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?

  • Last year when when the Ashley Madison hack occurred in which millions of users details were made public it also came light that the site had also been using 70,000 AI “engageme” female bots to send male users with millions of fake messages, hoping to create the illusion of a vast playland of available women.
    This got thinking, this is potentially the future of adaptive learning, where student bots or lecturer bots engage “real” students in forums, like online sessions, chat etc. Could this be a way of addressing the issue of engagement which has plagued MOOCS. Food for thought :> - stephan.ridgway stephan.ridgway Feb 18, 2016

  • I tend to agree with Stephan that there is great potential for virtual agents that will simulate a peer experience online. Further to this, the impact of more sophisticated machine learning techniques will likely see the promise of intelligent tutoring systems finally fulfilled in the foreseeable future. - jason.lodge jason.lodge Feb 22, 2016
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(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • You are all going to get tired of me saying this but any technology needs a good pedagogical model to underpin its use. The reason many technological solutions have variable impacts is that the pedagogical model is often missing or comes much later. - geoffrey.crisp geoffrey.crisp Jan 24, 2016

  • I agree, when I read the description above I can't help thinking that we have been down this road before and failed because we have not paid attention to the pedagogy. I am yet to be convinced that more sophisticated machines that can collect and crunch more data will lead to better learning especially when the underlying pedagogy is suspect - geoff.romeo geoff.romeo Jan 24, 2016.
  • I think the missing point is the link with analytics and the teacher - I quite like the concept of Learning Catalyics http://atg.fas.harvard.edu/learning-catalytics . This I think respects the pace with which AI is developing and the ability of teachers to cope wit the implications. - stephen.marshall stephen.marshall Feb 14, 2016

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

  • - gillysalmon gillysalmon Jan 24, 2016 notwithstanding the taint of 'machine learning' that a few of us who have been around for ages remember , I'd really like to have a go at this as an embedded part of learning design. Wiki friends- desperate to know where you think this is at. Ive not got much further than a few consultants believing they can sell me' solutions'. have you?

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

  • Most of the cutting edge work that I'm aware of in the area is going on at Carnegie Mellon, as it has been for the last 25 years. AutoTutor is still getting a lot of attention too. - jason.lodge jason.lodge Feb 22, 2016

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