of your students. When they complete an assignment, their results tell whether they move onto more challenging assignments or they go through the previous material again in order to gain the needed skills and knowledge. When you’re providing individualized instructions, you closely monitor the progress and take steps to fill in the gaps in knowledge along the way. The student is in control of the pace of learning, and the teacher is in control of the instructions. The teacher is practically a manager of the learning experience. Individualized learning is often implemented in online courses. All students get the same instructions and assignments, but make progress through the material at a different pace.

The main difference:

  • In the personalized teaching method, the strengths and weaknesses are perceived as a combination of performance and style preferences.

  • In the individualized teaching method, you see the performance as a primary indicator of strengths and weaknesses.

Personalized learning is tailored in accordance to strengths and weaknesses, whereas the foundation of the individualized approach is performance.

Personalized Learning – What It’s All About

Personalization starts with the learner. As an instructor, you’re trying to identify the interests, passions, and aspirations of your students. This way, the learners take active participation in the design of the learning process. They get ideas and test them through creations, discussions, and prototypes. The teachers set challenges that encourage the students to share their perspective and support their ideas with strong arguments.

As an example, you can ask the students how exactly they would like to receive the instructions. Do they like slide shows? Do they like using their tablets and computers? Are they interested to connect with the entire class through a private Facebook group? When you get their feedback, you’ll give them options that work for all. You will provide presentations, traditional lectures, discussion prompts in Facebook groups, links to useful online resources, and any other form of instruction you can think of. They will still learn the same things, but each student will have access to a method that works for them.

Personalization is a great method for a teacher to adopt, since it gives them the capacity to create independent learners. They will set goals, explore various sources of information, monitor their own progress, and reflect on the things they learned. Instead of being passive followers of the curriculum, they get to share their own voice and participate in the educational process.

Individualized Learning – What It’s All About

In individualized learning, the student receives planned instructional strategies. This approach, however, starts from the evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses. The teacher does not try to figure out what the students would like to learn and how they would like to receive the instructions. Instead, they test the readiness of the students. If a student is not ready to proceed with the next module, they will get time to go through the previous one again. The student controls the pace of learning, but they are not active participants in the process of creating instructions.

With individualized learning, the student is pushed to perform. With personalized learning, on the other hand, the student is pushed to explore. Do you see the difference?

In order to provide an individualized learning program, the teacher needs institutionally established competencies that can be measured and tested. They convert the performance into data.

Since this method is based on performance, it involves a lot of testing and homework. It leads to a major pitfall: students being overwhelmed with assignments so much that they have no other choice but to rely on writing companies.

What’s Better?

When it comes to individualized learning, teachers are wondering: “What do we want the students to learn?” That’s similar to traditional education as we always knew it.

Now, we’re trying to move forward towards personalized learning. The process of individualized learning produces knowledgeable, literate students who can perform. That’s good. The process of personalized learning produces knowledgeable and literate students who are also skilled, curious, and more in touch with their personal needs. That’s better.




The transition towards a personalized learning approach is not easy. However, the teacher can make an effort to get feedback from the students. Then, all they need to do is incorporate learning materials for kinesthetic, auditory, and visual learners into the lesson plans. They will promote collaborative work and they will keep monitoring the results. It’s a lot of work, but the results are worth the effort.

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