Adaptive Learning Analysis and Guidelines


The Great Adaptive Learning Experiment

John Waters (2014) in his article titled, “The Great Adaptive Learning Experiment”, points out the difference between personalized and adaptive learning. “Personalized learning is really an umbrella term,” said Adam Newman, founding partner of Education Growth Advisors (EGA), ”It’s a way in which learning is modified, adjusted or customized to meet an individual learner’s needs and objectives that does not depend on adaptivity.  So you can think of adaptive learning models as one approach along a spectrum that enables personalization.”

“That umbrella term covers a range of approaches and models”, Newman said, “including competency-based learning, differentiated instruction and tutorial models, as well as adaptive learning.” (Walters, 2014)

John Walters mentions that “Higher education is in the midst of a kind of Renaissance. A flurry of activity and experimentation around adaptive learning is taking place on college and university campuses, thanks to a high-profile, targeted grant program from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

The relatively recent emergence of sophisticated adaptive learning software and platforms; and nascent partnerships among schools and learning content publishers. Institutions around the world are engaged in serious explorations of the potential of an approach to instruction and remediation that uses technology and accumulated data to provide customized program adjustments based on an individual student’s level of demonstrated mastery.” (Walters, 2014)

More about this grant is available in their press release, (2015) “Gates Foundation Announces $9 Million in Grants to Support Breakthrough Learning Models in Postsecondary Education | Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Adaptive Learning Products

John Waters (2014) continues on to offer a history of the systems and some current ones trending on the market today.

Some names that popped up were:

In the article by Roger Ridell (2013) titled, “Adaptive Learning: The Best Approaches We’ve Seen So Far “, additional products were mentioned for both elementary and higher education. [Rather than copying all the videos here, if you go to the website, there are videos on all these products]

  • Mcgraw-Hill Education: Following its June acquisition of ALEKS Corporation, it was only a matter of time before McGraw-Hill Education debuted an adaptive learning platform of its own. The new product, ALEKS Placement, utilizes open response questions and is touted by McGraw-Hill as the only program that improves placement accuracy, student preparation and learning outcomes. The publisher’s e-textbooks, Smartbooks, also feature adaptive learning technology powered by its LearnSmart technology.
  • CCKF: Based in Dublin, CCKF’s reach extends well across the pond to the U.S., where its adaptive technology was deployed earlier this year by for-profit Career Education Corporation in 300 sections of courses ranging from English to math to business management. The move was one of the largest adaptive learning deployments in higher education and saw the technology branded as “intellipath.” In a July press release, Career Education touted a higher number of passing grades, fewer withdrawals and higher retention and engagement. The technology is called RealizeIt and stated as the “True Adaptive Learning” offering innovative research, big data, and high impact. Realizeit turns Scalable Education into more Successful Learning. It’s technology provides an adaptive learning springboard allowing any educational institution, from K-12 to Higher-Ed, the ability to make their courses more accessible, flexible and effective with dramatic implications for individual students, classes and institutions, using a system that can be scaled across the local, state and national levels: Increase student engagement, learning outcomes & graduation rates; Enhance organizational strategies & operational decision making; Optimize resource usage & reduce administrative costs.
  • ScootPad: ScootPad’s application is focused on Common Core Standards for subjects like math, reading and spelling for grades K-5, providing real-time insight to educators. Features vary across its pricing scales, with the $19.99 “Ultra Premium” subscription including assessments, e-books and behavior tracking and reporting. The basic plan, however, is free. ScootPad is available in Apple’s App Store, the Google Play Store for Android and the Windows Store, and Kindle and Nook versions are on the way. It’s also available through the free, cloud-based learning management system and social network Schoology.
  • Macmillan Science And Education: Like Pearson, ed publishing giant Macmillan also formed a partnership with Knewton in May. The enhanced materials resulting from the collaboration are expected to become available in 2015, and they are said to include real-time student recommendations and personalized grammar, vocabulary, exam and supplemental content designed for language learning. The publisher’s technology innovation unit, Macmillan New Ventures, also has adaptive learning company PrepU in its portfolio. PrepU’s adaptive lessons focus on college biology, nursing and medical, and advanced placement chemistry, U.S. history and psychology.
  • Desire2learn & Knowillage Leap: In September, Desire2Learn acquired Knowillage Systems, makers of the LeaP adaptive learning and analytics engine. LeaP adjusts students’ learning paths through natural language processing techniques and analytics that help it figure out where students are struggling with material, and its analytics further assist teachers in providing the right help to address trouble areas.
  • Wiley & Snapwiz: Publisher John Wiley & Sons, Inc., announced a partnership in May with adaptive and personalized learning solutions provider Snapwiz. The partnership resulted in a new product, WileyPLUS with ORION, which combined a research-based learning environment with learning, practice and assessment features that can adapt the learning experience to a user’s strengths. The product launched in summer and is free to use by students already using WileyPLUS titles in subject areas including Introduction to Business, Introduction to Psychology, Financial Accounting, and Anatomy and Physiology.
  • Dreambox Learning: An online elementary math program, DreamBox Learning utilizes both adaptive technologies and gamification to help students raise their math proficiency. The program has shown positive results against standards including the Common Core, the Mathematics Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills and the Virginia Mathematic Standards of Living. It is also available as an iPad app.
  • Grockit: Grockit is a social learning company that started out as a test-prep platform for students preparing for tests like the GMAT, SAT, ACT and GRE. The personalized prep programs determine how students’ progress through questions based on how they are answering questions. It also supports group study, video, live instructor access and some game elements. Math and English test-prep programs for grades 7-12 are also available.

With some additional research I found two more products:

  • Fishtree: Fishtree is another adaptive learning program currently on the market. On their website it states “Fishtree is the 21st century learning platform that solves the problem of scaling one-to-one instruction. As an adaptive system, we believe it’s good to be different. For this reason, we created the most innovative personalization platform that combines standard-aligned resources and social media-based tools with world-class analytics to save teachers time, and help students learn. It’s simple, mobile, secure, and fun! We work with leading education technology providers to make every learning environment adaptive, and every learning experience personal.”
  • Integra: “Integra’s mission is to support customers in adaptive learning, gamification, game based learning and mobile learning. Integra has created learning objects for adaptive learning systems leveraging our capabilities across content development, Instructional design, media development and programming, while meeting the required content delivery standards. This adaptive approach offers different content to learners, based on an assessment of what they seem to know. For example, content based on the results of an assessment at the end of a module where the program may move the learner ahead or reset the learner’s path so that he or she has an opportunity to review (or relearn) a supporting skill. We create question banks for various assessment levels – easy, moderate, complex and very complex for the poor, below average, average and brilliant students.”

Questions to Ask

There are many products out there. Kim in his article titled, “5 Questions About Adaptive Learning Platforms”, for HigherEd, offers guidelines and questions to ask when one wants to learn more about adaptive learning systems and the criteria to consider when exploring the various systems to employ.

  • Get a good primer to learn what an adaptive learning system is.
  • Make sure the Adaptive Learning Platform and your current LMS can be integrated.
  • Make sure the Adaptive Learning Platform has robust and comprehensive Learning Analytics.
  • Know the main players out there for future growth and support.
  • See these systems through the eyes of a student.

Differences Between Adaptive Programs

In the article from EdSurge, (2013) titled, “Adaptive Learning“,“Just about every program describes itself as “adaptive,” but precisely how they adapt to a student frequently differs.

Broadly speaking, an “adaptive” program offers different content to learners, based on an assessment of what they seem to know.

Some adaptive features are as follows:

  • Some programs “adapt” based on the results of an assessment at the end of a unit.
  • Other programs monitor the responses that a student provides while he or she is moving through the program.

A list of relevant questions were given to analyze and understand how “adaptive” a program is:

  • At what point in the learning process does the program evaluate the student?
  • How many points does the program evaluate the student’s work?
  • Does the program have an algorithm for weighing different factors? Does the program (or company) share that algorithm or is it a “secret sauce”? “

In article by Brian Fleming (2015) for Eduventures, titled, “Adaptive Learning: The Real Revolution in Online Learning”, “defines adaptive learning as both a concept and a tool that enhances learning through highly sophisticated technology platforms that enable rapid personalization and the collection of learning analytics.  This system empowers students to meet learning goals and helps educators to improve the process of teaching and learning. Carnegie Mellon’s efforts, which include its Open Learning Initiative (OLI), have brought keen insights to bear on our understanding of “learning mechanisms,” or patterns in human learning, as well as multiple intelligences, learning behaviors, impulses, memory and recognition, and social learning.”

Determination of Adaptive Learning Initiative




In the publication by Tyton Partners titled, “Learning to Adapt: Understanding the Adaptive Learning Supplier Landscape“, a very detailed analysis with models is offered including a framework for Institutional Decision-Making with a sample taxonomy. Furthermore, a list of criteria was offered to help with the adaptive learning initiative.

There many adaptive learning products on the market. I am sure just a small percentage is listed here and new ones are always on the horizon. When looking to decide on what is best for your institution, it is important to follow a structured framework as offered by the Tylon Partners, as well as know what an adaptive learning product is and the reliability of the company with which you will collaborate and from whom you will purchase. The products vary on what is adaptable and what is adapted. So, one must do one’s research on the products available and what the institutional requirements and needs are guided by the institution’s missions and goals.


Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (2015). Education. Retrieved from

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (2015). Gates Foundation Announces $9 Million in Grants to Support Breakthrough Learning Models in Postsecondary Education. Retrieved from

CCFK. (2015). RealizeIt. Retrieved from

CogBooks. (2015). CogBooks. Retrieved from

Dream Box. (2015). Dream Box Learning. Retrieved from

EdSurge, (2013) Adaptive Learning. Retrieved from

Fishtree. (2015). Fishtree. Retrieved from

Fleming, B. (2015). Adaptive Learning: The Real Revolution in Online Learning. Retrieved from

Grockit. (2015). Grockit. Retrieved from

Integra. (2015). Integra. Retrieved from

Kim, J. (2013). 5 Questions about Adaptive Learning Platforms. Retrieved from

Knewton. (2015). ASU, Cengage Learning and Knewton to Develop Highly Personalized Active Adaptive Learning Solution. Retrieved from

Knowillage. (2015). Desire2Learn LeaP. Retrieved from

LoudCloud Systems (2015).  LoudCloud. Retrieved from

Market Wired. (2015). Instructional Design Platform Enables Faculty to Create Their Own Adaptive Courseware, Retrieved from

MacMillan. (2015). Macmillan Science and Education. Retrieved from

McGraw-Hill Education. (2015). Retrieved from

Pearson & Knewton. (2015). Retrieved from

Ridell, R. (2013). Adaptive learning: The Best Approaches We’ve Seen So Far. Retrieved from

ScootPad (2015). ScootPad. Retrieved from

Smart Sparrow. (2015). Smart Sparrow. Retrieved from

Tyton Partners. (2015). Education Growth Advisors. Retrieved from

Tyton Partners. (n.d.). Learning to Adapt: Understanding The Adaptive Learning Supplier Landscape. Retrieved from

Wiley. (2015). SNAPWIZ. Retrieved from


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