A new report examines how adaptive learning is changing both the institutional and supplier landscapes

It’s changing the way faculty teach, building new features into technology products for institutions, and is slowly coming out of the test pilot bubble. These are just some of the ways adaptive learning has evolved for 2016.

The evolution of adaptive learning is largely focused on five concepts, some of which have changed rapidly in recent years, according to a new report from research and advisory firm Tyton Partners.

Learning to Adapt 2.0 notes that institutions will need to address cost, access and quality of adaptive learning tools to ensure success. It also provides an overview of the supplier landscape.

In the report, the firm defines adaptive learning as “solutions that take a sophisticated, data-driven, and in some cases, non-linear approach to instruction and remediation, adjusting to each learner’s interactions and demonstrated performance level and subsequently anticipating what types of content and resources meet the learner’s needs at a specific point in time.”

Specifying the Changes to Adaptive Learning


1: While institutions have more experience with learning through product pilots, the path to broader implementation is uncertain.

A few years ago, institutions were experimenting with adaptive learning products and pilots, but with few implementations in play. Now, many more institutions are implementing products and pilots, though implementations at large scale are not yet widespread.

What’s slowing the road to adoption? Difficulties integrating solutions into existing tools, particularly learning management systems, plays a role. Vendors report support for the most widely-used technical standards, but institutions note that technical integration is still a big challenge. Some institutions might not address integration concerns during a pilot phase, which makes it more difficult to bring the pilot to scale.

Faculty skepticism remains high as well, the report notes.

(Next page: More changes in adaptive learning)


2: Applications of adaptive learning technology are expanding.

This expansion includes non-credit-bearing and credit-bearing course environments, as well as solutions that address various learning needs.

Some adaptive solutions are used as homework tools and practice or study guides, while others are used for remediation and proficiency-based assessments.


3: The role of faculty is changing with the emergence of adaptive teaching.

The emergence of adaptive teaching is characterized by faculty being empowered through the use of technology to guide individual learning pathways and to direct and re-direct learning outcomes.

Under adaptive teaching, instruction becomes active, relational, involved, and insightful at scale.

The report’s authors observed institutions’ efforts to give faculty more autonomy and control over the extent of adaptive teaching.


4: Adaptive learning is a relevant option for competency-based education, but only in specific use cases.

This option is gaining traction in competency-based education environments with the help of new evidence-based case studies. Adaptive learning products that support authentic forms of assessment make it possible to more explicitly assess competency. But the number of vendors offering this capability remains relatively low, the report notes.


5: Adaptive products are building new feature sets in response to institutional demand.

Institutions and technology suppliers both bear the burden of overcoming barriers to adoption–leaders must engage faculty, and vendors must evolve their products.

Vendors are making notable progress in updating their offerings when it comes to collaboration, customization, and content features.

The report also offers recommendations and lessons learning from early adaptive learning adopters:

  1. Pilot with full implementation in mind
  2. Engage faculty early and often throughout the product selection and piloting process
  3. Ensure a coherent process of decision-making and product selection
  4. Execute on a product selection process with a firm awareness of the product landscape

Learning to Adapt 2.0 is an update to a 2012 report in which the firm reviewed adaptive learning offerings from more than 70 companies before narrowing those offerings down to the 10 that they believe best represents the state of the adaptive learning market at the time of publication.

The firm returned to the topic in 2015 in order to identify the ways the adaptive learning market has changed over time, as well as to examine the potential impact those changes have on the future adoption of adaptive learning.

Leaders from more than 20 institutions offered their experiences with adaptive learning technologies and more than 35 technology suppliers were interviewed.

Sign up for our newsletter

Newsletter: Innovations in K12 Education
By submitting your information, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Laura Ascione

Sign up for our newsletter

Newsletter: Innovations in K12 Education
By submitting your information, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.