The word “adapt” has its roots in the Latin word aptare, meaning “to fit.” We think learning works best when it fits you specifically, the way shoes work best when they fit your feet. One on one, any competent teacher can customize the lesson to fit a student’s needs. But in groups, it can be difficult or impossible. Every classroom teacher faces the same challenge: Half the class is bored; the other half is struggling.
How do you pace a lesson so that everyone in the room is on the same page?
Technology can help. Computer programs can track your progress and serve up lesson plans or practice questions to suit your unique needs. Self-pacing helps to keep you in a state of fluid learning. When you’re working, you want to be challenged enough to stay engaged, without being so overwhelmed that you get frustrated. Software can fill the role of a personal tutor.
You’ve probably experienced adaptive learning without meaning to—in the context of video games. A well-designed game is first and foremost a self-paced learning tool. If you master the easier early levels, you move on to the harder ones. If not, you repeat the early ones. Not every game is well-balanced, but the best ones carefully balance challenges with rewards to maintain your personal flow.
At Knewton, we think adaptive learning is especially important because some of our students will face adaptive testing. The GMAT is administered as a Computer Adaptive Test. It starts with a question of medium difficulty. If you answer it correctly, you get a harder question next. If you answer incorrectly, you get an easier question. The computerized GMAT is unique to each test taker. We think the best way to practice for this kind of test is with computerized adaptive learning.