5 Questions About Adaptive Learning Platforms

Necessary information on an important trend.

October 30, 2013

How many of you have actually spent quality time in an adaptive learning platform?

Not me ... and I’m getting worried about this gap in my experience.

(Although Phil Hill’s post Differentiated, Personalized & Adaptive Learning: some clarity for EDUCAUSE was very helpful. Thanks Phil. Now everyone go visit MindWires).

My strong sense is that the next few years in edtech will be dominated by two inter-related trends:

  • The growing efficacy and penetration of adaptive learning platforms.
  • The move to data driven teaching decision making, underpinned by the growing reach and power of learning analytics.

I think that adaptive learning and learning analytics companies will challenge the role of learning management system (LMS) providers as the central hub in which we revolve our digital learning strategies. 

What will be interesting to see will be how the legacy and emerging LMS companies, (Blackboard, D2L, Instructure), respond to this potential challenge.

All of the above, however, is largely conjecture.   

The truth is, I have not really gotten my head around the adaptive learning and learning analytics space in the same way that I understand the LMS, lecture capture, mobile learning, and media management ecosystems.

So, some questions:

1. A Good Primer? Can someone point us to the best primer on adaptive learning platforms? I’ve read and watched some of the materials on the Knewton Resources page, but I’m looking for both other vendor materials and some independent analysis and overview of the space.

2. Adaptive Learning Platforms and the LMS? How should, can, will our learning management and adaptive learning platforms be tied together? How far is the gap between say a Canvas/D2L/Blackboard assessment engine and a state-of-the art adaptive platform?   Are we talking two totally different services / technologies / approaches - or will these platforms end up merging in the future?

3. Adaptive Learning Platforms and Learning Analytics? What I think I want are robust data across every platform that either touches students or contains data about them. So a unified data view into what is going on in the LMS - pulling information from the SIS (student information system), and maybe other sources. (Admissions data? Advising data? MOOC data?). Would an adaptive learning platform be simply another source in which a unified analytics platform would draw data? Or is the exchange of data both ways, so that the learning platform behaves different based on what it knows from a variety of sources?

4. The Players? So I know Knewton. I know about the efforts of the big publishing companies. (Although I’d like to learn much more about their platforms). And I know that there has been lots of funding news and excitement around adaptive learning. See here, here, and here.  What I have not seen is a grid of all the adaptive learning players that compares and contrasts their technologies, business models, existing clients, features, and partnerships.  

5. What Else Should I Be Asking? The big worry that I have is that I don’t know enough to even be asking the right questions. It might help if I could get my hands on more platforms, seeing them through the eyes of a student. How would I go about that? What questions would you have about adaptive learning platforms?


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