What to look for when choosing an adaptive learning program
If your school district has made the decision to use adaptive learning programs in classrooms, the next big decision that needs to be made is exactly which adaptive learning program you intend to use. Just as no two students are alike, no two school districts are alike, so it’s important to evaluate the needs of the school district and find an intelligent adaptive learning (IAL) system that meets those needs.
Of course, when the decision is made to use an IAL system, the end goal is almost always to individualize and personalize learning. As you test out various adaptive learning programs in attempt to find one that’s just right, make sure you keep these important criteria in mind:
Many different curriculum sequences
When teachers or tutors (learning guardians!) work one-on-one with students, they are able to change the sequencing of a curriculum in a way that makes the student’s learning experience most effective. It’s important that whatever adaptive learning system you choose is able to accomplish the same feat. The best IALs can send students on different learning paths based on what that student is ready for. Not all students learn in the same way, which is a why a linear sequencing of curricula is generally not effective. The ability of IALs to adjust curriculum sequencing in real-time is one of the things that makes them so effective.
Adjust to the pace of student learning
One of the many perks of IALs is that they are able to adjust the pace of instruction based upon students’ learning abilities. Diagnostic assessments are embedded in each lesson, making it possible for the adaptive learning program to determine whether students are truly understanding concepts, and to adjust the pace of instruction accordingly. Research has shown that allowing students to work at their own optimal pace is an effective learning strategy. Students should progress through the system only after they have demonstrated mastery of the concept they are currently learning.
Take prior knowledge into account
The range of prior knowledge and skills levels varies greatly between students, and one of the major problems with the current “factory” approach to education is that it is unable to take this information into account when teaching a large classroom of students all at once. Any adaptive learning program you choose should have the capability to target a student’s starting point based on prior knowledge, and help that student make steady academic progress toward desired learning goals. This strategy prevents students who are struggling from becoming frustrated, and students who are gifted from becoming bored.
Strategies to increase student engagement
Students learn best when they are engaged in their lessons. In a digital age when so many students are used to using technology in every aspect of their lives, gaming has been shown to be an important means of engaging students in learning. Adaptive learning programs that emulate strategy games help students see learning as something that is fun, not tedious. You can recognize the gaming structure by looking for things like logical sequencing of curriculum, novelty, student choice and affirmation of progress as it’s made.
Interactive support when problem solving
Online learning programs that only tell students what they have done wrong after they fail won’t help anyone. Students who get feedback about their problem-solving strategies while they are working through a lesson will be prompted to come to the right conclusions on their own. Rather than telling students what they should do next, it’s important that the IAL system emulates a live tutor, prompting students to rethink strategies that may not be working. This interactive support can reduce the likelihood of frustration and fear of failure in students because they know there’s always someone (or something) there to help if they need it.
Teachers use multiple manipulatives in the classroom in hopes of presenting material in a way that will eventually make sense to each student. Adaptive learning systems are able to customize the presentation of lessons to suit each individual student’s needs. By constantly analyzing students’ responses to and ways of thinking about problems, the presentation of new material is adapted to make sure it makes the most sense to that particular student.
Analysis of student solutions
Above all, what makes adaptive learning systems so “adaptive” is their ability to analyze student solutions in real-time. An online learning platform that retrieves data based on student answers at the end of the lesson is not helpful for the student or the teacher. IALs interact with students as they solve problems, explore new concepts and make decisions, and they analyze the data in real-time to change their approach to instruction.
What factors do you think are important when choosing an adaptive learning program? Share your thoughts with us!
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