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Coming Soon to Your Classroom?

"Adaptive learning" has been in the edu-buzz lexicon for some time. A new application of the strategy has recently made notable gains at Career Education, Inc. While their research and development was created and tested with a post-high school audience, I think we may see it make its way to K-12 in the not-so-distant future.

I had the chance to visit with Judy Komar, vice president for education technology at Career Education (and former CS teacher from Wisconsin), to learn more about how the new technology works. You can read more about it here: Inside Higher Ed. Let me summarize how it works:

  • The content of a subject can be mapped to a single course or can stretch across multiple courses and academic programs. This means that the basics in one class are revisited in subsequent lessons or courses. No more learning it for one unit or course and then forgetting it.
  • At the beginning of each week during an online course, students take an assessment to see where they stand. The quick test shows what they already know in a particular unit and what they still need to learn.
  • That assessment and more throughout the week are used to automatically tweak course content. In the online scenario, the software modifies the content and selections of activities to either help the student master previously covered content or skip already-mastered content and move ahead.
  • The software includes an instructor's dashboard so that at-a-glance, the teacher can identify students whose learning needs intervention and who can jump ahead.
  • Students can also monitor their own progress. Students engaged more often and longer with lessons when they had access to this information.
  • Judy told me about the research that led to this project. It was discovered that 85% of the students in their many schools and programs who performed poorly in the beginning college algebra course, did not complete their program of study. Algebra 1 appears to be a major hurdle in achieving academic and career success. So they mapped the content of that course and several more advanced math courses into this software. Faculty members designed the content that became "nodes" in adaptive learning courses. The learning nodes revolve around concepts, much as in competency-based education. In an algebra course at the university, for example, there are 125 nodes and 3,200 assessment questions.

    As students study algebra, they are guided to master concepts rather than just cover them for a test. The basic concepts of algebra and subsequent courses appear again and again throughout algebra 1 and courses that follow. If the concepts were not mastered and retained, activities to relearn are added to the students program of study. The same strategy is being used in English courses.

    It got me thinking. Wouldn't this be cool in CS? Deep knowledge is dependent upon mastery of so many basic concepts. Think about how many times you've had to reteach decision structures or iteration when you move on to a new lesson on objects or data structures. Maybe someday we will have the automation we are teaching students to develop in our own tool boxes.

    Pat Phillips
    Editor, CSTA VOice

    Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/07/29/career-education-corp-expands-major-adaptive-learning-experiment#ixzz2adTstED5
    Inside Higher Ed

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