Opening a Discussion on Adaptive Learning

BCcampus’ Michelle Glubke has created an interesting article to generate discussion to determine if adaptive learning technologies can help overcome existing challenges or improve the educational environment for local institutions.


In supporting the British Columbia post-secondary system, BCcampus explores innovative pedagogical solutions when a challenge is presented to us through a process referred to as ‘challenge-driven innovation’. One such innovation involves personalized learning.

Since 2012, BCcampus has investigated personalized learning through the lens of competency-based education models that create individual learning plans. This work has exposed us to other approaches and technologies that promise personalized learning. This is how adaptive learning technologies hit our radar. With our role in researching and piloting new approaches enabled by educational technology, we are exploring adaptive learning and the question, “What challenges exist in the post-secondary education system that adaptive learning technologies can improve or solve?”

This article is intended to create a discussion on adaptive learning. We have questions to consider and invite stakeholders throughout British Columbia and beyond to begin a dialogue with us. Most importantly, we want to understand the challenges these technologies might alleviate or solve for the post-secondary system.

What is Adaptive Learning?

The term adaptive learning is described as a more personalized model for learning, and often refers to an approach that is data-driven: using adaptive learning technology to support a pedagogical approach. With roots in computer science and cognitive psychology, adaptive learning technologies use complex algorithms that allow for a rapid adjustment to learner needs as they progress through curricular content.

In a 2013 post, “What Faculty Should Know About Adaptive Learning,” Michael Feldstein describes adaptive learning as:

“… an umbrella term that applies to an incredibly broad range of technologies and techniques with very different educational applications. The common thread is that they all involve software that observes some aspect of student performance and adjusts what it presents to each student based on those observations. In other words, all adaptive software tries to mimic some aspect of what a good teacher does, given that every student has individual needs.”

With a variety of new technology suppliers comes diversity of product. Like other innovative approaches, using a common set of terms while understanding the impact, risk, and value proposition can be confusing. As well, finding and evaluating technologies that support your institutional strategy and educational pedagogy takes time. Michelle Glubke, Manager, Collaborative Services at BCcampus, has provided summaries of some of the available resources to stimulate discussion and access the opportunities ahead of us within the context of adaptive learning.

In June, the WICHE Cooperative of Educational Technology (WCET) will be hosting a leadership summit in Santa Fe, New Mexico on Adaptive Learning that will look at case studies, institutional considerations for adoption and showcase a number of product suppliers. Michelle Glubke will be attending and reporting back on this event. If you have questions or ideas that you would like her to consider prior to this event, send a message to:

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