I am a student, teacher, or parent — how can I work with Knewton right now?

In the near future, Knewton plans to release a free service to allow students, teachers, and parents around the world to build their own adaptive learning experiences. In the meantime, if your school or institution uses educational materials from a publisher that doesn’t yet work with Knewton, you can encourage that publisher to use our technology — they may just take your advice!

Can Knewton work with companies outside the U.S.?

Yes. Knewton is rapidly expanding both domestically and internationally. In 2013, Knewton opened an office in London to serve European partners and support business expansion. We expect to continue this growth across Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East in the near future.

Does Knewton only work with publishers?

To date, Knewton has partnered directly with many of the world’s leading educational publishers. But Knewton can also work with learning companies, LMSs, SDKs, eBook builders, content providers, and educational institutions to improve student achievement in K-12, higher education, global English Language Teaching, professional development, and other markets.

Soon, Knewton also plans to release a free service that will allow parents, children, and teachers around the world to build their own adaptive learning experiences. Stay tuned!

What’s the difference between differentiated learning and proficiency-based adaptive learning?

While it’s relatively straightforward to make simple differentiated learning apps, it’s extremely difficult and expensive to make proficiency-based adaptive learning. The difference is data — specifically, each student’s concept-level proficiency data.

A true model of proficiency can estimate what students know, how prepared they are for further instruction or assessment, and how their abilities will evolve over time. Concept-level proficiency data is not what a student did (this is covered by observable metrics like time taken and test scores), but what the system is confident that they know, at a granular level. To collect such data requires large pools of “normed” content, which in turn requires infrastructure to passively, algorithmically, and inexpensively norm content at scale, as well as infrastructure to make sense of and take action on the resulting data.

Building a self-constrained adaptive app with these infrastructures is difficult, expensive, functionally constrained, and unscalable. Knewton addresses this conundrum. Knewton has built the necessary infrastructures to gather, multiply, process, and action student proficiency data. Anyone who wants to build true adaptive learning apps can plug into the Knewton network and build on top of our infrastructures, rather than having to do the complex work themselves.

Today, the Knewton platform comprises three main parts:

  • Data Collection Infrastructure: Collects and processes huge amounts of proficiency data
  • Inference Infrastructure: Further increases data set and generates insights from collected data
  • Personalization Infrastructure: Takes the combined data power of the entire network to find the optimal strategy for each student for every concept she learns.

Learn more ›

Does Knewton collect PII (Personally Identifiable Information)?

Knewton doesn’t collect any PII unless a student and parent are able to consent and want us to use the information for a specific reason: to create a private learning profile that can be carried by that user from app to app. Knewton complies with all FERPA and COPPA regulations.

Does Knewton build courses or produce content?

No. Knewton technology enhances others’ new or existing digital learning solutions. Knewton works with organizations to deconstruct and describe content in a format that enables Knewton to model inferred data and recommend materials back to a student. Knewton has teams of subject-matter consultants, former teachers, and other academics to assist with this work.

How can adaptive learning materials work in a classroom?

Teachers for decades have understood the importance of “differentiated instruction” — the process of tailoring instruction to meet individual learners’ needs. Knewton helps teachers evaluate what course content resonates well, with which students, and identify difficult concepts at a glance so that they can tailor lessons accordingly.

Less administrative work, more time

Knewton allows teachers to put their time to better use. No need to wait until the next test to discover gaps in knowledge — Knewton provides educators with a real-time snapshot of student achievement and concept-level proficiency. When a student struggles with a concept in a Knewton-powered course, he or she can be instantly remediated with previously taught skills, also known as prerequisite skills. These skills are prioritized based on the strength of their relationship to the topic at hand and on the student’s demonstrated strengths and weaknesses. This frees teachers up from needing to pull together personalized prerequisite materials for each student. With Knewton, teachers have more time to orchestrate classroom activities, introduce creative group work, or sit down with each student to address misconceptions and work with them through any frustrations.

A cross-disciplinary approach

Knewton can also help connect a student’s various areas of coursework. Since each subject in a traditional school requires a different teacher with the correct area of expertise, various subjects are often presented to students as being far more distinct and separate from each other than they actually are. Studies show students benefit in many ways from a cross-disciplinary approach, but practical concerns often get in the way. A history teacher might notice that her students’ essays suffer more from a lack of basic writing skills than from a lack of understanding of the historical facts, but she can’t suspend her own curriculum to teach those skills (even if she’s qualified to do so) and she can’t ask the English teacher to revisit them in his class, because he has to get his class through Hamlet by the end of the week.

Knewton uses sophisticated “knowledge graphs” — cross-disciplinary graphs of academic concepts, linked by prerequisite relationships that help define a student’s path through courses — to link multiple subjects. If we’re looking at a section in a history book, for example, we would ask ourselves what other historical facts and concepts a student must understand in order to contextualize the new content. To create an interdisciplinary graph, we would ask questions like, “What reading level is necessary to parse out all the important details in this section?” and “What understanding of fractions and percentages is necessary to read the pie chart on page 145?”

Does Knewton work directly with students and teachers?

Right now, Knewton works with learning companies, publishers, content providers, and educational institutions to improve student achievement in K-12, higher education, global English Language Teaching, professional development, and other markets. But Knewton also plans to release a free service that will allow parents, children, and teachers around the world to build their own adaptive learning experiences. Stay tuned!

How is Knewton different?

Knewton is often confused with the many learning apps currently on the market. However, Knewton isn’t an app or just one adaptive course or lesson — it’s a platform that can personalize content and learning materials that others create.

Knewton provides an infrastructure platform, of which proficiency-based adaptive learning is one important component. Other apps connect to the platform via an enterprise API, continuously sending anonymized data to Knewton and receiving data back in the form of activity recommendations and analytics metrics. Analysis of data allows Knewton to provide instructors with answers to questions like:

  • Exactly what concepts does a student know, at exactly what percentile of proficiency? (Proficiency goes much deeper than a single test score, taking into account content difficulty, a student’s past and predicted future performance, and many other data points.)
  • Was an incorrect answer due to a lack of proficiency, or forgetfulness, or distraction, or a poorly worded question, or something else altogether?
  • Of all the educational goals facing a student across an array of courses or subjects, what should she focus on right this moment?
  • What is the probability that a student will pass next week’s quiz, and what can she do right this moment to increase it? (A quiz is an arbitrary example here for a goal an instructor sets in place to observe what a student is learning.)

This infrastructure unlocks for the first time the vast quantities of data that students have always produced — data that make adaptive apps exponentially more powerful. Instructors can use this granular knowledge to better differentiate class lessons and ensure that each student is getting the individual support and attention he or she needs.

Today, Knewton functionality includes pinpoint student proficiency measurement, content efficacy measurement, student engagement optimization, and concept-level analytics. We also provide scalability, distribution (if you have a great app, we’ll promote it to our partners), and network effects (the combined power of all the data helps each student learn each concept). And we do it without storing any personally identifiable information (PII) unless a student and parent wants us to have it.

Are there any subjects you can’t learn on the Knewton platform?

Yes. Though Knewton currently powers courses in a variety of subjects — including reading, math, chemistry, biology, physics, anatomy and physiology, accounting, finance, management, and sociology — there are some subjects that do not work well with Knewton technology. In general, in order to benefit from Knewton, learning experiences must be at least partially online and able to be measured objectively (in other words, there must be “correct” and “incorrect” answers). Certain subjective disciplines — poetry, dance, sculpture, creative writing — don’t fit into these guidelines and therefore can’t be assessed directly by the Knewton platform.