Adaptive learning helps personalize instruction for students

Adaptive learning has steadily gained popularity in higher education.

Many experts believe adaptive learning will elevate education in the future, and the technology already has found its way into several higher-ed software programs.

In adaptive learning, specially designed computer programs assess students’ subject-matter knowledge and then create individual learning maps based on those findings. If a student struggles in one area, the program repeatedly reinforces that topic, and it lets students progress quickly through areas in which they demonstrate mastery.

In the past few years, multiple learning companies have recognized the trend toward adaptive learning and are vying to create the most successful model that garners the best results for students.

At last year’s EDUCAUSE conference in Denver, McGraw-Hill Education announced that its LearnSmart adaptive learning technology has surpassed 1 million student users since its launch in fall 2009.

Hailed as a “personal digital tutor,” LearnSmart allows students to “study smarter, not longer.” Available in more than 40 subject areas, LearnSmart identifies a student’s weaknesses in a given subject and uses animated online tools to remedy them. Teachers implement LearnSmart into their coursework to ensure that students grasp the subject matter in their own way, and that all students are progressing.

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“This information can prove invaluable in helping educators identify the students that may otherwise fall behind in a course before it is too late,” a recent McGraw-Hill LearnSmart Effectiveness Study explains.

(Next page: How LearnSmart and similar programs are improving learning outcomes)