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 academic and research libraries?

  • this type of technology could be critical to us in libraries. Imagine if we could feed into a database a student's writing papers that would indicate their style and software could assist the student with writing better papers - dianeb dianeb Apr 9, 2015
  • Adaptive and personalized learning will require tools to select relevant materials to aid instruction (for example for reading lists), and will likely drive institutions to focus more on aligning content investment with course level and student level learning objectives. Analytics on how information is used by individual learners will be necessary - oren oren Apr 13, 2015
  • I would hope this technology could be used to eliminate "teachable moments" from library services, i.e. to automatically adapt interfaces so our online services work as users expect, rather than having to compensate for bad design by "teaching" how to use a service. When we have this capability our services can be as easy and intuitive as the major search engines. - g.payne g.payne Apr 14, 2015 I love this idea - lcshedd lcshedd Apr 15, 2015
  • I think this topic is going to have a big impact on higher ed, but like oren mentioned above this is going to have to be a broader institutional movement in order for libraries to get the needed information from divisions to have a large impact. - lcshedd lcshedd Apr 15, 2015
  • - Jacqueline.Fritz Jacqueline.Fritz Apr 16, 2015 Going along with Diane's comment above, but applied to reading abilities - In the community college academic landscape we have many AESL students and students who begin their academic career reading lower than an 8th grade reading level. What we found by tracking their progress in our sequence of COMP courses is that majority of these students do not need an entire semester to get through the basics. If the library could provide adaptive learning materials to students who score low on the reading placement exam, and then allow those students to re-take the exam, we could see a positive impact on our retention and graduation rates.
  • The first type of platform seems like it might catch on in academia, particularly as a useful tool for remediated and English as a second language courses, but it does not seem particularly relevant for academic libraries. The second platform type, however, seems to have possible implications for academic libraries in the delivery of information literacy instruction. The findings of aggregated data for planning and scaffolding IL instruction would be especially beneficial in implementing a coherent delivery of the ACRL Framework of threshold concepts and could very likely be utilized for large-scale digital learning tutorials.
  • As libraries evolve and share spaces with student support organizations, I think adaptive learning may be powered by a workforce of highly educated and highly motivated people who enjoy tutoring students. Librarians and student adviser are ready to be integrated into course support. - shines shines Apr 27, 2015

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

  • This topic and learning analytics both also have a privacy element that would have to be addressed in order to share data to make these systems work. Within libraries specifically, there would have to be shift in how libraries think of privacy (e.g. privacy above all else must change). - lcshedd lcshedd Apr 15, 2015 - Sandy.hirsh Sandy.hirsh Apr 19, 2015
  • Agree that there are privacy issues that need to be addressed, especially when discussing using aggregates of meta- and data. - erik.stattin erik.stattin Apr 19, 2015
  • - Jacqueline.Fritz Jacqueline.Fritz Apr 16, 2015 The adoption of adaptive learning technologies would need to be in conjunction, not competition, with any of the adaptive learning technologies used for credit courses.

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on academic and research libraries?

  • - Jacqueline.Fritz Jacqueline.Fritz Apr 16, 2015 Libraries would need to address the privacy factor mentioned above, potentially be concerned about not violating FERPA with the acquisition of ALT. Purchasing and maintaining access to the tool could be a challenge.
  • Adaptive technologies may be a driver for "instruction librarianship." Already, many librarians routinely assist in course research projects; adaptive technologies may ultimately integrate them more formally into courses and coursework. - shines shines Apr 27, 2015

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

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