Arizona State University announced its plans today to adopt Knewton's adaptive learning technology for several of its math courses. Knewton is probably better known as a provider of GMAT, LSAT, and SAT prep courses, but now the technology the company uses to deliver personalized test prep will be applied to remedial and college-level course material.

The goal is to help boost retention and graduation rates, particularly among students who struggle with math requirements (roughly 25% of incoming freshmen don't have the math skills they need). "Historically, student performance in entry-level math has been a strong predictor of academic success," says Phil Regier, Executive Vice Provost and Dean of ASU Online. "The reality is that every student learns differently. Especially for many developmental and returning students, rigorous but personalized instruction may be the boost they need to succeed academically and move beyond what can be a major barrier to graduation."

ASU students who score below a certain level on the math sections of entrance assessments will be required to follow a Knewton-powered program aimed to help boost their math skills and ready them for college-level coursework. Knewton's adaptive learning system generates assignments based on students' proficiency and learning styles, adapting as students master certain types of problems. This program is available online and in computer labs, and participating students have access to both virtual and in-person tutoring. Once they successfully complete this remediation program, students move on to the regular instructor-led math classes.

Knewton's adaptive learning platform will also be integrated with MAT117 (College Algebra) and MAT142 (College Mathematics). Instructors will be able to give out personalized homework assignments, tailored to address the specific areas where each student is struggling.

As students perform most of their work on computers and online, there will be many opportunities for companies like Knewton that track and analyze students' interests, learning styles, and proficiency levels. As a former literature instructor, I am admittedly skeptical that we can apply adaptive learning to all areas and all disciplines, but I do think there are lots of ways -- even for lit majors -- where we'll see algorithms and adaptive technology applied more and more.

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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