Adaptive Learning: Is It AI Powered eLearning of the Future?

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What is Adaptive Learning?

Adaptive learning is a process where a course or course instructor adapts to the learning needs of learners, helping them grasp the underlying concepts quickly and efficiently. It’s been touted as a hot new trend used by Universities, training companies, and even the U.S. Department of Education.

To offer up a simple example, if you’ve got an online course helping people learn how to exercise, some people will struggle with doing pull-ups while others will struggle with doing sit-ups (or in my case, I’ll struggle with both).

In an adaptive learning course, your learners would have the ability to mark off, or take a quiz or assessment, showing what they’ve mastered (whether pull-ups or sit-ups). If they’ve mastered pull-ups, the course doesn’t need to keep showing them the training on pull-ups. Instead, your course would show them training on sit-ups until they’ve mastered that activity.

Adaptive Learning is Not One-Size Fits All

The concept can also be defined as a learning experience that is more personalized and spontaneous. It’s more personalized because learners get continuous feedback as they try to understand the material.

Adaptive learning is similar to one-on-one teaching by a personal instructor.

Such teaching patterns are evident in the teaching styles of tutors and fitness trainers who provide instant feedback to the student by answering their questions for just-in-time feedback. Students can get instant help on the specific topic they need help with which enhances the learning experience. It also saves time since they are not having to learn material they’ve already mastered.

Adaptive learning can include some of the following:

  • Getting just-in-time help answering questions or while taking an assessment.
  • Gaining feedback on the work to see how well learners are doing on a particular topic.
  • Knowing what to study next.

Take a look at some adaptive learning examples and see how companies are using this technology.

Personalized Learning Experience

The entire process also helps course instructors as they adapt to the passions and preferences of their learners.

As you can imagine, in a traditional environment, instructors cannot provide an intensive personalized session to multiple students. As the number of students increases, it becomes almost impossible for instructors to adapt to the changing learning needs of a growing student base.

For example, everyone in a classroom is shown a presentation on the same thing, whether they’ve mastered it or not. This is precisely where adaptive learning technology comes into play as instructors can get help from technology in order to provide feedback to multiple students at once. Even better, when it comes to online training, the instructors don’t even need to be present!

Variations of Adaptive Technique

Adaptive technology adapts to the needs of students. Algorithm adaptivity and designed adaptivity are two basic concepts.

Designed Adaptivity

Designed adaptivity is a process where a course instructor designs the entire process. The course creator decides how to train the learners at any given stage. Using technology, the instructor can tell the system how to adapt to a situation based on a variety of adaptivity factors.

The adaptivity factors designed by the instructor enable the technology to react to different situations using “do THIS, then THAT” rules based on the actions of the learner.

Learners get instantaneous feedback based on their progress. For example, certain learners would need to spend additional time on a previous lesson while other learners can move on to the next lesson.

Algorithmic Adaptivity

In contrast, algorithmic adaptivity technology adjusts the learner’s experience. Using the algorithmic adaptivity method, learning revolves around what the learner already knows and based on that, what the learner should experience next.

Based on that, the algorithm decides the optimum solution to enhance the learning experience. Algorithmic adaptivity is often very useful where the lesson is easy to organize.

Adaptivity Factors & Types

Adaptive learning requires adaptivity factors and adaptivity types.

Adaptivity Factors

Adaptivity factors are sets of data that highlight the performance, behavior, and information of each learner. Since the learning experience of everyone is different, these factors help instructors understand how the adaptive system should adapt to the unique needs of the learner.

For instance, information can be a factor. Information can provide the instructor with useful data about the knowledge and demographics of a certain learner. Using the information, an instructor can design a system according to the knowledge and demographics of each learner.

Likewise, performance is another adaptivity factor that can provide course instructors with a solid cue on the ongoing progress of a learner. Using the performance benchmark, technology can help course instructors adapt to the progress of individual learners. If necessary, the instructor may also intervene depending on the flexibility of the designed system.

Another adaptivity factor includes using the unique behaviors of a group of learners.

Adaptivity Types

Apart from adaptivity factors, adaptivity type also plays an instrumental role in the development of a system.

Adaptivity types, or adaptables, can include real-time feedback and differentiated pathways. Real-time feedback may be necessary for certain circumstances when the instructor determines inappropriate behavior or lack of progress.

Real-time feedback doesn’t mean the course instructor has to be present. Instead, it can include a situation where a learner isn’t mastering the material, so instead of answering 10 questions and then giving a score, the software can provide feedback immediately after a question is answered wrong. The feedback can include the correct answer as well as a link to the course material that provides an explanation.

A differentiated pathway for individual learners is an example of an adaptivity type. If there are learners from diverse backgrounds and experiences, pathways are often very effective methods to enhance the learning experience. Using pathways, learners can experience different journeys on their path to successful completion of the course.

How to Use Adaptive Techniques?

Online course creators and instructors can use a variety of adaptive learning platforms to help their learners.

Change Curriculum Sequence

One option is to use the method to change the curriculum sequence as learners go through their courses. Depending on the situation, the system may allow the course creator to make changes to future lessons to adapt to the existing pace, skill, and mindset of learners.

Learn At Own Pace

Adaptive learning can provide the opportunity for learners to go through the material at their own pace. Countless scientific experiments have demonstrated the benefits of allowing learners to review material at their own optimal pace so they may grasp the entire concept. Accordingly, course creators can easily change the curriculum sequence and the pace of development for each individual learner.

Prior Knowledge Pathways

Another strategy used by course creators is to base the course sequence and pace on the prior knowledge of each learner. In these instances, the adaptive algorithm would continuously evaluate each learner before and after they have started the lesson. Based on their learning patterns, each learner is provided a different set of lessons. Struggling learners are not frustrated, and advanced learners are not bored.

Determining Skill Set

These learning systems are also used to determine the learner’s skill set. Modern computerized adaptive testing is a perfect example where each learner is given a question of varying difficulty levels based on their previous answers.

Using adaptive technology, course developers have realized that creating learning can be a lot of fun.

In Combination

In addition to adaptive learning techniques, many course creators are implementing microlearning into their courses. Microlearning revolves around creating bite-sized pieces of training content geared to the mastery of a single objective.

Both microlearning and adaptive learning can also be combined with elearning gamification. This strategy allows learners to gain experience points, placement on a leaderboard, gain badges, or other gamifying elements as they work through a course.

Frequently Asked Questions on Adaptive Learning

What is an example of adaptive learning?

An example of adaptive learning would be a student who struggles in math class. In order to adapt, the student might use a different learning method, such as a visual approach instead of relying solely on auditory instruction.

The goal is to find a way of learning that better fits the student’s needs and allows them to succeed. This type of approach can be used in any subject area and can be customized to each individual learner.

Students who learn through adaptive instruction are more engaged and motivated to learn. They also perform better academically.

How does adaptive learning work?

Adaptive learning is a teaching method that adjusts the pace and level of instruction to the needs of each individual student. This type of learning can be done in a traditional classroom setting, or it can be implemented using technology.

Adaptive learning software uses data from assessments to adjust the content and delivery of instruction in real-time. This allows students to receive personalized instruction that is tailored to their individual needs. As a result, adaptive learning has the potential to improve student achievement and close achievement gaps.

What is an adaptive learning rate?

The adaptive learning rate is a type of learning rate that changes over time. The most common adaptive learning rate is the one that starts with a high learning rate and then decreases over time.

This is because when we first start training a model, we want to make large changes to the weights so that the model can learn quickly. However, as the model converges on a solution, we want to make smaller and smaller changes so we don’t overshoot the optimum.

The adaptive learning rate ensures that we make the largest changes when they will have the most impact and smaller changes as we get closer to the solution. This can help us train models more quickly and efficiently.

What exactly is adaptive learning?

Adaptive learning is a type of learning where students are given different pieces of content or problems based on their ability level. This means the amount of content or difficulty can be adjusted to better meet the needs of each individual student.

Adaptive learning can be used in both formal and informal settings, and it has been shown to be effective in helping students learn more effectively. There are a variety of adaptive learning software programs available, and many schools are beginning to implement adaptive learning in their classrooms.

What is adaptive learning in education?

Adaptive learning is becoming increasingly popular in brick-and-mortar classrooms, as teachers are able to use data from adaptive learning software to tailor their instruction to the needs of their students.

Adaptive learning can be used in conjunction with traditional methods such as lectures and textbooks, or it can be used as a standalone method.

It’s often used in online courses, where students can complete assignments at their own pace and receive immediate feedback.

What is adaptive deep learning?

Adaptive deep learning is a branch of machine learning that deals with providing machines the ability to automatically improve their performance with experience. It is closely related to artificial intelligence (AI) and focuses on building algorithms that can automatically get better over time.

The Future of Adaptive Techniques

Adaptive technology is increasingly being used by educational institutes, private corporations, small online course businesses, and non-profit institutes. Even major publishers like McGraw-Hill are shifting their priorities towards adaptive technology.

Similarly, vendor offerings have also increased significantly as course instructors are given lucrative discounts and incentives to integrate adaptive software in their course design. This technology can be incorporated into virtually any online course small or large. In fact, a growing number of institutions are recognizing the need for more personalized learning experiences.

In a nutshell, adaptive learning technologies are helping course creators determine the most effective sequence of learning for their learners.

Lisa Parmley
Lisa Parmley

Lisa Parmley is the founder of After gaining a Master's degree, she worked in research for about seven years. She started a training company in 2001, offering a course helping people pass a professional exam. That course has earned multiple 7 figures. She created SEO and authority site building training around 2007 which went on to earn well into the 6-figure mark.

She has 22+ years of experience in the trenches creating and selling online courses. Get help starting and growing your online course business here.

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