How an adaptive learning platform can help your organization

Cydnie Smith
Smiling woman with long dark hair in a black shirt.
min read
min watch

Grab a pen and a paper.

I’m going to ask you a question. But, before you answer, I want you to take a moment and reflect on your organization’s current online training program. Think about the ways your employees interact with your existing method and the way your courses are presented. 

Then when you’re ready, I want you to write down:

What are three ways your current training program helps develop your employees’ strengths and skills while closing their knowledge gaps?

Now, most organizations' training, for better or worse, relies on generic, one-size-fits-all programs intended to meet their learning requirements. You know the type: many courses bundled together about a particular topic, and then a 10-question quiz at the end. If you get 80% of the answers correct? You pass. Anything less? You must retake the entire course, even if it’s hours long.

As you can imagine, this results in some very dissatisfied employees. In fact, a Forbes article revealed that 47% of employees are dissatisfied with their employer’s learning and development program.

So, why is most corporate training like that?

Despite a high level of employee satisfaction, many organizations continue to deploy the same one-size-fits-all approach to corporate training. Why? Well, employers opt for traditional training programs for a variety of reasons.

  • It’s they’ve always completed employee training
  • They don’t have time to switch to something new
  • They’re uncertain about how a new training system will be adopted
  • They aren’t aware of other training options

While these reasons are entirely valid, the traditional training method does come with some drawbacks. In the best-case scenario, training courses are programmed according to criteria like job function, role, or department. But more than likely, your employees end up muddling through a broad spectrum of information they forget as soon as they pass the quiz (see – Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve). This training model leaves virtually no room for continuous development and, in many cases, it limits an employee’s interest, engagement, and ability to reach their full potential.

However, if you’re looking for a solution, you’ve come to the right place. In this adaptive learning platform article, jump to the topic that interests you to find valuable information about:

If you checked out our last article: “Adaptive learning: everything your business needs to know,” then you (hopefully) already know how adaptive learning can mitigate a lot of the shortcomings that come with a traditional learning model. But just in case you happened to stumble across this article first, let’s do a quick recap. 

What is adaptive learning?

Simply put, adaptive learning takes personalized training to the next level. It’s an employee-centric approach to eLearning that leverages AI technology and data-capturing algorithms to provide employees with individualized training programs that continually adapt to their changing needs. The software accomplishes this by

  • Evaluating information (like test answers and learner confidence levels) every time users engage with the system,
  • Comparing learning analytic data to an employee’s initial benchmark knowledge levels and objectives,
  • Automatically adapting an employee’s learning path by modifying subject matter, level of difficulty, learning resources, and delivery methods.
Three blocks in a row. Going left-to-right, the first block is titled "Engagement & Evaluation." Below the title is a 4x4 grid of checkmarked or crossed-off boxes. Column 1 has three X's and one checkmark; column 2 has two of each; column 3 has three checkmarks and one X; column 4 has four checkmarks and zero X's. The second block is titled "Benchmark Comparison Knowledge," and has two identical rulers. One ruler has a line low on the ruler. The ruler beside it shows the same line raised significantly higher. The final block is titled "Adaptive Learning Path" and contains six lettered boxes in two columns, with arrows connecting the blocks. In the first column, top-to-bottom, the boxes are labelled A, B, and C, and in the second column, the C, A, and B. The arrows connect each letter in column one to the same letter in column two.

Ultimately, adaptive learning allows your employees to learn at their own speed, bypass concepts they’ve already mastered, and focus on developing their knowledge. It’s an effective way to keep your employees engaged and enhance their workplace skills. 

This obviously sounds great for employees – but how does that translate into visible ROI (return on investment) for your C-Suite?

How an adaptive learning platform can help your business (use cases)

While traditional learning methods help tick your corporate training checkboxes, adaptive learning is a lot more dynamic. Because it identifies gaps in your employees' knowledge through automated machine learning (algorithms), adaptive learning can help overcome the everyday corporate training and learning challenges that you and your staff face. Consider the following adaptive learning use cases:

Training new hires with an adaptive learning system

Studies show that up to 20% of employee turnover happens during the first 45 days of employment. That’s because most businesses offer one-size-fits-all employee onboarding with no clear goals or benchmarks for new hires. As a result, many employees don’t feel adequately prepared to transition successfully into their new roles.

Adaptive learning mitigates this by taking a confidence-based approach to eLearning. Not only does an adaptive learning system curate personalized training paths, but it also reinforces material until your employees feel confident in their knowledge. Higher confidence can then lead to happier, more productive employees.

Adaptive learning helps eliminate time management challenges

Let’s say, for example, your frontline workers need to get up to speed on training that is crucial to their roles. The problem is you need them in the field. They literally don’t have time to sit through a 2-day training seminar. With an adaptive learning strategy in place, crunch time isn’t a problem! 

Thanks to adaptive training technologies, frontline workers only learn what they absolutely need to. Instead of the traditional method of clicking through copious amounts of broad-spectrum information, adaptive learning filters out content they do know and focuses on the things they don’t. This can cut their training time in half and get them back out in the field faster.

Use adaptive learning software for upskilling and reskilling employees

While more than 60% of employees say they would stay with their employer if efforts were made to upskill or reskill them, most of their training happens within the first 90 days of their employment. Zippia states that in 2022, the average employee tenure in the US was 4.3 years for men and 3.8 for women. So, roughly speaking, training is only offered for the first 6% of time spent at one’s job. 

But what happens after that? Surely something should come after the employee onboarding stage?

That’s simple: You transition your employees into everboarding.

Everboarding is basically a continuation of your employees’ onboarding. Since one-time exposure to information is rarely enough to foster learning that leads to real improvement, everboarding ensures that your employees cover, absorb, and retain learning material over time. It also demonstrates ROI in visibly improved performance and strategic metrics. 

The thing is, traditional learning methods can make everboarding difficult. Not only do administrators have the responsibility of constantly updating courses, this type of training often doesn’t take into account your employees’ individual knowledge, skills, or areas of expertise. Traditional training methods don’t offer much room to adjust to these nuances without making employees re-take entire courses (which we all know wouldn’t go down well with most teams!)

Luckily, adaptive learning makes overcoming these challenges that much easier. An adaptive learning system allows training administrators to incrementally add content, releasing the most important information first. When changes to courses are introduced, or employees want to master different skills, an adaptive learning system differentiates between the material a learner has already covered and new concepts ready to be studied.

Mandatory compliance training made easier with an adaptive learning platform

You hear the groans around the office. You see the not-so-subtle eye rolls. It’s time for your employees' annual/semi-annually/quarterly compliance training… again. 

You know undertrained or disengaged staff can leave your organization at risk of damage, injury, or legal action. You also know that the cost, timeliness, and effectiveness of compliance training can affect your company’s ROI (you can literally feel your entire C-Suite and leadership team watching you).

But you can’t help but sympathize with your team.

The recurring requirement to train and re-train in compliance subjects can feel extremely redundant, particularly for employees who have completed the same training year after year after year. 

They’re busy, and they don’t feel like their time is being valued because all the new information is buried under a mountain of material they’ve seen before.

And… let’s be honest – the learning content itself can just. feel. so. dull. 

It’s more policy focused – rather than practical and relevant to their day-to-day roles.

At the end of the day, it’s hard for compliance training to be effective because your staff simply isn’t engaged. 

But have no fear, adaptive learning is here! (Okay – that was definitely cornier than it sounded in my head!)

When using adaptive learning software to power your training program, frequent learning assessments are performed early in the training process. These determine if employees need to refresh previous learning or if their time would be better spent on other areas of compliance. Thanks to this method, employees no longer have to retake the ENTIRE course when they forget small pieces of information. Adaptive learning simply repeats the material your employees don’t know until they feel confident. The best part? You’ve spared yourself from the quiet discontent of telling them that it’s compliance training time!

Key benefits of deploying training with an adaptive learning platform?

Along with helping training managers and administrators overcome common workplace challenges, let’s look at other benefits of incorporating an adaptive training system into your organization. 

  • Simple to use: Algorithms and AI technology allow learning to happen automatically and with minimal administrative intervention. It makes life easy for you, giving you more time to focus on meeting other business goals. 
  • Rolls out quickly: The corporate world is always changing – which means organizations need to remain agile and responsive. Adaptive learning is useful in this case because it can be implemented quickly, requires little hassle (yay for less effort), and can respond directly to any key-risk areas identified in your learning strategy.
  • Improves employee engagement: We’ve already established that employees tend to lose interest in repetitive training modules very quickly. Where traditional training methods leave them checked out, adaptive learning affords them a new, dynamic training path every single time (which is great for your bottom line considering engaged employees can lead to a 23% increase in profitability.)
  • Improves employee knowledge retention: I’ll just come right out and say it – we forget things. In fact, 90% of people forget what they learned within one week. But, when you’re managing frontline workers, staff in a fast-paced industry, or need high-performing employees, you can’t risk them forgetting crucial information. Adaptive learning improves knowledge retention by presenting learning content in the way that best suits the individual learner. It highlights areas they’re struggling with and repeats particular concepts until mastery is achieved. 
  • Saves time and increases ROI: The goal of eLearning is to add value to your business, not detract from it. Adaptive learning allows employees to skip unnecessary training, which leads to increased productivity and better-informed, more motivated employees. Moreover, it can cut training time in half, which means less time off the floor and more time performing their duties.

At the end of the day, adaptive learning can be extremely useful in elevating your corporate learning program and meeting your business goals. Plus, who doesn’t love having a list of concrete benefits they can take back to their C-Suite and leadership team?

How to engage employees with adaptive training?

It’s pretty clear that adaptive learning comes with significant benefits. But what’s the use of all these benefits if your employees don’t engage with your training program? 

To get the most out of your adaptive learning system, your learners have to want to take the training. So here are learning strategies you can apply to adaptive learning to increase employee engagement. 

Make it relevant

Employees don’t just want to learn the material. They want to see how material helps them accomplish tasks, overcome problems, and advance their careers. So why not show them? Start with a survey that asks your employees to identify their goals, problems, or areas of interest, then use that information to tailor their adaptive training accordingly.

Say, for example, career growth is an employee’s top priority. An adaptive learning system may create a set of badges that allow the learner to choose which professional milestones are relevant to them, then provide training associated with each. 

As the system adapts to your staff’s unique needs, they will see more value in completing their training, resulting in a higher motivation to invest time into it.

Make it challenging

One reason employees disengage from traditional training methods is that they believe they already know the material. Adaptive learning can combat this belief by putting learners in real-world situations and asking them to make decisions. Typically, learners will apply their model of thinking to this situation, but any gaps in that knowledge will affect the outcome. This will immediately grab their attention and cause them to slow down and take note of the flaws in their thinking. Learners will likely want to dig deeper into the course material to improve their understanding and close the gaps in their knowledge.

Make it exciting

It’s basic human nature: when something intrigues us, we want to know and interact more. In an adaptive learning course, you can use different methods to incite curiosity and capture your employees' attention. For example, you can present stories, puzzles, games, or other forms of interactivity to keep them engaged and motivated to continue the eLearning experience.

Make it social

While so much of our lives are now digital, online training can be an isolating experience. I mean, you sit in front of a device – alone – to increase your knowledge on your own. There’s no one to help celebrate your wins or support your losses. Fortunately, adaptive learning can leverage this need for group membership. Adaptive learning platforms can feature:

  • "Like" buttons to let employees know which training modules their coworkers enjoyed
  • The option to leave and reply to comments on content
  • Leaderboards so you can see how you perform in relation to your colleagues (or how you and a team perform against other teams)

With the help of these social elements, an individual experience becomes a team effort.

Ultimately, when it comes to adaptive learning, much of the formula for success is simple: Figure out what your learners want and need. Then use adaptive learning to deliver it.

What are some pitfalls to avoid when selecting an adaptive learning platform?

Of course, employee engagement isn’t the only thing to remember when considering adaptive learning. There are other questions to consider.

  • Is adaptive learning really necessary in your workplace?
    Before opting for an adaptive learning platform, consider your organization’s business objectives. Is annual training (and maybe a few refresher courses) enough to meet your goals? Or is your organization evolving constantly and looking for a way to help employees to keep up?
  • Do you have a learning analytics strategy to accommodate all the data that adaptive learning provides?
    An adaptive learning platform is a robust tool that offers a lot of important data. The problem is many organizations don’t have a strategy in place to make sense of that information and apply those insights in a practical way.
  • Does your organization have the budget to implement an adaptive learning platform?
    Trust me – I get it. Investing in a learning platform is a big deal, and some platforms can be really expensive. So, before you commit to anything, consider your organizational needs, the potential ROI, and (arguably the most important thing) the costs that are involved.

As you go through some of these questions, it’s completely okay to decide that adaptive learning isn’t the right fit for your team. Sometimes, a more linear eLearning model may be the right choice – especially since some Learning Management Systems (LMS) (like SmarterU LMS) offer features like gamification, interactive learning content, quizzes, learning plans, etc. 

But if you decide that an adaptive learning system is the way you want to go, let’s go over a couple of things you want to keep an eye out for when choosing an adapting learning platform. After all, you don’t want to end up dissatisfied with your choice.

Poor User Experience (UX)/ User Interface (UI)

As with any learning system or online training platform, the UX/UI can seriously impact a user’s overall learning experience. So, when demoing different adaptive learning platforms, pay particular attention to how the interface feels. Does it mimic other software your employees may already use (Netflix, Spotify, YouTube)? Do the search functions make it easy to find the content you need? Is it easy to navigate (for your less tech-savvy employees)? Keeping these kinds of questions in mind can make organizational adoption that much easier. 

Try The Cereal Test

As you test different adaptive learning platforms, think of your experience like you’re eating a bowl of cereal. The adaptive learning content is the cereal and the milk. The interface is the bowl and spoon.

Your learner experience should be smooth and uncomplicated – one tasty spoonful (of eLearning) after another. Your employees should be able to get through their required learning or course seamlessly on even the busiest of days. Now, if your learner experience feels like you’re eating cereal with a fork, well, you know the design just doesn’t work.

Woman holding an dramatically oversized spoon and cereal bowl. There are many colourful cereal loops in the bowl, on the spoon, and a few scattered around. Some of the loops have icons where the loop's hole would be. On the spoon, there are two loops with icons: a file sheet and a play button. In the bowl, there are seven loops with icons: universal access, volume, mobile phone, gem, image. graduation cap, laptop.

Poor Vendor Support

While UX/UI is an important ingredient in the recipe for the “perfect” adaptive learning platform, the other ingredient is your choice of vendor. Just as a “good” vendor can guide you through the adaptation of this newer technology and assist in the implementation process to ensure your adaptive learning integration is a success, a “not-so-great vendor” can lead you down a rabbit hole of frustration and headache – potentially wasting your valuable resources (time and money). 

So, when seeking out an adaptive learning vendor, be on the lookout for unresponsive sales representatives, disorganized software demos, scripted interactions, and an inability to adequately answer your questions. These can be very telling of the kind of experience you’ll have while working with that vendor. 

As my grandmother always says: “If it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not right.”

Are there free adaptive learning platforms?

Okay, now let’s switch gears here. Let’s say you think an adaptive learning platform can greatly benefit your corporate workplace, and it’s just not in the budget this quarter. 

You know it’s a huge investment, so you want to be sure you’ll see a return before you take it to your C-Suite team. Is there a way you can “try” an adaptive learning platform for free? 

The short answer is yes. 

Many adaptive learning platforms offer free trials and free versions you and your employees can use. This is arguably the most cost-effective to implement an adaptive learning strategy in your workplace. But there are definitely some drawbacks. Namely, many of these options are only available for a limited time or only give you access to very limited features. 

The trade-off may be worth it in terms of your organization’s bottom line. But where employee engagement is essential to the success of an adaptive learning strategy, not having access to everything they need could negatively impact their learning experience.

As much the frugal side of me hates to admit it (I will gladly sit through 100 ads a day just to get access to the free version of an app) – I think we all know the truth. The free option is just never as good as the full version. 

And when we’re talking about something as important as employee development? It’s almost always better to invest in the tools they need to succeed.

94% of employees say they would stay at a company longer if it simply invested in helping them learn.
Source: LinkedIn’s 2019 Workforce Learning Report

That leads us to question everyone really wants to know…

How much does an adaptive learning platform cost?

As with most platforms, the cost of adaptive learning can vary. Adaptive learning platforms can offer tiered pricing that ranges from a free version (typically with limitations in the way of features or total users) to an enterprise option (intended for larger teams and usually requires a custom quote).

Common adaptive learning platform pricing models

Somewhere in between the free and enterprise adaptive learning platforms, you’ll find the following pricing models:

Flat rate plan: Typically billed annually and offers unlimited use for a pre-determined amount of employees. 

Per month/Per active user: Usually billed monthly and is a great option for smaller organizations since you only pay for the employees actively using the platform. Note: Some platforms may require a minimum number of users, so be sure to inquire about this if you opt for this option.

Contact for a quote: For larger organizations (think 500+ learners), you’ll be connected with a learning and development advisor who will help you tailor a plan for your unique learner population, learning needs, and business goals.

Ballpark costs for adaptive learning platforms

Now, pricing for adaptive learning platforms can cover a broad range. In my attempt to lock down concrete numbers for you, I came across some plans that start as low as $2.95 per month/per user (about $750 per year for 20 users). I also came across other plans that cost over $6,000 per year. (This doesn’t include enterprise plans for larger organizations.)

That being said, when it comes to pricing, the cost of an adaptive learning platform is entirely circumstantial. It factors in a range of variables, like the type of model you choose, the features you opt for, and the number of employees that will be using the platform.

Do you need additional services to set up your platform?

In addition to the base price of your new adaptive learning platform, some vendors may also charge a set-up fee. Others may offer this service at no charge, so it’s important to check with potential vendors – that way, you avoid any additional fees during the process. 

Outside of the set-up fee, you can implement your strategy without including any extra services. But (if it’s within budget and you feel like splurging), some providers offer optional add-ons like

  • Customized analytics dashboards,
  • Implementation assistance,
  • User-sync with your Human Resource Management System (or another platform)

What features should I look for when selecting an adaptive learning platform?

Now that we’ve got pricing out of the way let’s move on to the best part of shopping for a platform: 

Its features.

I read somewhere that features are the building blocks of an eLearning platform. They draw the line between possibilities and limitations and can be a huge factor in the success of your corporate learning program. Since I want your adaptive learning implementation to be a huge hit, here is a list of the features I would highly recommend as must-have features for your adaptive learning platform.


64% of learners find accessing workplace learning from a mobile device essential – which makes sense considering we take our phones with us everywhere we go. Ensuring your adaptive learning platform has a mobile app means they can take their training with them. Mobility gives employees more opportunities to complete their courses, keep track of their progress, and gives them more satisfaction, resulting in higher engagement and knowledge retention.


We already know adaptive learning platforms are great for capturing lots of data. But it’s not just about gathering information. It’s about what you can do with that data to promote the success and development of your corporate training program. Consider the following questions when you meet with potential vendors: 

  • Are the learner analytics easy to understand?
  • Does the data provide a clear overview of employee performance and development?
  • Can these metrics help measure the success of implementing a training program?
  • Does the platform provide insights on employee satisfaction and engagement?

Asking these kinds of questions will give you a clear picture of how you’ll receive learner analytics and metrics and help you assess how the adaptive platform can be an asset to your organizational strategy.

Course authoring tools

Every department, job role, and employee is different. That means the skills required to succeed will be specific to an individual's function. In this case, the tailor-made eLearning content your employees need may need to be designed and updated internally. Having content creation tools will allow you to design quizzes and assessments, detailed visual analytics, video/webinar support, and courses that specifically target your organizational goals and needs.

What other “nice-to-have” features to consider for my adaptive learning platform?

Because I want to make sure you’re as informed as possible, some other “nice-to-have” features include: 


Features like rewards and leaderboards that make eLearning more engaging and retentive. Add bonus points if the gamified content can adapt to an employee’s learning style in real time.

Immediate feedback

Instant assessment and feedback not only keep learners aware of their progress, but it can also inspire confidence and help employees make informed decisions as they navigate through their learning journey.

Microlearning sessions

Sometimes, employees just need a quick refresher on specific material (not a whole course). Short learning sessions allow them to get the information they need quickly, conveniently, and in a simplified way (which is excellent for overall retention, by the way!)

Social tools

Comments, “like” buttons, and the ability to share content create a more collaborative eLearning environment within your team. This is especially important given that adaptive learning is so autonomous and individualized.

Hmmm… I think now would be a good time for a status check. 

  • We’ve established adaptive learning is a good fit for your team. 
  • We’ve covered all the benefits you need to get your leadership team on board.
  • We’ve assessed the features your learners need before you search for an adaptive learning platform.

But what do you do with your existing system? Do you have to replace it entirely? 

The good news is many adaptive learning platforms can be used as stand-alone solutions or combined with your existing LMS. Hello, LMS 2.0. 

That means you can upgrade your current system to an Adaptive LMS without needing to change your existing software. The real question is, “how?”

How can I use an adaptive learning platform with my existing learning system?

It’s important to note that some LMS’ aren’t compatible with adaptive learning software.

However, given that you have (or opt) for an LMS that is SCORM-compliant (formats of SCORM that are typically compatible are SCORM 1.2, SCORM 2004, xAPI (TinCan), AICC, and cmi5), you can quite easily launch your adaptive learning experience within your existing learning platform.

Take a platform like OttoLearn, for instance. 

You would load the Mastery Profile from OttoLearn as a SCORM or xAPI module into your LMS. Your employees would then launch the module from your LMS and work through their training while their training adapts to them. Once they master the subject matter, the OttoLearn software would tell your LMS that a course was “complete”. 

For example, if the course material was annual compliance training, your LMS would consider the mandatory module complete when your learners demonstrated mastery of the content with OttoLearn. But then OttoLearn would continue working to reinforce the learner’s knowledge throughout the rest of the year. And the training content the learner receives would depend on their overall performance across the training they completed and automated via the algorithm.

As your existing LMS and your new adaptive learning platform work together, you get a powerful performance tool designed to meet your strategic goals and foster growth and development within your team. 

How do I know if I actually need an adaptive learning platform?

Well – it looks like you’re almost at the end of this guide! But, before you grab your second (or third) coffee of the day…

Remember that question I asked you to answer at the beginning of this article? How does your current training method help develop your employees?

Take a look at the answers you jotted down or how you responded. Do you see any holes in your current training method? Have any areas for improvement surfaced? An adaptive learning platform can be a powerful asset that will help you resolve these training challenges. And it may be exactly what your learners need to help them improve their strengths and skill while closing their knowledge gaps.

So, how do I determine the best adaptive learning platform for me?

Much like adaptive learning is designed to meet your learners' individual needs, the kind of eLearning platform you choose should be the same. To put it simply, it’s about picking the option that will most positively impact your training outcome targets and your team. 

You may find that some adaptive learning platforms offer more features. 

You may find that some integrate more easily into your existing platform. 

You may find that your team needs a different kind of online training platform altogether. 

Either way, our team is always available to help you navigate your eLearning journey. So, are you ready to get started with adaptive learning? Feel free to reach out to our eLearning advisors if you have questions on the next steps or head back to our Learning Hub for a closer look at other online training platforms you can use to meet your business objectives and training performance goals!

Smiling woman with long dark hair in a black shirt.
Cydnie Smith

Cydnie is an experienced writer, editor, and blogger who believes that accessibility plus a dash of creative storytelling is essential to cultivating a memorable learning experience.

Become part of our L&D community

We publish a new learning hub article — full of useful, practical topics —  weekly.

Not sure where where you want to start? Jump into one of our recently published articles and see where it takes you!