[ Skip Main Nav ]

Phoenix Forward magazine

Online adaptive learning helps students take charge of their own education, at their own pace

Adaptive learning

The trusty computer is quickly becoming a real partner in the educational process, thanks to a growing array of online adaptive learning services that are helping transform students from passive learners to fully engaged participants.

Adaptive learning programs, such as Math Blaster® software and Microsoft® Flight Simulator, have been around for 20 and 30 years, respectively — before the Internet explosion of the past decade.

Even in those older applications, there’s an element of adaptability: Users are rewarded or challenged further upon reaching certain goals and can start and stop the program at any level, returning to that same place the next time.

Now, rapid technology developments are transforming our lives; educational services, too, have benefited from these innovations. New, online adaptive learning products are helping educate students from kindergarten all the way through college. The learning experience has become even more personalized, adjusting quickly to each student’s progress or problem areas — offering hints, advice or further enrichment.

“The goal of adaptive learning is to serve the student as an individual,” says Clifton Luke, PhD, vice president of learning products for Apollo Innovation. “If you individualize the learning process, taking into account each student’s pace and learning style and making it specific to their own needs, their time on task is maximized — and so is their success.”

University of Phoenix already uses adaptive online simulations in several degree programs. One assignment in the MBA program gives students the opportunity to run — or ruin — the Federal Reserve, for instance, based on multiple-choice decisions. And access to adaptive software has helped numerous students survive calculus and statistics classes.

The goal of adaptive learning is to serve the student as an individual.

The University offers an even more intuitive program for incoming students who fear their math may be a little too rusty for the required college math courses. Developed by Luke’s team, Step-by-Step Math Review is a voluntary program available to all students.

It helps incoming undergraduates brush up on the basic math skills they’ll need early in their undergraduate degree programs. Adaptive learning coursework created by Apollo Innovation is also being added to associate- and bachelor’s-level required math courses.

One day, online adaptive learning might look as personalized as the Amazon.com® website, Luke notes. And it won’t be just about students learning from the program, but the program learning more and more about the students — to the point that extra reading, other courses and even career advice might be offered based on each student’s experience and proficiencies.

In the lightning speed of technology evolution, that will come soon enough. For now, Luke is focused on the basics.

“Our goal is to give students the confidence to hang in there in the tough classes, like math and writing,” he says of these highly personal, adaptive programs that supplement time spent with faculty members. “We want to see them make it through that first tough year or two. We want them to find their own success, and we think adaptive learning is the key.”


Math Blaster is a registered trademark of Knowledge Adventure Inc.
Flight Simulator is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corp. in the U.S. and/or other countries.
Amazon.com is a trademark of Amazon Technologies Inc.

Interested in furthering your education?