In a 2016 post on “Personalized Learning vs. Adaptive Learning”, Michael contrasted the former as a set of technology-enabled teaching practices with the latter as a project label [emphasis added].
On the other hand, adaptive learning is a label that applies to products. Further, adaptive learning products can support all of the practice areas of personalized learning. They enable teachers to move content broadcast outside of class time, they make homework time into contact time through analytics, and they provide some tutoring function. “Adaptive” tends to provoke a lot of discussion around the latter of the three practice areas. See the piece I wrote for the American Federation of Teachers if you want a primer on the strengths and limitations of adaptive learning products as tutors. But as often as not the first two capabilities, neither of which is dependent on adaptive algorithms, are the ones that enable the biggest gains in personalized learning teaching practices. “Courseware” is a set of products that, when designed well and used properly, can enable faculty to move content broadcast out of the classroom and make homework time content time. Adaptive courseware adds the tutoring element while also, if done well, increasing the value of that homework contact time by providing better feedback through more targeted analytics.
One problem, of course, is that many advocates end up presenting adaptive learning as a silver bullet, focusing on supposed magical tutoring capabilities and ignoring the messy but valuable work of enabling faculty to improve their own courses. As we will see, it is not a safe assumption that all vendors like this label or set of assumptions.
In the first episode of this series we explored the challenge of going beyond pilots and deploying systems at scale. In the second episode we explored the importance of increased visibility as an important benefit of course redesign. In this episode we explore the challenge of silver bullets – what happens when a company has no intention of being labeled as “adaptive learning” but has been described that way? Realizeit is not the only company dealing with this same issue, and it is important for educators to understand how a company defines itself and the problems their products are designed to solve.1
This post is part of our e-Literate TV series, which is funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The findings and conclusions (or views) contained within are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect positions or policies of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
By Phil Hill
- This post is not meant to endorse Realizeit’s platform over other companies’ platforms. We are focusing on institutional perspectives and lessons to be learned. Realizeit is one of our sponsors of the Empirical Educator Project. [↩]