Adaptive learning is a hot topic in the field of education and training, from children’s classrooms to corporate learning programs. As data becomes more abundant and easier to aggregate, the possibilities are growing for truly customized learning.
The overall purpose of adaptive learning is to allow learners to explore at their own pace, giving those with greater knowledge or skills the ability to move faster and those with fewer skills to take their time. The belief is that personalizing content according to what each learner needs empowers learners to take control of their education and to increase their efficiency and breadth of knowledge.
According to a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the modern-day concept of adaptive learning evolved from psychologist B.F. Skinner’s 1950s-era “teaching machine,” which he developed while working at Harvard University. Students were given questions from a mechanical box, and they were rewarded with “fresh academic material” after answering a question correctly. Today, new technologies make it possible to track student progress to a previously unimaginable degree. Learning management systems track development of skills, provide tailored feedback, and make customized help available depending on how well they master the content. Adaptive learning is still evolving, especially in schools. But new technologies are making it possible to develop highly interactive, game-like interfaces—certainly a step up from Dr. Skinner’s mechanical box!
At ILG, we’re tracking the trends and tuning in to the amazing possibilities adaptive learning offers for business professionals. In a traditional face-to-face learning environment, everyone is exposed to the same content. It’s not always clear to the instructor where people are on the knowledge spectrum. We believe the most powerful application of adaptive learning is a blended approach, combining classroom instruction and a robust elearning solution that offers a self-paced flow, a robust resource library, the ability to go down a custom path of discovery, and other engaging ways to explore material on demand. Students report feeling more motivated and challenged with this blended learning.
The market is reflecting the intense interest in the potential of adaptive learning. A new company called Knewton just raised $33 million in venture funding for its personalized learning platform. (Forbes magazine likens it to Pandora for the learning world; no two people see the same content, because no two people have exactly the same background.) The non-profit Next Generation Learning Challenges recently awarded more than $10 million in grants to 29 colleges and organizations to develop programs around technology that relates to adaptive learning.
Colleges, as well as businesses, are adding highly interactive elearning to their education programs that are inspired by the evolving technology made possible by adaptive learning principles.