I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the WCET Summit on Adaptive Learning June 9-10, 2015 in beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was a fabulous conference centered around the question, "What is Adaptive Learning?" That is the exact question I had walking into this conference and the very question I hoped to obtain clarity.
In the months leading up to this conference, I had been reading everything I could get my hands on relating to Adaptive Learning (AL). The more I read, the more confused I became. Is AL and Personalized Learning the same thing? Is AL programmed instruction? Machine learning? Artificial Intelligence? Technology-enhanced learning? Adaptive Hypermedia something-or-another? I was hopeful that all of my questions would be answered at this much anticipated conference focused solely on AL.
Unfortunately, I walked away with many questions still unanswered and the main one being the opening question - "What is Adaptive Learning?" What was clear, however, was none of the leaders in our industry could agree on one standard definition of Adaptive Learning. Some referred to it as tailored instruction while others insisted on it being called personalized instruction. About the only aspects of AL everyone did seem to agree upon was the use of technology to deliver the instruction and the use of algorithms to effectively adapt the content, support, etc. to the individual learner's needs.
Although many questions remained unanswered, I did somehow better understand what AL is and that my second question, "Is Adaptive Learning effective in improving student outcomes," could be answered with hard data. Yes, Adaptive Learning is an effective method for improving student outcomes and many colleges and universities shared the data to prove it.
All-in-all, I can say I walked away from that conference enlightened and with a vigor to learn more. Adaptive learning is causing the greatest revolution our country's educational system has experienced since the invention of the classroom textbook. Unlike many of the technological advances over the last 100 years many proclaimed would revolutionize education, AL will make an everlasting impact by bringing personalized learning to everyone.