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?

  • - lisagustinelli lisagustinelli Mar 30, 2016https://www.mheducation.com/ideas/adaptive-learnings-next-audience-struggling-k-12-students.html I work in a very large high school with students from many socioeconomic situations. Students will learn better if their education is tailored to their needs. The old idea of tracking students was a start but has been proven to only discriminate against students by separating groups out by their weaknesses. Adaptive technologies keeps students in an integrated leveled classroom while at the same time serves the individuals needs. - davidwdeeds davidwdeeds Apr 26, 2016
  • - kevin-johnson kevin-johnson Mar 31, 2016I have been using Cerego for several years to build public sites on Learning to Learn https://cerego.com/sets/743828 based on a top-rated Coursera MOOC; Learning Readiness https://cerego.com/sets/736430 about the new online learning and am now building Wonderful Words A, B, C and more to come based on the most common 3,000 words in English that account for 86% of all usage, gold for the EFL or ESL student https://cerego.com/sets/737721, https://cerego.com/sets/745610, and https://cerego.com/sets/756738. This is a great site that recently received more than one million dollars from Bill and Melinda Gates to help under-performing undergraduates; it is the best online vocabulary building site I know of, you can build on it for free and it falls into the first class of adaptive learning technology (stated above). I have checked out the two other adaptive learning technologies for K-12 mentioned in the Gates Report (above) - Loud Cloud and Knewton. Loud Cloud is for pay only and Knewton last year allowed advance users to build on it for free (which I tried), but it is specifically geared for the USA Common Core. I hope more, free K-12 sites come online. I would highly recommend Cerego for vocabulary building, either in L1 or L2 instruction. When more of the second tier platforms come online, they will (as they have done) likely cost money, but it is unclear how far traditional schools will buy-into this, but I think the potential is vast and promising.
  • - cbsteighner cbsteighner Apr 9, 2016As a classroom teacher, using adaptive programs helps me to be everywhere at once. We use Math-Whizz at our school to supplement math instruction, and I love it. I can quickly look at the data and see where my students are at, and what specific areas I need to target during my instruction. I can have conversations with them about their work that are meaningful and purposeful. Further, students have been very engaged in this program all year long (both in and out of school) and, most importantly, have been making progress. While I won't credit that all to the program, I will say that it has assisted me in better serving my students in math.
  • - cristiana.mattos cristiana.mattos Apr 23, 2016Here in Brazil we are definitely looking forward to having good tools to be able to use adaptive learning. There are some beginning initiatives, like Mosyle and Geekie, but it is still far from mature. We also have access to the Khan Academy translated by the Lemann Foundation, but that only covers a very small part of what needs to be done. The interest is getting bigger and more people are investing in this. Hopefully we'll have some good tools soon, because of all the reasons mentioned above!
  • As a result of a recent study we conducted in Chile where we looked at Intel education initiatives in collaboration with Khan Academy, we found that among others, Khan Academy is illustrating how technology is shifting from only a delivery tool towards use as a seamless part of instructional strategy. Our research found that the students studied hardly used the videos that Khan is often thought of, & used the online excercises as examples of effective digital learning tools that adapt problem sets to the proficiency of the student. The value of this platform to the teachers was: 1) it allowed students to engage with the content in ways appropriate for the subject area. 2) The unique problem sets adjust to the student's ability in unique pathways that prevent copying. 3) It provides immediate feedback after each problem allowing students to rethink their strategies, 4) It provides increased pathways for getting help, informing students when they should contact teachers, peers or the video resources to learn more about their strategies. 5) The personalized approach offered endless practice sets for the students to develop content mastery. 6) The incentives design of the platform rewards success without punishing failure allowing students to earn points and badges. Finally, 7) the real time and stored data allows teachers to track and monitor progress. - jon.k.price jon.k.price Apr 26, 2016

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?
  • When we think of adaptive learning we usually stay focused on traditional subjects learned in school and how we can help students by tailoring learning to their intellectual needs. What's missing? The whole field of sports and physical therapy. When teaching students in the area of physical therapy adaptive learning understanding and data collection will prove very useful in prescribing the type of exercises and therapies needed to help a patient heal. I've seen adaptive learning used in my very heavily sports orientated high school. Apps for physical education help students throw better, jump higher,swing straighter and place the ball better( as in tennis).- lisagustinelli lisagustinelli Mar 30, 2016lisagustinelli
  • Along these lines, I would love to see adaptive learning tools for social emotional learning as well!- cristiana.mattos cristiana.mattos Apr 23, 2016

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative inquiry?

  • - kevin-johnson kevin-johnson Mar 31, 2016I think Cerego which is free but only tier one (it does not use aggregated data) is already good to go, and I highly recommend it. I think the potential is great and highly useful. Khan Academy can also be used this way already - most commonly for Math and now Coding (I think). My concern is that a lot of it (like Knewton) may stay locked up in the lucrative USA home-land market, and not be open to those of us living elsewhere.- cristiana.mattos cristiana.mattos Apr 23, 2016Exactly.
  • Teachers cannot be expected to automatically know how to use the programs to support the needs of their students. There needs to be adequate training in how to look at the data and use the results to craft subsequent lessons that speccifically target areas of need, otherwise these programs simply become a babysitting tool that takes up valuable instruction time.- cbsteighner cbsteighner Apr 9, 2016 Agree - jon.k.price jon.k.price Apr 26, 2016
  • Adaptive learning technologies are best implemented in Math and I would add should be also implemented in Languages, as I see math and language as skills and tools which are inevitable for every subject, skill, etc. Thus, for the next few years adaptive learning will focus on these basic skills and will improve results because teachers will be able to provide attention to every student and to provide solution the diversity in the classroom. Moreover, we know that motivation is critical for 21st century learners and advanced knowledge in these "languages" will promote what we call the "motivation divide". - guyl guyl Apr 15, 2016
  • These examples provide important illustrations to Ministries of Education in how personalized, self regulated and Adaptive Learning can improve instructional practices by utilizing the technologies available. - jon.k.price jon.k.price Apr 26, 2016

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

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