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Partner Spotlight: Adaptive Curriculum and Knewton

Posted in Knerds on April 16, 2014 by

As the Partnership Implementation Manager at Knewton, I work with publishers of all shapes and sizes to design and build Knewton-powered adaptive learning products. One of the most exciting parts of my job is collaborating with our partners’ content experts and instructional designers to develop courses that provide students the opportunity to engage with the content that’s best for them.

Over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with the team at Adaptive Curriculum to explore how Knewton recommendations and analytics would work with their engaging multimedia content, which includes animations, 3D models, interactive exercises, and experiments in science and math. (Knewton announced an extensive partnership with Adaptive Curriculum’s parent company, Sebit, in March.)

Each of Adaptive Curriculum’s 1000+ activities (in high school and middle school math, biology, chemistry, and physics) is designed for a specific pedagogical purpose — including concept development, procedure utilization, experimentation, 3D modeling, problem solving, dynamic modeling, skills application, guided discovery, visual proofs, and procedural development. Adaptive Curriculum has developed engaging lessons to teach these skills. My colleagues have walked by my desk with envy as I’ve journeyed deep into the Atlantic Ocean to learn about its formation through plate tectonics, then jumped off a cliff on skis to discover applications of the quadratic equation.

Problem solving involving ratio and proportion: Solve a real-world ratio and proportion problem involving making the maximum number of cookies with the ingredients in the kitchen.
Problem solving involving ratio and proportion: Solve a real-world ratio and proportion problem involving making the maximum number of cookies with the ingredients in the kitchen.

Adaptive Curriculum encourages students to engage with content — fostering a comprehensive understanding of required concepts while also truly inspiring students to want to learn. The Knewton-integrated Adaptive Curriculum will provide students a personalized pathway through course material, allowing students to focus on those specific activities that optimize their time on task and further increase engagement.

The impression many people have of how differentiated learning must work is the traditional “if X happens, then recommend Y” cycle based on a decision tree, e.g., students take a multiple-choice diagnostic, then receive instruction targeting those questions they answered incorrectly.

Formula for the volume of a sphere: Students can increase or decrease the number of pyramids in the sphere to determine its volume. By viewing and manipulating pyramids inside a sphere, student will be able to determine its volume.
Formula for the volume of a sphere: Students can increase or decrease the number of pyramids in the sphere to determine its volume. By viewing and manipulating pyramids inside a sphere, student will be able to determine its volume.

The algorithms behind Knewton’s content recommendations provide far more accurate personalization than any decision tree could. Knewton considers not only the content relationships, but also the instructional and assessment value of each piece of content for each individual student, student engagement patterns (e.g., a student’s attention span), and course goals (e.g., upcoming quizzes or learning objectives set by the teacher), in order to generate personalized content recommendations for each student; these recommendations are updated dynamically as students work through material. With Adaptive Curriculum as a partner, Knewton can learn about student patterns and performance through a constant stream of data coming from interactions that are far from anything that could be considered traditional assessment, to personalize what’s already an engaging experience.

Knewton can then provide instructors and students with further insight into performance against course goals (including the Common Core State Standards). For example, when Knewton shows that a student’s “Expected Score” for an upcoming quiz is low, the instructor can dig in to see which precise topic areas that student is struggling with to target personalized intervention or group mini-lectures accordingly.

For many years, instructors and parents have engaged students and deepened learning experiences using Adaptive Curriculum’s standards-aligned activities. Now, as students observe the effects of heat on chemical reactions by directly controlling the temperature (after putting on safety goggles of course!), their Knewton-powered Adaptive Curriculum course can learn about their strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles. We here at Knewton are excited to push boundaries with the team at Adaptive Curriculum, to improve student outcomes across the globe.