In this digital world personalised and adaptive learning are rapidly becoming essential components of modern education. Some people feel that the traditional approach to teaching is struggling to meet the diverse needs of students. We are very interested to hear your thoughts and experience on this topic and the role you feel digital can make.
A question: Do you agree that universities risk falling behind the competition and potentially fail to meet the needs of the students they serve if they don’t adopt digital solutions?
The aim of this blog is to explore the topic and to ask our readers if you are implementing any of the strategies (some examples include blended learning, competency / mastery – based learning, learner-centred learning etc) in your institutions, and if so, we would very much like to arrange a call to hear more about your experience and the impact these strategies are having. We are very interested in this topic as we want to support the diverse needs of students and understand their experiences.
The main digital players in the field of personalised and adaptive learning are Aleks, Cogbooks and CenturyTech. In the UK the focus is mainly on Century Tech. There is a short case study of Century Tech in this Jisc report for those of you who would like to know more.
What is Personalised and Adaptive learning?
In a nutshell:
Personalised learning tailors the educational experience to each student’s individual strengths, weaknesses, interests, and goals. It provides students with the flexibility to work at their own pace and explore topics that are most relevant to their future careers. By using technology to track student progress and provide immediate feedback, educators can ensure that students are continuously challenged and engaged.
Adaptive learning, on the other hand, adjusts the difficulty level of material based on the student’s performance. This allows students to learn at their own pace and ensures that they are not overburdened or left behind. It also provides valuable data for educators to identify areas where students may be struggling so they can provide targeted support. We will talk more about the data later in the blog.
The phrase ‘personalised learning’ covers many different practices. At the bottom of this blog, we have added a link to an article that goes into these practices in more detail.
As with any learning strategy, there are aspects that work very well and others that are more challenging.
Firstly, let’s look at several benefits that adaptive and personalised learning can offer universities:
Improved student engagement and motivation: Adaptive learning can adjust the pace and content of instruction to meet individual student needs, making learning more personalised and relevant, which can increase student engagement and motivation.
Better learning outcomes: Adaptive learning can help students progress through material at a pace that is right for them, which can lead to improved learning outcomes, such as better grades and assessment scores.
Increased efficiency: By using technology to personalise learning, educators can save time that would otherwise be spent delivering generic instruction or reviewing material that students already know, allowing them to focus on areas where students need additional support.
Better data for assessment and improvement: Adaptive learning can provide real-time data on student performance and progress, allowing educators to make data-driven decisions about instruction and course design.
Accessibility: Personalised learning can make education more accessible to students with different learning styles, abilities, and backgrounds, allowing them to learn at their own pace and in a way that is most effective for them.
As mentioned earlier, there are always challenges to overcome especially when data is involved as this raises the ethical issue. Some of these issues include:
Privacy concerns: Personalised learning often involves the collection and analysis of large amounts of personal data, which raises concerns about the security and privacy of student information.
Bias and discrimination: Personalised learning algorithms may perpetuate and amplify existing biases in society, leading to discriminatory outcomes in education.
Ownership of student data: Who owns the data collected during personalised learning and what happens to it after the student graduates?
Effectiveness: The success of personalised and adaptive learning is a constant source of debate, and some argue that these approaches and strategies may not always lead to better learning outcomes.
Accessibility and equity: Personalised and adaptive learning technologies may not be accessible or equitable for all students, particularly for those with disabilities or limited resources.
Universities do need to be aware of some of these ethical issues so they can implement personalised learning approaches that are fair, transparent, and respectful of students’ rights and privacy.
If we had to make a visual from the examples above, it would be a coin. On one side are some obvious benefits and the other side very clear challenges. For instance, what is accessible for one group of students may be inaccessible to others.
If personalised and adaptive learning is going to grow and continue to be a popular learning strategy moving forward into 2023, how do we address these issues, how do we make personalised and adaptive learning accessible for all? How do we ensure it is effective and accurate? If we can solve these problems, is this one of the answers to help close the attainment gap?
We could write an extensive list of questions here and that is the point of this blog. We want to work with our members to explore this topic, find out what is helping institutions to have the desired impact and where we need to improve and how can we improve these strategies, so everyone experiences the benefits Perhaps this will help answer our original question about whether universities will fall behind the competition and fail students if these new strategies are not implemented at some level.
Call to Action:
Please do contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are using or thinking about implementing any personalisation and adaptive learning strategies in your institution. We would very much like to explore this space with you to see how we can help be part of the solution in our sector.
As promised, here is the link to personalised learning guide.