White paper defines each term; provides advice for approach mastery

terms-learning-differentiateNot all trendy terms are created equal, explains an industry whitepaper, with the aim of helping educators differentiate seemingly similar concepts in order to more effectively implement them.

The whitepaper, which uses information and research from EDUCAUSE, Education Growth Advisors, EdSurge, the Christensen Institute, and many other resources, says that many educators still don’t know the difference between personalized learning, adaptive learning and competency-based education (CBE).

“Providing clarity for educators as they look for innovative new ways to connect with students and improve outcomes is critical,” said Cherron Hoppes, chief academic officer at Helix Education, which produced the white paper. “There is no doubt that CBE is gaining momentum in the industry, yet educators still have a lot of questions about how they can best plan for and execute on a successful strategy.”

Based on what Helix Education notes is their own experience, as well as the expertise of academic insiders and industry coverage, here are the differences between—and tips for implementation of—personalized learning, adaptive learning, and CBE.

Personalized learning

Definition: [As provided by the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI)] A tool to help educators design student-centered instructional models. It seeks to accelerate student learning by tailoring the instructional environments—what, when, how, and where students learn—to address the individual needs, skills, and interests of each student.

Key characteristic: In a personalized learning experience, curriculum stays constant. “The course itself does not vary as students encounter the same flow of information in the same order as their peers,” explains the white paper. “However, a personalized guide or study plan is generated and updated as a result of pre-assessment activities to suggest which modules or topics may be skipped and where a learner should focus his or her time to develop advanced skills and knowledge.”

How to implement: Use diagnostic testing (or pre-tests) to gauge how much a student knows to create an individualized student path at the course and/or lesson level.

Considerations: 1) The technology system must have clear indicator for students and of students’ prior and current knowledge; 2) It must have meaningful assessments in a formative learning environment; and 3)Faculty and advisors must be well-informed on individual progress and direction.

(Next page: Adaptive and CBE)


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