Online Learning: Using the RENT framework to develop Scalable Personalisation

A recent EOCCS webinar input by Brent Gregory of the University of New England, Armidale, NSW, described the RENT framework. The framework is an educational view of the roles of management (Adizes, 1988) and an enabling mechanism for Scalable Personalisation (SP). SP is where the student learning journey is tailored to align with student needs without overloading teaching resources. RENT is an acronym for four key areas:


Recording has two parts in this model: Compliance and Decision Making. Compliance refers to the records we are obliged to keep (e.g. marks). Decision Making records help improve the delivery of our product. Figure 1 provides an example of output from decision-making recording. This progression pipeline report is a summary of how far each student has progressed at any given point in the online course. From these records, in week 9 (y-axis), 218 students had completed Assessed Quiz 2 (AQ2) and are on track. A further eight (8), who have completed the gateway activity (GW2), are almost there. However, there are nine (9) students that had not completed the Ready to Start task (RTS).

Figure 1: Decision marking recording


The learning environment is where it all comes together to provide students with the opportunity to learn. Well signposted paths through carefully scaffolded activities are a great investment. Gateway tasks are set to verify that each student has understood the content before being permitted to progress to new materials. If students don’t have sufficient knowledge, they need to cycle back or be guided down a side track to gain that knowledge.


At its simplest level, needs are driven by the learning objectives of the unit. Real gains, especially if you want to personalise the journey, come from “understanding the needs of (your) students”.  The HELP framework (Figure 2) provides a mechanism to consider how we interact with the student learning process. Academics think about the skills students should acquire.  Then an activity for them to undertake to acquire that skill is developed. Unfortunately, the path from the activity set for the students and them taking the action required is not a straight one.

As humans, we can only absorb a small proportion of the information that surrounds us.  We have a number of inbuilt filters that “Delete, Distort and Generalise” (James & Woodsmall, 1988) the outside world.  This enables us to simplify and internally represent the outside world inside our heads. Combine this with the fact that we are surrounded by “noise” competing for our cognitive capacity (what is for dinner,  what are people saying about me on social media?) and we come to understand that we must package learning activities appropriately.  In this way, an action-oriented internal representation will be created.

Figure 2: The HELP framework

The HELP model

The HELP model is built around four questions that need to be addressed when setting an activity. HELP identifies ways in which the message can navigate the inbuilt filters that we all possess. The four questions are:

  • What will Hinder the student from starting the activity (e.g. the instructions to start are not sufficiently clear)
  • What will Encourage them to start the activity (e.g. student received an email reminding them to start the activity)
  • What will cause Leakage from progress on the activity (e.g. outside responsibilities are absorbing time)
  • What will Promote progress on the activity (e.g. getting instant feedback on the progress they are making)

The decision making recording will be helpful to enable you to answer the HELP questions. For instance, having a Progression Pipeline will identify where there are general blockages in student progress.


Team refers to harnessing skills, attitudes, and values of the available human resources. This is not only about the core teaching team but also includes virtual team members such as VLE administrators and Learning Designers.  The team can be boosted by incorporating like-minded and other colleagues who have networks, insights or other skills as and when required.

Developing a learning environment, especially one that is scalable is a holistic process. The RENT framework provides a structure for this thinking.


Adizes, I. (1988). Corporate lifecycles: How and why corporations grow and die and what to do about it. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

James, T., & Woodsmall, W. (1988). Timeline therapy and the basis of personality. Capitola, CA: Meta Publications.

?If you want to engage with more experts in the field of online education, join the upcoming webinar Time to Change: Teaching in a Digital Age.