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Adaptive learning
Frequently asked

Author: Shane Schick

Every student deserves an educational experience that gives them the best possible opportunity to develop their skills. Teaching based on an adaptive learning approach is emerging as a great way to do so.

Over the past two years, many schools have worked hard to offer students flexibility in how they offer learning both inside and outside the classroom. This includes a range of virtual e-learning solutions, as well as self-learning tools that students can use on their own time.

This approach works well in both synchronous and asynchronous scenarios while also providing capabilities to tailor experiences based on each student's individual needs. However, for many senior leaders in a school setting, this is still an unfamiliar area, so let's walk through some of the most frequently-asked questions:

What is adaptive learning?

The best teachers have always used a variety of techniques to help students grasp new material and challenging concepts. This includes visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning models. Adaptive learning is different in that it is not a style of acquiring skills but a data-driven method of teaching. By harnessing the right technologies, educators can gather critical details about each learner to customize the resources they are given or the activities assigned to them.

What is adaptive learning technology?

Think of adaptive technology as tools that address the "five Ws" about a learner. In other words, adaptive learning technology recognizes who the learner is and what they need to learn. It also identifies where a learner is in their educational journey, when they might encounter challenges and why.

Most importantly, adaptive technology can help to course-correct by offering prompts and other helpful interventions. This can help students overcome the stumbling blocks they may encounter when faced with different teaching methods.

What are some examples of adaptive technology?

Adaptive learning technology can leverage artificial intelligence, such as through applications that use machine learning algorithms to break down material into manageable sections. The same programs can also be used to evaluate progress by classifying the student's responses as well as provide feedback and suggest how instructors can guide and encourage the student.

Video, mixed reality tools and gamification software are also adaptive learning technology examples that can be used to deliver a specific learning experience to students. To use adaptive technology in all its many forms, organizations will need to ensure they have an intelligent network capable of handling high-bandwidth applications and managing traffic to avoid congestion or outages.

How does adaptive learning work?

Imagine a student is trying to learn about a particular historical era. Traditional approaches, such as reading a textbook, might not be enough for a student to fully comprehend a given unit. An adaptive technology system can recognize if a student is having difficulty early on and then provide other routes to reach the same educational milestones. The same historical period could be covered through a series of educational videos, for example, or by assigning exercises that let them practice and digest the material in chunks.

If the student continues to struggle or make mistakes, the system could also alert teachers to provide direct coaching or simply spend time with a student one-on-one to dig deeper into the challenges they're facing.

What's the difference between assistive technology and adaptive technology?

Though the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, assistive technology usually refers to software or other products aimed to help people with disabilities. This not only includes learning disabilities but functional challenges with daily tasks such as getting dressed or walking.

On the other hand, educators tend to use the phrase "adaptive learning technology" to describe a system that lets them adjust or change the way students learn based on ongoing monitoring and data analysis.

Beyond school systems, adaptive learning technology can also be deployed to help enterprises provide a better training experience for employees or to reskill and upskill team members as digital tools transform the workforce.

Regardless of the sector, this approach will only work with a network that's fast, reliable and resilient. Being able to reroute traffic and reduce latency or disconnects, for instance, will mean the focus remains on learners and their needs rather than on IT performance.

Learn more about how adaptive technology is personalizing education.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.