Defining the audience for your content is the first step in personalization.
Tailoring meets the needs of the individual by defining the audience for each piece of educational material, collecting information from users, and cross-referencing content with user information.
While we have the ability to disseminate massive quantities of educational materials to the general population, the result is that the information is directed at everyone but applies to no one in particular.
Today, advances in information technology allow us to harness the power of the Internet while tailoring information to meet the needs of individuals. The process of personalization involves defining the audience for each piece of educational material; collecting information from users; and cross-referencing content with user information to produce a suite of information that is tailored to the individual’s particular conditions and circumstances.
The Internet is awash with information. For example, a patient searching the web for information on his or her condition will encounter both commercial and institutional sites, and will locate information that is often inconsistent, contradictory, and haphazard. Above all, the patient will have to wade through pages and pages of information that is simply irrelevant to his or her specific circumstances. At best, this “needle in a haystack” approach results in a patient becoming overwhelmed and giving up. At worst, a patient will implement advice that may apply to one aspect of his or her condition, but that is contraindicated by other conditions or circumstances.
When tailoring is utilized, the proverbial haystack disappears and the user receives highly relevant information. When that occurs, the user is more likely to assimilate the information presented.
Tailoring can also be used to broaden and deepen the learner’s understanding of the material presented. The principles of the Constructivism Theory of learning indicate that providing students with information that is just beyond what they know can inspire them to bridge the gap between their existing knowledge and the new information. Rather than assuming a user’s level of knowledge – as is the case with one-size-fits-all content – tailoring enables content to be personalized to an individual’s “knowledge gap.”