Adaptive Learning: What is It, What are its Benefits and How Does it Work?
People learn in many different ways. Adaptive learning has sought to address differences in ability by targeting teaching practices. The use of adaptive models, ranging from technological programs to intelligent systems, can be used in the traditional classroom environment. The use of these programs is expected to grow exponentially in the near future.
To start, one must look at the unique needs of each student and their interests. Custom learning programs in the adaptive model create a personalized learning path for each student. Studies have shown that students are more engaged when they are able to practice frequently. Adaptive learning models also provide immediate feedback, reduce the amount of meaningless tedious work for the instructor themselves.
What is Adaptive Learning?
Teachers have been working to utilize technology in education since its conception. Adaptive learning allows the course material to be customized to the learner, which creates a unique experience not available in traditional classes. Technology-based adaptive learning systems or e-learning systems can provide students with immediate assistance, resources specific to their learning needs, and relevant feedback that students may need.
Adaptive learning typically occurs on a web-based platform. The software contains all of the important information related to the class and is able to guide the students along in their learning journey. As a student completes their work on the platform, the software is able to make calculated decisions for the best course of action for the student. Each journey is personalized to the student based on their unique needs.
The software contains all material needed for the course. Each concept can be broken into manageable sections and is sequenced accordingly for each learning goal. The platform is very smart – it can select appropriate lessons for each student, classify their responses, and provide performance reviews for the instructor. Assessments can be graded as they are completed, offering immediate feedback to the educator and recommending potential interventions if necessary. This allows the instructor to cater the course to each unique individual, making it more challenging for some or less challenging for others.
The platform can be in the form of an interface, an interactive program, or a learning flow. Other possible forms include a content-based or an adaptive filtering program. As the many examples suggest, this type of model can reach diverse groups of students.
See also: Constructivist Learning Theory
How does it work?
Courses that follow the adaptive learning model are created on a web-based platform. All information required for the course would be found on the platform. There would be activities, assessments, and materials required for all learning tasks. After a student completes an evaluation, the software would select the most appropriate level of tasks to work on. They would continue to be guided towards the most relevant activity based on their performance. Some students may speed through the lessons easily while others may need to review prior material. As the students continue to engage with the platform, it becomes more attuned to their needs, and can therefore select materials that will help them achieve the learning goals.
Benefits of Adaptive Learning
While all types of learners benefit from the adaptive model, there is one group in particular that sees the greatest gains: under-achievers. Students who do not usually succeed in education find themselves meeting their goals due to the supportive nature of the program. Custom tasks and a personalized study plan improve the success of all who try this style of learning.
Studies continue to show the increased benefits of a program such as the adaptive model. Students felt like they had more control over their learning and demonstrated more perseverance in program tasks. They also showed more confidence and, surprisingly, were less dishonest in their academic work.
There are many reported benefits for students if course content is taught using the adaptive learning model:
- Students were able to choose the speed or pace at which they worked.
- Students were more motivated to complete their work due to visible progress charts.
- They also enjoyed the teacher’s support and explanations during practice problems.
- Students reported learning more if the content was taught using adaptive learning.
- They experienced less stress due to the adaptive pace, as students must be ready to move on before new concepts are introduced.
- They experienced greater overall success due to their dedication to the content. Their study skills also greatly improved as they were able to control the pace and level of difficulty because of the self-paced and just-in-time nature of it.
As these benefits demonstrate, students experienced great success with adaptive learning. Many declared that they would not only be willing to take another course that followed the adaptive model but would recommend it to others.
Studies have continued to examine the benefits of the adaptive format alongside other customized learning models. These studies have shown that:
- Students have more confidence due to the personalized feedback provided, which benefits their metacognition.
- Students have a greater sense of autonomy in their learning as the custom learning plan is catered specifically for them.
- Minorities or first-generation students experienced smaller gaps in achievement. See also: Inclusive Teaching
- It is less expensive to supply resources, mainly due to the sharing of open content online as opposed to textbooks supplied by a publisher.
- There is less cheating or dishonesty; each plan is personalized to the student.
- Students are more engaged in their learning and consistently demonstrate higher levels of perseverance – Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development provides an appropriate level of difficulty for each student.
- There is a greater overall level of learning in some subjects.
It is assumed that the process of adaptive learning itself contributes to greater overall success in certain disciplines. The adaptive model allows a variety of activities and evaluations, many opportunities for practice, and descriptive feedback from the instructor. The teacher is able to spend more time with the students one-on-one to further develop specific skills.
The assessments are also personalized to the students based on their learning goals. The open content used for adaptive learning usually offers data directly through web-based applications. These reports may highlight where students are struggling and which skills they have achieved. Teachers can monitor the performance of each of their students with only a quick click of a button, which enables them to spend more time with the students themselves.
Which courses are a good fit for adaptive learning?
Not every discipline is the ideal candidate for adaptive learning. Courses that contain a lot of subjective learning activities, such as literature papers, research projects or forums, are not recommended for the adaptive model. These tasks often center on specific opinions and would not capitalize on the problem-solving aspect of the instructional software.
Alternatively, classes that center on objective knowledge or a skill could greatly benefit from the adaptive learning model. The technological programs can quickly assess student knowledge and grade the content. Using the answers given, the software can also assess relationships and connections given between the content itself. Courses that have a large portion of automatic grading are ideal candidates for this learning model. They could then use a few subjective activities, such as an essay or a research project, to ensure that they utilize various types of evaluations.
See also: Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction