Adaptive Learning

Adaptive Learning

Adaptive learning technology changes the content, sequence or assessment that a student encounters in real-time, in response to the needs of the individual.

Adaptive Learning Close Up

What does it mean to be adaptive and what are the differences between tools? This research answers these questions with a framework, decision making diagnostic and tool map. We look at the trends in both supply and demand and look towards what's needed for success in the future.


Adaptive learning is an education technology that can respond to a student's interactions in real-time by automatically providing the student with individual support.

There are three categories of adaptive technology tools: Adaptive content, adaptive assessment and adaptive sequence. 

Adaptive Content: 

Tools with adaptive content are all about two things: looking at a student's specific answer and then responding with unique hints, feedback and resources on a specific topic. These responses to student learning are all applied within a single piece of content aligned to one skill, for instance, a learning activity on addng fractions.

These tools are able to respond to students when they make a mistake by providing corrective feedback (i.e. “you forgot to carry the remainder”) and hints (i.e. “don’t forget about place value”) based on a student’s unique response.

Adaptive Assessment: 

This category of adaptivity is focused entirely on a tool's assessment features or capabilities. Adaptive assessments change and respond based on whether students answer questions correctly or incorrectly. This change is often a result of the difficulty level of the question.

For example, if a student answers an easy question correctly, the next question the student gets will be a little harder and so on.

Tools that use adaptive assessments are often used as practice or as a benchmark assessment for monitoring students’ progress.

Adaptive Sequence: 

Tools with adaptive sequences are the most complex of the three. They often make use of “algorithms” and “predictive analytics” that can continuously collect data and use it to change what a student sees. These tools collect data on a student’s performance on an ongoing basis, analyze that data, and use the data to automatically adjust the overall sequence of skills or the type of content a student receives next.

A tool with adaptive sequencing is different than a tool that simply provides differentiated content for students. Those tools might not be collecting real-time data and using that data to change the sequence of what a student learns next.

Adaptive sequencing is the ability to continuously collect real-time data on a student’s performance and use it to automatically change a student’s learning experience.

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