McGraw-Hill report demonstrates power of adaptive learning technology

A new report by the McGraw-Hill Education characterizes adaptive learning technology as the lynchpin in personalizing education in today's K-12 and higher education classrooms. According to the report, adaptive learning technology, also known as a computer-assisted smart tutor, helps teachers tailor instruction for every student in the class, effectively creating a "class of one" and significantly improving learning outcomes.

The report, titled "Brave New World of Education: Personalized Adaptive Learning Tools Promise One-on-One Tutoring for All Students," is authored by Vineet Madan, senior vice president, McGraw-Hill Education; Travis Hamilton, director of data-driven engagement and Power of U at McGraw-Hill Education; and Jay Chakrapani, vice president and general manager of Digital at McGraw-Hill Higher Education. The authors suggest that adaptive learning technology has enabled schools and universities to move beyond the traditional "one-size-fits-all" approach and establish a truly personalized education model that individualizes instruction to fit each student's abilities and learning styles.

Research shows the closer that the student-teacher interaction comes to one-to-one, the more effective instruction becomes. Advancements in education technology over the past 15 years have all led to this transformative point in education.

Often compared to a GPS system, adaptive technology works by providing students with personalized learning roadmaps in real time. The technology pinpoints where a student is in his or her current and ever-changing state of knowledge on a given subject and, through regular real-time assessments, charts a custom path for their development. Accessible anytime, anywhere, these personalized programs are "student-centric," meaning they transform students from their traditional role of being just passive recipients of information into active collaborators in the education process.

"Adaptive learning technology is simply the best and most efficient pathway to personalized learning," said Chakrapani. "For personalized learning to be truly personal, it requires sophisticated adaptive technology. And for an adaptive technology engine to be truly 'smart' and effective, it requires an extensive amount of student data that is collected over time, as is the case with our college-level LearnSmart study tool. At McGraw-Hill, we are proud to be the forerunner in adaptive technology in education. We have been partnering with schools, colleges and universities around the country for years to help students become active critical thinkers who are prepared to succeed as students at all levels and as the global workforce."

The demand for digital personalized learning delivered through adaptive technology continues to grow at the student, institution and instructor level, and a mounting population of educators, researchers and business leaders support the importance of digital technology to customize education.

Professor Kathleen (Kitty) O'Donnell's experience with adaptive technology and McGraw-Hill's digital platforms is described in a Q&A, which appears alongside the report. She believes that adaptive technology helps to engage her students and increase their readiness for class. "We've had 'smart classrooms' for a while now," writes O'Donnell, who serves as assistant professor of accounting in the Department of Business Administration at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, N.Y. "What we've been waiting for are smart technologies to take full advantage of those smart classrooms. That's what programs like [McGraw-Hill's] Connect and LearnSmart offer."

While the authors acknowledge that digital innovation alone will not be enough to solve the world's educational challenges, they say it will be a powerful driver of value, just as it has been in journalism, music, entertainment and almost every information-based field. Alongside other investments and reforms, technology has the potential to elevate teaching and learning to the level demanded by the global knowledge economy. As the technology matures and the educational industry's application of it becomes more refined, McGraw-Hill expects adaptive, individualized learning platforms to transform the way education occurs in classrooms around the world.

"Research shows that students drop out of school because what they learn isn't necessarily relevant to their lives or isn't being presented in a way that reaches them individually, leaving them unfulfilled and disconnected from the learning process," said Hamilton. "We can curb this trend by giving students more control of their learning and giving teachers and instructors custom technology that decreases administrative time and increases their abilities to focus on what they do best: teach."

Because adaptive technology has been shown to improve students' class and test preparation outside of the classroom, instructors can use class time more efficiently through more discussion, critical thinking and practical application assignments, all of which lead to a more engaged class.

As discussed in the report, McGraw-Hill combines its experience and expertise in adaptive learning technology with proven, research-based content, high-quality instructional design and assessment capabilities to deliver the most sophisticated personalized learning systems on the market that are making a significant difference for hundreds of thousands of students.

The authors highlight three of McGraw-Hill's adaptive programs:

LearnSmart is the leading interactive study tool for higher education that adaptively assesses students' skill and knowledge levels to track which topics students have mastered and which require further instruction and practice. It then adjusts the learning content based on students' strengths and weaknesses, as well as their confidence level about that knowledge. Introduced in 2008 as the first adaptive program of its kind, LearnSmart is available in 40 course areas and has been used by more than 800,000 students since its launch. Students answer roughly seventeen LearnSmart questions every second, with a total of 1.5 million questions being answered every day. An independent study of over 700 students studying Anatomy & Physiology I at six distinct institutions across the country found that students using LearnSmart increased their performance in the course. Many students increased their grades by one full letter, with more B students getting As and more C students getting Bs.

Power of U is a revolutionary, digitally rich personalized middle school math pilot program that uses real-time assessment data to group students in ways that allow them to learn at their own pace, in their own style, using the medium that works best for them (i.e. teacher-led or small group instruction or virtual tutoring). In 2010 and 2011 Power of U was piloted in the Metropolitan School District of Perry Township, Ind. Students participating in the original pilot improved their math grades from Cs and Ds to As and Bs. The Power of U pilot program was expanded to a school district in Loveland, Colo., earlier this year.

ALEKS®, one of the pioneer products to use adaptive learning technology, is a web-based assessment and learning system created by the ALEKS Corporation and exclusively distributed by McGraw-Hill Higher Education to colleges and universities. ALEKS (Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces), which has been used by millions of students in more than 50 academic subjects at thousands of institutions throughout the world, employs adaptive questioning to quickly and accurately determine exactly what a student knows and doesn't know in a course. A dramatic example of ALEKS' ability improve student performance took place in an Algebra class at Seminole State College in Florida between 2010 and 2011. While participating in an ALEKS pilot project, the professor found that students enrolled in sections of her course utilizing ALEKS enjoyed pass rates of 76 percent, versus 51 percent for students in different sections of the same Algebra class who did not use ALEKS.

For more information or to read the report, go to McGraw-Hill.