A big experiment in “adaptive learning” has been started, which could potentially make online college courses adjust themselves to your needs as you progress through them. Career Education Corporation, which owns for-profit schools including American Intercontinental University, says that a series of tests of this approach have already resulted in lower dropout rates in both English composition and mathematics courses.
Adaptive learning is heavily dependent on software that constantly assesses a student’s progress. It can adjust content in the middle of a course, either giving the student extra help on a tough concept or skipping things they may already have a good grasp of. The concept has raised interest from old line nonprofit schools, in spite of ongoing resistance to for-profit education. Respected news source Inside Higher Ed, in fact, quoted the executive director of Northeastern University’s innovation team as saying that “a lot of the action is happening at for-profits,” a rare positive comment from traditional academia.
Tough To Resist
Some professors fear that the adaptive software could eventually replace them. But like online education itself, it promises to spread from for-profits into the broader higher ed world if the early results can be extended. Although high dropout rates have resulted in bad publicity mainly for the for-profit schools, dropout rates are a big problem across the board for American colleges, community colleges and universities. Professors at Colorado Technical University, another school owned by Career Education, told Inside Higher Ed that they are seeing “remarkable results” with adaptive learning. Adoption in the traditional colleges will, no doubt, be hurried by the fact that The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will soon be giving grants to as many as 18 different schools to experiment with adaptive teaching.
For online students, the technology poses the hope of a more personalized type of education coming out of their home computers. More about the new developments here.