In recent months, particularly since the recent changes to the SAT test structure were announced, the phrase “adaptive learning” has been on educators’ lips across the nation. But what is adaptive learning? How does it differ from traditional understandings of teaching and learning? What resources do teachers and schools need to put adaptive learning practices into action? And how can schools and classrooms best utilize adaptive learning to help students at all grade levels succeed? Let’s take a closer look at adaptive learning in the classroom:

What Is Adaptive Learning?

Adaptive learning, sometimes referred to as adaptive teaching, is an educational method enabled by modern technology — specifically, computer algorithms. Adaptive learning/teaching utilizes algorithms to personalize individual lessons and activities to be best suited to the needs of each individual student.

Adaptive learning sets lessons which will adjust automatically based on an individual student’s strengths and weaknesses. The lessons, which are done on a computer, may include review sections, activities, games, and more. In a remote learning setting, this can be interspersed with video chats with an educator and fellow students, and small-group discussions. In a classroom setting, students may use adaptive learning activities as a follow-up to an in-class lecture, and speak to their teacher if they have any questions about the material being presented.

What Are the Pros of Adaptive Learning? The Cons?

The pros of adaptive learning are clear: as a system, it enables teachers to provide personalized education on a broader scale, leading to a hybrid of traditional classroom teaching and one-on-one tutoring. It also provides a solution for educators who want to support students who are struggling with a particular concept, but also encourage students who have mastered the material and are ready to move ahead.

The cons of adaptive learning, however, are slightly more complicated. While adaptive learning unlocks many possibilities, it is also inherently limited. As adaptive learning relies on a computer algorithm, any school that wants to incorporate adaptive learning methods into its lessons needs reliable, up-to-date computers for every student. In a remote learning environment, student access to not only computers, but also reliable internet, is even more of a concern, and a focus on adaptive learning may further harm already-disadvantaged students who lack reliable internet at home.

Technological issues are often particularly slippery, but many can be overcome. Online adaptive learning platforms, rather than software each individual student must download, solve part of the problem. Testive and others implement adaptive learning in a user-friendly online format.

How Can Schools Best Take Advantage of Adaptive Learning?

Schools and educators must look into their own student populations, and perhaps as importantly, the physical infrastructure they have at their disposal, when deciding how to utilize adaptive learning. What works wonders at one school may be totally unfeasible in another, and vice versa.

If your school wants to incorporate adaptive learning into your curriculum, you will have to ask yourself a few questions from the get-go. How many students are you engaging with? At which grade levels do you hope to incorporate adaptive learning? Do you feel your students would be best served by an adaptive learning program that’s primarily geared towards helping students who have fallen behind, or one meant to provide more accelerated material to students who have already mastered earlier concepts?

These questions are all relevant, as is the business of infrastructure. Are your students learning in person, remotely, or on a hybrid model? How many computers does your school provide for students to use both inside the classroom, and for homework and long-term projects? Do school computers have any relevant software you may need for a given adaptive learning program? What situations are your students in as regards access to technology and the internet outside the classroom?

As you can see, with so many questions to answer, every school is going to be in a different position — and that’s before you start looking at different adaptive learning software programs! Remember, if you feel overwhelmed, education technology experts like our staff at A-List are always available to help you figure out if and how to use adaptive learning to set your students on a course for greater success.

Further, for an easy-to-use adaptive learning platform, check out Testive. Testive is home to adaptive test prep to help students at all levels boost their scores in a wide variety of courses, and may be just what your students need.

A-List is experienced in partnering with educators, schools, and nonprofits to ensure all students' success. Contact us to learn more.