University Business September 2016 - 41
learning by creating a personalized learning
team to help instructors build courses, allowing faculty to remain focused on their
areas of expertise, adds Cavanagh.
Purchasing is the answer for many universities. Vendors such as Fulcrum Labs,
Smart Sparrow and Cengage supply programs users can modify. "You need the
toolkits so you can author courses that are
sophisticated, and that you can get into and
modify," Arizona State's Anbar says.
Dealing with extensive data
Adaptive learning offers data every day about
all students: when they logged in, how long
they were on, what they did, what they repeated, and more. It is up to the instructors
to find the data points they value most.
NC State's Thomas Stokes, a graduate
student instructor, participated in adaptive learning psychology program research
before actually teaching the class. He decided in advance what data would be most
meaningful to him before he looked at the
vendor's variables. "I could name 10 or 12
variables and found the closest matches in
the vendor's data. You get a slew of information, but you have to be smart with what
you do with it."
Providers' systems will display quantitative information visually on a dashboard.
"Adaptive learning generates thousands
of data points," says Arizona State's Regier.
"Those can be used to improve the system
itself, and also to improve the performance
of the student, not just in that class, but
across classes. The system knows the problems the student had in the first year."
Understanding that adaptive learning
isn't a magic bullet
Adaptive learning requires some assistance
and guidance from instructors, although a
program can go a long way in walking students through basic concepts on its own.
Another reality to note: Some aspects of
learning will never be measured with any
Tom Evans, program manager for open
learning at The Ohio State University,
counsels faculty and helps them figure out
how they want to present course material.
For, instance, how effective will adaptive
learning be in subjects that are more qualitative in nature, such as humanities courses?
Learning should not be retrofitted to fit
technology, says Evans, but available technology should be evaluated for how it can
Arizona State's Anbar participates in
online messages boards where students provide honest feedback about how well adap-
tive learning is working. Learning via these
courses is available to more students than
ever before, drawing them into the material
in new ways.
"This technology allows you to amplify
teaching, but you still need to be there,
physically and metaphorically in terms of
the content," Anbar says. "Adaptive learning makes your reach bigger. Adaptive
learning enhances the ability of people to
interact in direct and indirect ways."
Barb Freda is a North Carolina-based writer.
What is the biggest roadblock to wider, quicker adoption of adaptive
learning in higher education?
"Lack of awareness. Most instructors don't know exactly what adaptive learning
is or how they can take advantage of it-the term is often tossed around without
enough context. Institutions can help drive awareness and adoption of adaptive
learning technology with programs to educate faculty, incentivize taking action
and support campus innovators "
-Dror Ben-Naim, CEO, SmartSparrow
"Adaptive programs change the way instructors teach. These programs allow students to demonstrate mastery and answer questions so an instructor can diagnose weaknesses as they go, and adjust the syllabus accordingly. [They] have to
trust the technology and the data derived from it. The biggest barrier is getting
instructors to have a level of comfort with using this technology as part of their
practice and instructional style."
-Jason Jordan, vice president for higher education markets, Knewton
"The availability of credible, longitudinal efficacy and outcome research studies.
Adaptive learning has, unfortunately, turned into a buzzword, which only fuels
its obscurity and true meaning. This, coupled with some vendors overstating
its claims, both alienate and create a general distrust with faculty and business
administrators wanting to adopt adaptive learning."
-Patrick Weir, CEO, Fulcrum Labs
"We have to help everyone better understand how to use adaptive learning and
how to leverage it: how to implement it and apply it in the right way so students
and instructors get what they want out of their courses. The question we should
be answering is, How do we get more students and instructors to use the digital
products available to them to improve their experiences? Adaptive learning
should be one of the tools to help us do that."
-Erin Joiner, senior vice president and manager for social sciences,
humanities, and business, Cengage
September 2016 | 41
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