What are Adaptive Learning Technologies?


Adaptive learning technologies refer to software and online platforms that adjust to individual students’ needs as they learn. According to a paper commissioned by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and authored by Education Growth Advisors, adaptive learning is a “sophisticated, data-driven, and in some cases, nonlinear approach to instruction and remediation, adjusting to a learner's interactions and demonstrated performance level, and subsequently anticipating what types of content and resources learners need at a specific point in time to make progress." In this sense, contemporary educational tools are now capable of learning the way people learn; enabled by machine learning technologies, they can adapt to each student’s progress and adjust content in real-time or provide customized exercises when they need it. In higher education, many faculty envision these adaptive platforms as new, patient tutors that can provide personalized instruction on a large scale. There are two levels to adaptive learning technologies — the first platform reacts to individual user data and adapts instructional material accordingly, while the second leverages aggregated data across a large sample of users for insights into the design and adaptation of curricula.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • Personalized/adaptive learning can potentially very relevant to both non-credit programming (cooperative extension) and with credit courses. You can use adaptive learning for things such as 1) creating a baseline for the level of the participants/students at the beginning of a course (so you can customize your content) 2) as a remediation tool with release conditions so that for example - students with a lower score on an test/quiz could be directed to a personalized learning path 3) practice before taking a quiz/exam 4) as a personalized learning path so that individuals can learn the content that they NEED to know (non-linear learning experience). - heyboerg heyboerg Jun 3, 2016
  • Adaptive learning, if structured well, allows learners the opportunity to grasp the information at their own speed. This can lead to higher-level mastery. - cstamper cstamper Jun 3, 2016

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Adaptive learning is hard for people to conceptualize. I think a more specific example would help reinforce this concept. I've done a lot of research on adaptive learning tools and I'm very familiar with the "platform" model described above but I'm not sure what you mean by the "aggregated data" approach. - heyboerg heyboerg Jun 3, 2016
  • There are many types of adaptive learning: EPSS for example. This needs to be fleshed out. Maybe we only start with a specific type and then grow. - cstamper cstamper Jun 3, 2016

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on higher education?

  • I think adaptive learning is something that could enhance learner experiences and is very beneficial to students that are having a hard time learning certain topic areas or need to review aspects of a course that they don't understand. The tool I'm using also requires instructors to focus on learning objectives and integrating their content/activities/assessments to the learning objectives. This of course creates courses that area based on good design principles. - heyboerg heyboerg Jun 3, 2016
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(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • I currently have a grant through eXtension where we are using D2L LeaP, Articulate Storyline and Camtasia to create adaptive learning experiences. - heyboerg heyboerg Jun 3, 2016
  • I am collaborating with a group focusing on an online tutoring program. - cstamper cstamper Jun 3, 2016

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