Online adaptive learning makes it possible to implement mastery-based learning in a scalable way. Knewton Math Readiness, for example, creates a guided, self-paced environment in which live instruction is optimized around targeted group sessions. The course is designed to present students with personal learning paths as it continually assesses their mathematical proficiency and adapts accordingly. Lessons consist of videos, online textbook selections, and lesson quizzes. Early efficacy reports reflect the success of the program: after two semesters of use with over 2,000 developmental math students at Arizona State University, withdrawal rates dropped by 56%, pass rates went from 64% to 75%, and 45% of the class finished four weeks early.
This implementation model is often referred to as blended learning, a term which describes any arrangement in which a student learns in part at a brick-and-mortar facility and in part through online delivery with student control over time, place, path, or pace.
Irene Bloom, a Senior Lecturer at ASU, was originally a skeptic of online learning. But she says that the classroom dynamic has changed for the better since introducing Knewton into her developmental math classes: "I love looking around the classroom and seeing them working in groups, talking to each other and explaining things to each other… Most of the time, different groups are working on different things, depending on where they are in the course. This is very new for me. Before this, I worked on the assumption that all students were at the same place. Now, because they progress at different rates, I meet them where they are."
Knewton can improve student engagement by increasing self-confidence, decreasing discomfort and frustration, and encouraging productive learning habits.
Students are less likely to lose focus if feedback is immediate and they can quickly self-correct. A continuously adaptive learning system is able to deliver personalized feedback to both multiple choice and free response questions quickly &mdash that is, instantaneously or near-instantaneously. The result is pacing that is conducive to risk-taking, experimentation, iterative development, and rapid learning.
Isolation can exacerbate the challenges students experience in school. An adaptive system can improve student engagement by weaving a social component into coursework. Knewton Math Readiness, for instance, provides a dashboard that allows teachers to group students who are working on the same material. Using the reporting features, teachers can also arrange peer review opportunities and form groups of students whose abilities complement each other.
With countless opportunities for students to demonstrate skill and reflect on action and feedback, adaptive courses naturally have much in common with games. What's more, adaptive courses keep students in a game-like state of "flow" by escalating the difficulty of the work incrementally and unveiling levels one at a time to increase suspense. These and other game elements can be heightened to transform adaptive courses into truly gamified learning experiences.