Adaptive Learning in Higher Education: A Reality Check

Today, the higher education marketplace is thick with companies and organizations claiming to have “personalized learning” or “adaptive learning” capabilities.  Companies are using this language in their sales and marketing efforts, creating confusion for institutions as they grapple with determining an approach to personalized learning that matches their students’ and instructors’ needs.  But if one cuts through the clutter, adaptive learning may be one key capable of actually unshackling higher education from the “Iron Triangle” of cost, access and quality, according to a white paper by Education Growth Advisors.  The white paper, entitled “Learning to Adapt:  A Case for Accelerating Adaptive Learning in Higher Education”, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, explores the current adoption, opportunities, barriers, advancements, solutions and case studies of adaptive learning in higher education. 


“In the era of MOOC mania, newfangled competency-based credentials, and complicated policy debates about how best to increase access to higher education while simultaneously reducing costs and maintaining quality, adaptive learning may play out to be a significant ingredient to alleviating the escalating pressures on higher education,” said Adam Newman, co-founder of Education Growth Advisors. “With broader adoption and evaluation, the market can determine if adaptive learning can realize its potential of delivering learning to more learners, more effectively and more efficiently than ever before.”


The white paper, a precursor to the full report expected to be published later in March, is designed to simplify the discussion by providing analysis of the adaptive learning landscape, including benefits and drawbacks of current products and tools, and case studies from select universities. The paper explores:


  • A uniform definition of personalized versus adaptive learning;
  • A discussion of varying approaches to adaptive learning from linear to complex algorithmic pathways;
  • A review of solutions providers from Platform to Publishers;
  • Examples of adaptive learning adoption and evaluation on campuses around the globe;
  • The internal and external risks and barriers of adaptive learning adoption by colleges, universities and faculty; and
  • The critical questions institutional leaders must address before proceeding with an adaptive learning initiative. 

For more information, download a copy of “Learning to Adapt:  A Case for Accelerating Adaptive Learning in Higher Education” or request a copy of the soon to be released full report, which will provide institutions with more tools for evaluation of providers and the rapidly evolving landscape, please visit Education Growth Advisors at or call (203) 658-8100. 

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